Bengaluru restaurants serve up concept dining

The Courtyard allows patrons to watch a movie while having dinner.

The Courtyard allows patrons to watch a movie while having dinner.

Everyone remembers the good old days when visiting a restaurant was usually a family outing reserved for the weekends. From start to finish, the experience would last two hours at the most. Cut to now, when restaurants in the city offer more than just a good meal and have become go-to spots for new experiences. 

In the last few months, Bengaluru has seen a slew of new dining joints that sprinkle a little something extra in their experience. For instance, 10 Speakeasy, which has a hidden entrance and a password to enter. Then there’s Meter Bar, where customers are billed based on the time they spend on a drink, or Record Room, which is equal parts taproom and vinyl bar.

Paper & Pie, also new on the block, is a cafe where creators and working professionals can find more than just coffee. 

“Post the pandemic, there was an impetus on restaurants to not just offer great food, but also innovate in what they can provide to their customers. Everyone got so comfortable ordering food indoors that now, we don’t just want something to tingle our tastebuds. There needs to be a value addition too,” explains Razia Ali, a food-tech entrepreneur who founded Blend For Food. 

This “value addition” at Record Room takes a clear form. It’s a place where people can come and check out over 200 vinyl records as they enjoy some coffee, brews, or Brazilian food. The craft beer and vinyl bar has three turntables present.

One of them is manned by a DJ for the bar, another allows for an individual listening experience, and there’s also a limited edition white turntable dedicated to  White Album by the Beatles (one of 500 in the world). The individual listening station, in fact, has been a big hit. So much so that co-founder Karthik Chandrasekaran is considering investing ₹50,000 in adding one more. 

Since opening some weeks ago, the place has seen a mix of curious minds listening to a vinyl record for the first time and connoisseurs who browse through the collection. “We’ve started a vinyl jukebox event where people can go through our curated picks and request a record, or carry their own and ask for that to be played too by our DJ,” says Mr. Chandrasekaran. 

Paper & Pie in Indiranagar aims to redefine the working experience. Part cafe, part creative space, the place also has a conference and podcasting room. In short, “It is a space where people can eat, talk, create, and collaborate,” says co-founder Vamshi Reddy. 

Over in Shantinagar, The Courtyard combines the best of two experiences - watching a movie and dining.

Since 2021, founder Akhila Srinivas has been organising open-air movie screenings, where participants also get to dig into food that’s inspired by the film. Think a three-course Indian, Indonesian and Italian meal for  Eat, Pray, Love, Cubano sandwiches for  Chef, a Greek spread for  Mamma Mia, and so on.

Originally a pre-pandemic idea, its popularity has surged now, with tickets selling out within 72 hours of it being announced. “Earlier, we would still have vacancies on the day of the event,” says Ms. Srinivas. 

Ms. Srinivas suggests that the lockdown-induced interest in food is also what makes such dining ideas popular. “People started following chefs, taking cooking classes, and becoming more aware of the food culture. The new perspective translated into wanting something different from the mundane,” she says. 

Bistro Claytopia in Koramangala isn’t just a cafe, but also a go-to place for those who want to paint ceramics. The Firefly Terrace in Jayanagar, has in the past, combined breakfast with games and crafts.

“Concept places are bringing the emotion back into the F&B industry. Now, you get to network and meet like-minded people too,” says Ms. Ali. 

Restaurateurs too get a bigger slice of the cash pie with patrons spending more time there. “One weekday, we had a couple come from Whitefield and spend the whole afternoon listening to different records at the individual station. People prefer to hang out longer because there’s more to indulge in. The average spend per customer is ₹1,500,” shares Mr. Chandrasekaran about Record Room, which is located on Magrath Road.  

“The bill racked up at these places might be about 15-20% more than a regular restaurant. But combine it with an experience, say a three-course meal with an open-air movie, and it seems acceptable,” says Ms. Ali.

Of the same opinion is Naveen Vooka, who along with colleagues, visited Paper & Pie recently. The group booked the conference room for ₹15,000 across three sessions of the day. The amount was redeemable against food and beverages. “We were 22 of us so we definitely did justice,” says the founder of an IT solutions firm. 

Can concept restaurants ensure the novelty doesn’t expire too soon? Yes, says Mr. Chandrasekaran who believes a space like Record Room taps into the evergreen love for music. 

Rahul Mark Barua, on the other hand, admits there are challenges in keeping any concept fresh and consistent. The chef at 10 Speakeasy shares his recipe to tackle this: secret meetings to discuss topics that are usually hushed away, whiskey tasting workshops, and jazz nights in the future. 

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Printable version | Aug 18, 2022 1:33:21 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/bengaluru-restaurants-serve-up-concept-dining/article65765790.ece