How five foodies set up a Bengali restaurant chain
Bhojohori Manna at Hindustan Road, Kolkata.
The story of Bhojohori Manna began out of a garage space at Ekdalia, Kolkata in 2003. It started with the discovery of a quaint little Chinese restaurant owned and managed by a Marwari family. The news that this little place could be a possible takeover target came to the founders from an acquaintance. On their first interaction, it was clear that the family running the Chinese restaurant needed collaboration. After three months of deliberation, Bhojohori Manna was born.
The famous five
Rajiv Neogi (alumnus of XLRI, Jamshedpur, ex-SAIL and entrepreneurial ventures viz. retail, publishing, restaurateur), Goutam Ghose (renowned filmmaker and winner of many national and international awards), Ranjit Duttagupta (entrepreneur and marketer of imported capital goods to the core sector in the country) Siddhartha Bose (ex-Tata Group and restaurateur) and Siddhartha Chatterjee (a popular child actor who played Topshe in Satyajit Ray's films, now a teacher and analyst in the capital markets) are the five people who started this restaurant serving homely Bengali food.
Though from diverse fields, they shared a common bond – the love for food. Looking back, the simple motivating factor appears to have been a desire to work together in a business that each of them were passionate about.
The winning Macher Jhol-Bhaat formula
The north had its dhabas, the south its Udupi joints, then the logic for Kolkata to have its unassuming macher jhol and bhaat (rice and fish curry) restaurant, was only natural. The post-liberalisation retail boom in many sectors including food and entertainment seemed to be biased in favour of westernised concepts, while the basic needs remained unfulfilled. The decision was therefore unanimous.
A song that inspired
Bhojohori Manna was named after a popular Bengali song performed by the legendary singer Manna Dey for a film from the 70s. The track, "aami sri sri bhojohori manna" revolves around a magical cook who travelled to many lands and returned to his native place having acquired a bizarre and funny culinary style of his own.
Anyone who loves food can be seen enjoying a meal here. You will find Kolkata's working middle class, celebrities and even politicians eating at this restaurant.
After a successful stint in its homeland, Bhojohori Manna travelled to Bangalore in July 2008 in the height of recession. The Bengalis who lived and worked in the city welcomed the homely food that was served, the ingredients for which like fish, meat and certain vegetables were sourced from Kolkata. Today, the restaurant has a presence in Mumbai, Siliguri in North Bengal and Puri in Odisha.
Borishal Ilish, Dak Bungalow Mutton, Macher Muro diye Dal, fish fry, Vegetarian thala with Aloo Posto, Mochar Chop.