The country’s most famous and best regarded modern Indian restaurant will soon have a new location. Indian Accent is set to move from its original home in Delhi’s Friends Colony to the DLF - owned The Lodhi Hotel, in the centre of South Delhi. The new location is a stone’s throw from The Oberoi Hotel, which will re-open in January with its own modern Indian restaurant.
Indian Accent originally opened at The Manor Hotel in Friends Colony when restaurateur Rohit Khattar took the hotel on a long lease. Khattar shifted Manish Mehrotra, the Chef at Tamarai, his Pan-Asian restaurant in London, to Delhi and encouraged him to devise a menu of his own in the dining room, which he called Indian Accent.
The idea of a modern restaurant in that space was not new. Both Vineet Bhatia and Abhijit Saha had run restaurants there and failed. But Mehrotra made it work and in the process, he created a whole new school of Indian Cooking.
Though the location was relatively far out from the centre of Delhi, Indian Accent became a destination restaurant and was packed out night after night. Last year, Khattar and Mehrotra opened a successful New York outpost and they will soon open an Indian Accent in London.
In recent months though, Indian Accent has been hit by the Supreme Court decision that liquor cannot be served near highways and has had to go completely dry. That probably prompted the shift to The Lodhi. Nobody will discuss the new project in detail yet but Indian Accent will take over the space currently occupied by On The Waterfront. The top floor of the restaurant, which has a large kitchen area at its centre, will become a Chef’s Table where Manish and his second-in-command Shantanu will cook special menus.
The shift means that Indian Accent will no longer be a distant destination restaurant but will now have a location in the centre of Delhi, a move that is certain to boost its sales. It will also accommodate many more people, making it easier to find a table.
The decision to let Indian Accent open in the On The Waterfront space marks a new strategy for DLF which owns The Lodhi. On The Waterfront was run by SET'Z, another DLF venture, and did extremely well when it first opened. Then, control passed to the hotel management and food quality and sales collapsed. SET'Z took control again and the restaurant profited from the closing down of The Oberoi, attracting many old 360° regulars. Most of them were expected to go back when The Oberoi reopened. Now, they have a reason to stay.
DLF is also believed to be in talks with Yauatcha to open a branch of the successful London dim sum house inside The Lodhi. Though the Mumbai Yauatcha is a huge success, the Delhi operation struggled at the downmarket Ambience Mall in Vasant Kunj. A shift in location may be the answer to Yauatcha’s problems.
For DLF, the outsourcing of F&B marks a shift in policy because, ever since The Lodhi was launched (at first as The Aman, in the days when DLF owned the Aman group), it has never really lived up to its potential or been regarded as much of a threat by the city’s other five star hotels.
It is believed that with The Lodhi outlets all outsourced, the DLF team will focus on the F&B at its new upmarket mall in the old Chanakya cinema space. This is due to open by the end of this year. The shift to The Lodhi also means that the London branch of Indian Accent will open a little later than scheduled; possibly in the spring of next year.
Vir Sanghvi is India's best-known food writer and TV host. His book, Rude Food won the Cointreau Award for Best Food Literature book in the world and his food and travel shows on channels such as TLC and NDTV Good Times have won numerous awards and continue to be watched by millions.
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