By Sourish Bhattacharyya
|Mumbai's star restaurateur,|
Rahul Akerkar, has not had the
smoothest of starts in Delhi,
but he's hoping to make up
for lost time and keep his
staff morale intact by launching
Indigo Deli at the Ambience
Mall, Vasant Kunj
IT'S A PITY most people assume that Indigo Deli, which is formally opening tomorrow (May 30) at the Ambience Mall, Vasant Kunj, is Indigo Delhi. If Mumbai's star restaurateur, Rahul Akerkar, had the freedom to act according to his Delhi expansion plan, he was to launch Indigo, the restaurant that's won every award and accolade possible, sometime in mid-January.
He was to make a grand opening at the urban renewal project, an arts and entertainment space that was to have transformed what used to be an open drain opposite the Hyatt Regency, in the shadow of Netaji Nagar. And he was to roll out Indigo Deli, starting with the second floor of Ambience Mall, Vasant Kunj, in the space formerly occupied by Zambar, only after Indigo settled down as "a 'back-to-basics' address that will serve up eclectic modern European fare, coupled with an expansive bar and a private dining section". Indigo Deli will be next door to Pizza Express, which is the next high-profile opening to watch out for at Ambience Mall.
But for some mysterious reason, the area, which was blessed by the Sheila Dikshit government and is being developed by the father-and-son duo of Sanjeev and Samegh Batra, has been in suspended animation ever since Dikshit got a drubbing in the Delhi Assembly election, even though Delhi Metro has been constructing buildings next door at a frenetic pace. Was the previous government's showcase project not a priority for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) dispensation that followed? If that were the case, why did Lt-Governor Najeeb Jung not push it after the fall of AAP? No one is ready to share the real story.
"You know how officials work," was Sanjeev Batra's first response when I asked him about the delayed project. "But we will be up and running in a month," he added. Batra has been the man behind such significant heritage rejuvenation-cum-restaurant development projects at Mehrauli such as Olive Bar & Kitchen and The Kila, where blueFROG has re-opened, though after giving up the associated cafe and restaurant spaces.
Batra said that when it became clear the urban renewal project wasn't taking off according to the time-table they were working on, Akerkar came to him and shared his desire to launch Indigo Deli before Indigo. He had hired staff for Indigo and they had been trained in Mumbai, but they had no restaurant in sight, which was clearly a dispiriting prospect. He had to do something to retain his staff, which was why he fast-forwarded Indigo Deli, which is best known for its salads, burgers, sandwiches and ice-creams, and of course, its delicatessen."I feel a tinge of sadness, but when Indigo finally opens opposite the Hyatt Regency, the grandness of the setting and the cuisine that has given the restaurant its share of international acclaim will have their desired effect," Batra said, striking a hopeful note. For the sake of the city, we wish him luck! Delhi deserves an Indigo, as much as it can do with an Indigo Deli. Neighbouring Mistral's Mayank Tiwari has serious competition on his hands and even Chili's may experience some loss of lustre.