If you’re a Bengalurean or have ever travelled to Bengaluru, you would have most certainly relished a platter of sizzlers at Kobe, or gorged on rich Mughalai at Zaffran, or enjoyed an evening at the deli bistro bar The Glass House, or better still, partied the night away to zany music at the City Bar. So now get ready to meet the man who runs the show at the city’s ultra-chic bars and restaurants which are frequented by evolved food connoisseurs and well-heeled denizens. In a tete-a-tete with RITZ, the dynamic, well-travelled and entrepreneurial Siddharth Poojari offers us a preview of his multiple plans, all of which centre around satisfying a multitude of taste-buds.
Siddharth sounds upbeat as we commence the conversation. “Indian Kitchen is doing really well. The response and feedback from diners has been fantastic,” he says of his newest offering, which serves delicacies from (pardon the cliché) “Kashmir to Kanyakumari and Maharashtra to Bengal.” And it actually does. From the yummy panki from Gujarat, to Kashmiri rogan josh, to Mangalore style mutton gassi, to Bengal’s fish cooked in mustard gravy. Started a year ago on Bengaluru’s commercial hotbed, MG Road, Siddharth is now looking expand the brand by starting one more Indian Kitchen in the Garden City, then entering Mumbai, and gradually moving overseas to Dubai and then perhaps London.
“Indian Kitchen offers pan-Indian cuisine. That is the need of the hour. As cities get more and more cosmopolitan, the craving for authentic food from every nook and corner of the country is experienced like never before,” he says, revealing that plans are afoot to introduce exotic dishes from the North Eastern states such as Assam and Arunachal Pradesh as well.
As the CEO and Managing Director of RSP Gourmet Foods, which runs Indian Kitchen and the aforementioned brands, Siddharth has a host of plans in his kitty. From five restaurants at present, he aims to have 15 in the next four years, with Bengaluru, Mumbai and Dubai being the cities of choice.
While Dubai will mark his international foray, Mumbai will be much about going back to where the story began. It was in Maximum City that his father, prominent restaurateur Suresh Poojari began his journey by opening the pure vegetarian fast food restaurant Sukh Sagar way back in 1962.
Though immersed in the workings of Sukh Sagar for a couple of years, the UK educated Siddharth felt there existed a need in the fast-changing city of Bengaluru for an edgy, cool bar. And thus the very popular City Bar, RSP Gourmet Foods’ flagship brand was born eight years ago at the uber luxurious UB City.
“The other brands are all an extension of my aim of providing the finest cuisines to people who love food and look to indulge,” he says, before quickly pointing out that he forever seeks opportunities to expand and grow. Even if it means treading onto allied platforms. Like his Mulshi natural spring water brand, which he states, sources the “purest spring water directly from a place near Lonavala (in Maharashtra) and packages it for high-end restaurants and luxury hotels. Natural spring water is an extension of my restaurant business and it has a fine fit with my brands.”
Being someone who has observed, studied and experimented with the food business in Bengaluru for years now, what does he think about the present-day restaurant scene? “It has surely evolved. The food palate has grown; people nowadays are aware of cuisines and ingredients and give sound feedback. Although majority of sales come from say Indian, Chinese and Continental (Italian) fare, there is tremendous potential for cuisines like Japanese, Korean, Burmese and more such exotic flavours.”
So will Siddharth ever look at venturing into the gamut of delicacies from the Far East, with say an offering in Korean or Vietnamese? “Yes, why not,” he states, saying that to start off with, something exclusive, “maybe say a 40-seater restaurant could work out to be fine. I have thought about it.”
When asked about his other plans, he does not shy away, instead rattling off numbers with élan. Alongside taking the bouquet of restaurants under RSP Gourmet Foods from 5 to 15 by 2020, he says that Sukh Sagar (where he is a Director) is planning to add another 25 outlets in the troika of Bengaluru, Mumbai and Dubai. “We currently have 25 outlets across these three cities. We are looking at introducing a new format, which should be around QSR.” The young restaurateur (who surprisingly “does not cook”) might look towards starting ready-to-eat (RTE) food, as an extension of Sukh Sagar’s menu. “The RTE segment has huge potential. People on the other hand are familiar with our tastes and RTE could see much traction.”
An outdoors enthusiast, who has tried it all from sky diving, to sailing and kayaking; Siddharth believes that London has an active, thriving and vibrant food culture. “Italy and New York City are other places that should be visited, especially for the food.”
What about closer home in India? Which places does the man frequent? “I enjoy eating Japanese food and I really like going to Wasabi at the Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai and also The Table.” And what about Bengaluru? “Over here, I like eating at my own restaurants,” he says with a smile.