Bhavya Bhagat, owner of Turquoise Villa (Photo: Dinesh Shukla)
Turquoise Villa World Café in Ahmedabad has an innovative menu: rather than offering the fusion foods that have become so trendy among cafes in India today, this café-style restaurant has come up with innovative takes on street food from different parts of the world.
Says Bhavya Bhagat, owner of Turquoise Villa: “When we started work on this restaurant about a year ago, we decided to call it a villa, a term used in the context of high-quality vacation homes. Since villas are typically detached homes in serene coastal areas, the name Turquoise gave the right feel to the restaurant. Turquoise Villa is designed to have an open-sided patio, an air-conditioned dining area on the ground floor, and a Moroccan-/East Asian-style lounge with seating around low tables, all three smart but casual to give the kind of ambience that is conducive for relaxing and long conversations. To go with this concept, we decided this unique villa-type restaurant should have comfort food made for those who want to feel at home.”
The restaurant owners retained culinary consultant and professional chef at-large, Sanjay Matta, to help them design the menus, plan the kitchen, train the kitchen and service teams, and develop the culinary mix. “Chef Matta holds a diploma in The Chef Course and Culinary Arts at the famous Institut de Formation (INFA), Chantilly, (France) and has wide exposure to international cuisine, especially European, and also has much experience in working across India... from Delhi and Rajasthan to Chennai and Puducherry. He has also worked in Ahmedabad and knows the market,” Bhagat explains.
Says Matta: “While initially I designed a menu for the World Café with authentic and fusion cuisines, one day it struck me that the ultimate comfort food that emotionally appeals to people is always street food. Thus, I felt it was suitable for the World Café.”
The concept appealed to Bhagat and her team. “We began to think of places from Ahmedabad’s Manek Chowk to Delhi’s Chandni Chowk and the business districts of Mumbai... the iconic street food of these places is familiar to people in Ahmedabad. The dal vada is something every student in Ahmedabad has grown up with. At the street food markets of Manek Chowk and Law Garden, pineapple sandwich with cheese and butter sells like hot cakes. Local takes on Mumbai’s pav bhaji have become very popular in these markets. We brought these in for tasting to come up with more refined versions of these popular street food items.” While a pineapple sandwich and dal vada made it to the menu, Matta came up with a unique innovation on the pav bhaji which comes as a thick potato and tomato-based curry with mashed vegetables, garnished with onion, spices and coriander, served with buttered pav bread and lime, in most restaurants and street food places of Ahmedabad,” says Bhagat. “He came up with the idea of a Pav Bhaji Foundue, a liquid version of the bhaji served in a pot over a portable stove which people sitting around a table eat by dipping long-stemmed forks with pieces of pav bread into the mixture. We have had good sales of this,” she informs, adding, “the Chandni Chowk-style chilla chaat and the Nariman Point-type toasted sandwiches with chutney and various fillings were also hits.
Matta says that introducing street foods from different parts of the world posed a challenge, because Turquoise Villa started as a vegetarian café. “Therefore, it was decided that this would be a vegetarian café to begin with. Later we introduced eggs and now we are brainstorming on launching chicken and other non-vegetarian foods. We were able to convert popular non-vegetarian street foods like the biryanis and Kolkata kathi kebab rolls into vegetarian food. But most of the food dished out by carts in Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, Europe and the Americans is non-vegetarian, and it posed a challenge to adapt,” says Matta. “We introduced New York-style pizzas and falafel to begin with. The menu was divided into regional sections, with the separators carrying information about a famous food street of that region.
Says Bhagat: “Among beverages apart from coffees, teas and mocktails, our home-made ginger beer is something not many people in Ahmedabad have tasted and it is becoming popular.”
For dessert, Bhagat recommends their traditional English Bread-and-Butter Pudding. “We are now working with new pastry chefs on including a wider variety of confectionery and desserts in keeping with our street food,” says Bhagat.