Most of Lolita’s food memories can be traced back to her early childhood spent in the small town of Bankura in West Bengal. Collecting snails from the submerged paddy fields, and then asking her grandmother to prepare them, is a fond experience she cherishes even today.
Like most Bengalis, growing up on a routine dose of fish curry and rice was natural for Lolita. Looking at an obvious Bong connection she says, “My mum’s macher jhol-bhaat is the best in the world!” Today she runs Desi Deli, a cute café in Bandra that serves hot dogs and burgers, inspired mostly from her travels. A Bengali touch is also evident in the menu.
Lolita’s love for hosting friends over dinner, the food for which primarily would be prepared by her, was when it all started. Soon The Lil Flea happened and the folks were sold out! “It was during one of our trips to Berlin that we were hooked to hot dogs. We brought the idea to Mumbai, but offered a twist to the flavours keeping the soul of the hot dog intact,” says Lolita.
In June, Lolita took all her learnings from pop-ups and food shows to set up Desi Deli on Bandra’s Chapel Road that serves Indian-inspired hot dogs and burgers. The classics are the ‘Amar’ (veg), ‘Akbar’ (chicken) and ‘Anthony’ (pork), which are topped with their in-house sauces – spicy hara, chatpata yellow or mustard and dhuandhar smoky red respectively. At the Bombay Local, a food bazaar held in May, vegetarians loved the fact that there was a hot dog especially meant for them. “It made their day!” she says.
The Lamb Burger at Desi Deli
Lolita’s food inspiration essentially comes from her journeys across Italy, France and Portugal. Some of course also comes from her mother - the ‘Shorshe Shrooms’ (mushrooms prepared with mustard) and Ghugni Souk (white pea curry with or without mutton) clearly indicates the same.
Desi Deli also has an interesting range of teas or Chaa, which are typically sourced from Sikkim. Their Iced Uskabagh is subtle and goes perfectly with the burgs and hot dogs.The Lush Lamb Burg, The Champ and Texan Desi are other must-try dishes here.
Lolita’s ace tips for anyone who is planning to step out of the home kitchen to set up his/ her own restaurant:
1. Always have somebody to advise you. It is very different to cook for friends at home and running a commercial kitchen.
2. Keep your eyes and ears open. People pay money to eat your food, so you cannot take them for granted.