Friends Joy Singh and Rahul Kundan grew up in Jammu. While Rahul has earlier worked with companies like Microsoft, Joy helped his father with the family business until both decided to launch a restaurant in Delhi called Raasta. A funky Caribbean lounge, which pays tribute to reggae legends, Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix to name a few, is now open in Mumbai.
We spoke to the co-owners about their latest outpost, their Mumbai plans and the secret behind running a successful restaurant.
How did the idea of starting a Rastafarian-themed restaurant come about?
We have grown up listening to reggae songs because our parents used to listen to a lot of it. Plus, when we started implementing our dream of opening a lounge, we thought that the only thing this country is missing out on is a reggae bar and that’s how Raasta happened.
What made you launch Raasta in Mumbai?
We are a music-oriented restaurant and try to promote alternate genres of music. After opening two outlets in Delhi, Mumbai was the obvious choice as people here are more inclined to visit places with interesting music and live gigs. Also, acceptance of alternate music is a lot more here.
The Raasta menu is heavily influenced by Caribbean cuisine.
Can you take us through the menu?
Being a bar, finger food is very important. The fact that the theme of Raasta is largely Caribbean, it was easy for us to curate the food as our palates are quite similar. Our simple dal chawal is called dal bhaat there. This happened because of a lot of Indian, Asian and African settlements, shifted to the Caribbean islands. So their cuisine is more like world cuisine. As far as alcohol is concerned, they are very heavy on rum, so our cocktails also have a healthy splash in them. Launching the Bongtails was our way of making sure we could incorporate that element somewhere.
How does music add to the vibe of the place?
The vibe of the place is only great when the complete experience is great and all the senses get satisfied. Music is very important as it contributes heavily to the overall ambience of the place. Reggae music, specifically believes in positive vibrations and as Bob Marley said, "music heals all illness".
After a successful stint in the capital, what are you looking forward to in Mumbai?
We are a service industry and we believe in serving people and sending them home happy and content. If we keep on doing the same thing in Mumbai, I think it will accept us with open arms and give us the same kind of love that Delhi has been giving us.
Mumbai has a restaurant launch almost every week. In such a scenario, how challenging it is for you to sustain?
Till date, I feel there is no competition in this line of work as every place has a different vibe and a different USP. As long as your basics are right, you stick with your concept, believe in it and don’t get desperate, there’s always space and acceptance in the market.
What is the secret behind running a successful restaurant?
One should always open what they believe in and stick to it rather than seeing others and changing their own product or place to match. And the most important thing is patience, as it takes time for a place to pick up.
What is your favourite food memory and why?
Initially, we had people who didn't get the idea behind our food and thought it was far too exotic. In fact, once we actually explained to a customer that the Cuban black bean is actually our basic kaali daal! When people started to see and accept the place, it was the best feeling. I think that has to be our favourite food memory.