India On A Plate – Nikesh Lamba & Japtej Ahluwalia

New Food Entrepreneurs – A Special Roundup, The one and only Double Roti

Chennai’s foodscape is brimming with innovation and vigour. From new cooking techniques, to quirky interiors and fusion based menus, every restaurateur worth his salt is doing something different to keep his restaurant at the tip of everyone’s palete. RITZ meets six of the most avant-garde entrepreneurs in the food business.

While Chennai lacked a great sandwich and burger joint a few years ago, Nikesh Lamba and Japtej Ahluwalia from Delhi decided to be the change and launch Double Roti in the city. Despite being from Delhi, they decided to move here to give all our fellow Chennaites a chance to taste their delicious burgers, sandwiches and hotdogs. RITZ caught up with them just before the lunch rush to get to know more about their quirky café model.  

Double Roti is a name that one would normally not associate with burgers and sandwiches. Nikesh Lamba explains how they coined the phrase; “Our menu basically consists of different kinds of bread. Roti is a Hindi equivalent of bread and offered the perfect Indianised touch, hence the name Double Roti.”

They started the chain of restaurants with an initial investment of `15 lakhs of rupees, that Nikesh and Japtej forked out of their own savings when they first opened doors in Delhi. Today they have outlets in Pune, two in Chennai and will soon be opening doors in Bengaluru. And now they proudly add that their annual turnover is `10 crores and growing.

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Ask them about why they chose Chennai as a location and Japtej is quick to respond, ““We chose to leave Gurgaon, a city we were already doing well in and come to Chennai because we saw that Chennai needed a place like this. There wasn’t a place that had a great burger and we wanted to be the people who offer that to the city.”

Their approach to everything is simplistic and free of complication. The duo decided not to hire one particular chef to curate the menu for their restaurants, rather Japtej and Nikesh explain that they have created recipes that are unique in flavour but not very hard to prepare so they don’t depend on a single chef to keep the taste constant. The concept of an open kitchen also allows people to see their food being made so there is a mode of transparency between them and the customers.

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Experimenting with recipes happens in their own home kitchens with friends and family as tasters. “This gives us a fair idea of what is working for the Indian palate and what needs to be changed.” explains Nikesh. “We were bored of mass-brand sandwiches that were nondescript in taste. We had a friend who was a chef and helped us out with the basics. The most popular burger on our menu was given its place of pride by all our family and friends who unanimously voted it as the best of the selection we put on offer.”

The duo have gone the whole hog in trying to create a different, yet memorable experience for diners. Each quirky name on the menu has a memorable story behind it – the Illegal Burger is named so because beef is banned in some states! Then there is a sandwich called Pocket Mein Rocket because of the tangy tandoori chicken filling and the Southern Spice Burger is christened such as its filled with spicy garlic chutney adding the perfect hit to the bun. But surprisingly according to Japtej and Nikesh it is the beef and pork burgers that are the highest selling at the moment.

Just goes to show how far the city has progressed and how open its people are to trying out new tastes in food!