Updated: April 12, 2021 9:45:08 am
One can vividly recall that the pre-pandemic era’s tryst with open-sky dining was limited to winter banquets and luncheons in the clubs, or a bon fire with classic concoctions.
When Lithuania’s capital city Vilnius had announced its plans to turn the city into an open-air cafe almost a year back, it roused skepticim, but a year on, Lithuania has become the poster child for outdoor dining with the entire city turning into a carnival and hot balloons welcoming the visitors saying ‘Vilnius is calling’ .
In a contrast, here, people often only wonder “if there is an al fresco dining, or I hope its an open-air event”. However, despite the slowdown due to Covid-19 pandemic, the spirit of people has been driving the revival of the hospitality industry and food and beverage vertical. In the Tricity, people spend more time deciding on the cuisine and the outlet as compared to savoring the experience, and who would mind that? Now, the jewel on the crown is the sky-dining genre which the people have been falling in love with, partially due to psychosomatic inner dialogues regarding open and closed spaces in view of Covid-19 and also because of the heady concoction of décor, food, music and the ready-to-experiment crowd.
In the 1980s, it was Aroma’s Green House and Mount View’s Garden Restaurant besides the clubs. That journey has added a lot of coupes to its trail.
Sahil Bajaj, who runs Upstairs Club in Panchkula, says, “ The core idea behind Upstairs Club was to create a rooftop resto-bar which focuses heavily on cocktails and a global cuisine paired with a very natural aesthetic ambience, where people could sit and chill for long hours, enjoy the view and the vibe. What makes us different is the location, we are on the sixth floor with views of the Himalayas around. We offer unique private dining experiences surrounded by greenery which is a major element of our venue, for our craft cocktails and Sunday brunches, we push it as a community space where we tie up with local chefs, bakers, and people from different artistic backgrounds to push their work and create a community vibe. Upstairs Club is an also a performance arts space where we host events with artists pan India and international. “What Timber Trail did to Parwanoo, Upstairs Club has done to Panchkula.”
While Bajaj did his bit in Panchkula, Arpit Singh, the brain behind the Prankster brand spent the time in lockdown to work towards bringing his vision to reality with Piccadalia in New Chandigarh, an upcoming suburb alias the Punjabi Chhatarpur. The maiden feel of the place is of the many picture postcards one may have admired of Santorini, with quintessential white structures and blue-painted windows, and a drive-in cinema straight out of the 70s and the wonder years syndrome. “While all our other restaurants were shut due to Covid-19 and I was back home, that’s when I developed the idea of a drive-in cinema and a cafe by its side. I started cycling during the pandemic, that’s where I met my business partner Anhad. I shared my thoughts about the same with him and he was immediately on board with the idea. Thus, Piccadalia was born. You name an occasion, we do the curation- tropical sunsets and electric cocktails with a pinch of chill music brings you close to beach vibes and evenings at this beautiful cafe offer a bed of stars, cold breeze clubbed with our scrumptious delicacies. Since late spring, the volatile dine-in restrictions has left many operators scrambling to adhere to mandates and revive on-site business,” says Arpit.
He adds: “Al fresco dining is one means of welcoming guests back to the restaurant in a safe, socially distanced manner. May it be a perfect candle night dates, family dining experience or hang out scenes with friends, the theatre cafe offers a dining experience which is suitable for every age group and occasion, hence the response has been in our favour.”
Besides the Greece feels, one also gets a whiff of the cowboy sunsets, which is best complemented by fresh wood-fired oven pizza and a comfort dessert for most, Biscoff cheesecake.
Chandigarh does its bit, but with panache, and that brings us to Tulum, which brings the taste of Mexico and Antalya to the city. Tulum, a rooftop resto bar has bamboo adorned décor with the coal not only firing the pizzas but also warming one’s feet while one sips away a chilled jalapeno margarita coupled with a perfection on the Guacamole. Tulum has been brought to the city by Akshay Verma, the man behind Back Room, a bar which invited Chandigarh residents to let their hair down inside the bar and then cool off outside with Victorian lanterns and araucaria palms.
“The concept and look of the place were envisioned by Saanya, my life partner who loves the city Tulum in Mexico and was inspired by it. She always liked a raw, beachy, fun, laid back vibe and thought why not bring it to a city and create a unique experience. It’s very boho and the personalization shows. For example, our signature round mats were inspired from a trip to Greece and a breakfast in one fun cafe where they had similar mats. The response has been pretty great . We did it more out of fun, hoping it might do okay, but we are very grateful and blessed for the sort of response we got. It’s open to air, has chill music and vibe, semi casual dress attire through the day or night. We want people to come, relax and unwind,” Akshay says.
The al fresco dining has enabled people to brushing the pandemic away, even if only for a bit, with sunset coffees and starry night cocktails under a canopy of stars. Here’s to sky dining.
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