It was a bright Sunday morning when a bunch of friends got together over some lazy breakfast to chit chat about love, life and all that jazz. Dolly Singh had whipped up some eggs.
Then, as it inevitably happens, someone came up with a business idea.
“Why don’t you call people to come and eat at your place?”
Dolly wasn’t kicked about the idea of cooking for strangers. But her friends managed to talk her into it. By next weekend, a menu was planned and designed and an event was created on Facebook, and random strangers across the Internet were invited to come and eat at Dolly’s pad in Bandra.
The cozy studio apartment at the quaint Chuim village in Bandra has since then become a hangout for youngsters and the old alike to enjoy some of the regional food Dolly has to offer. She calls it @Home Café, after all it is her home, quite literally! The food prepared is mainly Bihari and sometimes Bengali. “Although I started with a Goan sausage special counter at a Christmas carnival, I am more familiar with these two cuisines,” she exclaims.
Scene from the Bengali pop-up
What you can expect to eat at her Bihari pop-up are Litti Choka, Bajka, Matar daal, Khada Masala Chicken and Malpua. Her Bong menu offers Maccher jhol and bhaat, fish cutlet, prawn papad, payesh and more. Also find her dish out Tibetan Chicken or Mushroom Thenthuk (soup), Momos served with tomato garlic chutney, traditional monastery bread and Sikkimese tea. And if you are a breakfast person, then head to her house on a Sunday for some French or Italian goodies.
It is interesting to see that Dolly brings the food she eats from her travels onto the plate. The 32-year-old has lived in Kalimpong and Delhi before moving to Mumbai. Once in a while she takes off to stay and eat with locals just to understand their food and culture. Dolly is heading to Ziro Music Festival in Arunachal Pradesh (in September) where she’d be serving Goan sausages with a twist to the music lovers.
That's where you would eat if you signed up for a meal
Dolly shares her learnings of setting up her own pop-up restaurant with us.
1. If you have an idea, just go for it. “Even if it is slightly different or unique, pursue it. It depends on how you sell it,” she says.
2. You must be able to connect with people. Eating, chatting and sharing stories about life, travel and food matters. Dolly usually caters to smaller groups because she feels it is important to interact and have real conversations. “That way people will remember you and come back for more,” she quips.
3. You cannot compromise on food. Dolly believes that honesty is integral to any business. “I do not compromise on the quality of food that I serve. Make sure your ingredients are of good quality including the oil you cook with!” She even sees to it that the stirrer is in her hands so that the taste is uniform.
4. Create a cheery vibe. Make sure the place where you invite people to come and eat is unpretentious. “I usually have a theme, which helps me in creating an atmosphere where people can be themselves. You can even walk in alone to eat!”
5. Work the social media. It’s where all the action is, Dolly believes. “Once you are active on social media, the rest will fall smoothly with some word-of-mouth publicity.”
To book your meal at one of Dolly Singh’s pop-up food experiences, all you have to do is 'Like' @Home Café on Facebook and keep an eye on the updates. The menu keeps changing and the price varies between Rs. 800 and Rs. 1200 per person.