This Hyderabad eatery puts flavours from across India on diners’ plates
On the menu: diversity. At designer Gaurang Shah’s newly opened restaurant in Hyderabad’s upmarket Jubilee Hills, what you get is a taste of India — its time-honoured, eclectic culinary traditions that encompass regional and traditional food from states like Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh.
Shah, who is labelled as ‘the sari savant’ and the ‘master of weaves,’ has dealt with the warp and weft of textile for 20 long years, invigorating the country’s weaving traditions through his clothes. With Gaurang’s Kitchen, a symbol of his love for Indian food, he turns to the world of vegetarian recipes and dishes.
From fabric to food
Shah’s textile work spreads across 16 states and engages over 900 weavers and craftspeople across India. His collections, the grand assemblages of heritage sarees, showcase the best of Indian weaves, including niche woven textiles, like kanjeevaram and benarasi, khadi and paithani, patan patola, uppada and kota — you name it.
Just as he doesn’t differentiate between his weaves, he exhibits equal fervour for food from different regions at Gaurang’s Kitchen. The thalis here offer ‘mini-India’ on the diners’ plates. Having a meal here you can’t help thinking: If it’s politics that divides us, it’s food that unites us.
Focus on traditional cuisines
The new restaurant is home to the finest traditional cuisines of India from across states, some of which have become rare. Shah has been thinking of starting his own signature vegetarian restaurant for the past 12 years. However, what delayed the opening of his gourmet venture was finding the right location that would reflect his design sensibilities.
“I was confident that my eatery would serve customers all the cuisines I enjoy and had tried during my travels. So, when I found this locale that had great synergy with what I had in mind, I just grabbed it and went ahead to turn my dream into reality. It had the expanse and room for creative innovation,” he says.
Art, artistry, and food
The 300-seat restaurant, spread over 7,000 sq ft across two floors, has an al fresco sit-out and indoor seating. It is housed in an erstwhile bungalow, which has been designed to integrate art, artistry, and food; a reflection of the designer in him.
For the designer, his kitchen is an extension of his work. It is an attempt to recreate and reinvent half-forgotten recipes, akin to the discovery of old weaves and their reintroduction into our daily lives.
A born foodie, Shah loves indulging in traditional vegetarian cuisines. When he realised the dearth of vegetarian food outlets, and places that serve diverse cuisines that integrate different Indian flavours in Hyderabad, he decided to fill the void.
“My origin is Hyderabad and I wanted to introduce the city to the best vegetarian food chosen from the rich traditional cuisines of India. The aim is also to get the city hooked to the place for experiential food that is never mundane or the same day after day,” says the designer, who has designed costumes for celebrities; most recently for Sonam Kapoor.
The flavours of street cuisine
For the designer, his mother is his biggest inspiration behind opening the restaurant. “She makes some of the most exotic food that I have ever tasted. Even though she makes simple Gujarati dishes like dal-shaak, kadhi and roti-chawal, everything she serves is hot, fresh, and incredibly delicious,” he says.
Another aspect that inspired Shah is the flavour that Indian street cuisine brings to our palates. “They have mastered the masala element and their customer turnout is outstanding,” he says.
Helmed by a top-notch culinary team, the menu of Gaurang’s Kitchen showcases the finest cuisines of India, with indigenous ingredients. The dishes prepared from a state-of-the-art kitchen traverse all corners of the country, with fresh flavours and textures that evoke nostalgia. Among the most creative lunch and dinner menus are the Thali, which assemble the traditional dishes of India. The must-try is the combo meals: Tandoor, Indian, dum biryani, and the Gujarati-Marwari combo meal — take your pick.
Variations and variety
Some of the innovations include thali for starters that has sabudana bhel (the designer’s innovation), kothimbir wadi (Maharashtrian), aaku or ribbon pakodi (a common South Indian snack), and paneer pahadi tikka (North Indian). For main course, there is Rajwadi rajma (north Indian), chettinad paneer kari, (Tamilian special), parwal tamatar (made in a simple Gujarati Jain no-onion, no-garlic way, but delicious, nevertheless!), and mixed-veg curry, with the North Indian connotation. Each day promises to have an inventive variation of food from different regions of India.
Then, there is a breadbasket, which has North Indian phulkas and tawa paratha, biscuit bhakris (commonly seen in Gujarat, Rajasthan, and elsewhere), Maharashtrian puran poli (wafer thin and generously filled with the chana dal-jaggery mix), and baati which you can pair with the dal tadka on the thali and the choorma.
Along with the rice and fada (broken wheat) khichdi, there is Gujarati Kadhi, which has a sweet, creamy flavour. Dessert options include dry fruit choora or choorma, lemon barfi, and kulfi with rabdi.
‘A place for every Indian’
What is unique about the menu is that no two thalis are ever the same. For example, if dal is prepared in the Maharashtrian manner, the curry and dessert may be from another area. “This is the standard for thali, which provides infinite portions of home-style vegetarian meals. We have also introduced a chat corner which has a widespread menu to indulge,” he says.
The designer says that food is as much an art as weaves. “Also, there has been a dearth of food destinations that really bring the ancient food traditions and flavours all in one place. Our restaurant is a place for every Indian,” he says, sharing that he loves desserts and they are among his indulgences at the Kitchen.
The aesthetics of space
While his focus is on cuisines, the designer has also ensured the perfect interiors for the castle of his creative muse: food. The expansive Indigo Verandah, named after the indigo swatches swinging in the air, is where the restaurant’s gates open up to the al fresco, the outdoor seating. Due to the surrounding lush green vegetation, it features both standard tables and low-floor seating in baithak style, with gaddas in tow. The entry has both a ramp and the steps alongside.
Neel is the courtyard, and Katha is the home. The spaces infuse cooling indigo and warm madder to create a serene ambiance. “The idea is to awaken your senses through melodious music, soothing textures, and delicious food,” he says.
There is a Tree of Life on the walls, complete with a cheetah poised regally on a tree. The primary colour within is madder, which contrasts with the immaculate-white kota chikankari curtains, the framed vintage paithanis and kanjeevarams, the vegetable-dyed upholstery, and more.
“I spent around six months developing the concept, from the menu to locating the appropriate utensils, tableware, and furniture upholstery. I envisioned an ideal space, which would carry my design aesthetics: a place where families would spend hours,” says the designer.
Gaurang may plan to open more restaurants in days to come, but right now his focus is to establish his debut outlet. “My aim is to make it the go-to destination for vegetarian cuisine lovers, both locals and tourists,” he asserts.