Inspiration struck in the form of a sandwich as Siddharth Manchanda and Anant Kataria strolled the quirky-yet-cosy streets of Amsterdam nearly seven years ago. The two began dreaming of starting their own casual dining restaurant with the cult favourite as its pièce de résistance.
They first tested waters a year-and-a-half ago by setting up a surreptitious al fresco diner in the alley between Ambience and Promenade Mall in Vasant Kunj and called it the Big Fat Sandwich (BFS). As praise poured in, in footfalls, they took the plunge and another BFS cropped up at the popular SelectCity Walk.
While Manchanda and Kataria had sandwich-making in their clench, beverages and desserts were beyond their ken. So, they reached out to Matt Chitharanjan of Blue Tokai, and Bani Nanda of Miam Patisserie, two of the best in the business. The three frontliners, together, have pulled a bit of a gastronomic coup by coming under the Big Fat Sandwich’s roof.
“Going to Bani was a no-brainer. We had been ordering from her since she opened her catering business last year. It took a little bit of convincing, but we’re so glad she agreed to come on board. As for coffee, we used to go to Blue Tokai everyday and absolutely loved their coffee. So, we asked them to join us. They refused to collaborate with us if we continued to function in the mall,” says Manchanda.
The idea of finding a space away from the centre of the city appealed to Manchanda and Kataria who found a snug place in Hauz Khas Market, which is going through a makeover, with new restaurants popping up. Though the market does not ensure as many customers, as most of them are from the hood, the owners seem to be clear about the kind of clientele they wish to attract.
“The mall culture does not fit in our vision. Both BFS and Blue Tokai source their ingredients from local producers and we’re all about making great food and good coffee more accessible. Malls don’t allow that to happen,” says Chitharanjan.
The minimalist, modern decor gives a sense that they aren’t trying too hard until you get to the menu. It is exhaustive. From the breakfast menu to an array of French desserts. When encountered for the first time, the options require your complete and undivided attention. You are spoiled for choice. With the help of Manchanda, a respectable order of Nitro Coffee, Truffle infused Mac ‘n’ Cheese and the Philly Loving was placed.
The Nitro coffee packed the anticipated caffeine punch but lost points on the texture. It was not as foamy as one would have liked it to be. The Truffle infused Mac ’n’ Cheese Croquettes were crunchy on the outside, gooey on the inside. You want to consume this soon after it has been presented to you.
It’s no good when cold. Manchanda’s suggestion, Philly Loving, was the star of the evening. A warm, soft French loaf arrived stuffed with sautéed mushrooms, caramelised onions, cheddar and slow cooked baby lamb which had been marinating in its juices for more than 48 hours. Mint mayo played the ideal sidekick.
Soon after, Le Cordon Bleu alumna Nanda walked towards us, holding up a pink box. Her gait was a gentle reminiscent of the French waiter caricature. She brought us macaroons and a tart. The temperamental cookies, which she makes using the French method, were as pleasing to the taste buds as to the eyes.
Where Nanda truly wins you over is with her panache for converging varying textures on the same platter. The tart was an assemblage of orange mousse, orange curd and lime custard on a kafir lime cookie base — a refreshingly unusual dessert for a Delhi restaurant.
“I like to give multiple textures to my desserts because it’s the best way for me to express my flavour pairings. Everything can fit in one bite and it also poses a fun challenge for me as a chef,”said Nanda. Her only complaint — everyone wants to eat something with chocolate.
Meal for two: Rs 1,500
Address: A-15A Front, Hauz Khas, Delhi