Not too long ago, Sumit and Chiquita Gulati from the Gulati family of Pandara Road fame, took over Spice Market restaurant in the now-bustling district of the land-of-many-malls Saket. Shortly thereafter, they decided to revisit their beverage offerings.
Before you wonder why I would choose to make this the topic for discussion, let me start by saying theirs is the most affordably-priced beverage list in the city and perhaps no other outlet can venture in the vicinity. The cheapest five-star property, if I were to hazard a guess, would be San Lorenzo Maritime restaurant at Taj Lands End in Mumbai and the cheapest bar would be Chipsted at Taj Coromandel in Chennai. If someone knows of a better-priced alternative at that level of service, please enlighten me.
But back to Sumit Gulati. His plans were ambitious and noble. He saw how customers came to him mostly for food, and drink was a distant desirable. As a result, in spite of having to invest in a liquor service licence at a fairly fearful annual fee, he rarely saw any benefits, let alone profiteering from it. The reason, he realised, was that people would pre-game before heading out for a meal, that is, drinks at home and dinner outside. So he decided to price himself in a manner that didnt make clients compare him to other outlets in the area, but to the idea of drinking at home. Gulatis list was comparable to, say, buying at a retail store and consuming at home. To make it even more homely, he lists Patiala as a measure on his list!
But the wine problem wouldnt still go away. Maybe, as Indians, we dont think of wine when we are getting down and dirty with kebabs and curries. Gulati wished to list a wide range of Indian wines, but the law of the land (or state) decrees that local wines cannot be purchased by a restaurant in any quantity lesser than a case, that is, 12 bottles. So if Gulati was to go ahead with his plans, he would soon have to remove tables and chairs to accommodate the stock.
Which is when he hit upon an ingenious idea: what about smaller bottles A pint in wines is about 187.5 ml of wine (or, as our rule police would like to see it, 18.75 cl). This is just a little over a generous glass-pour, or maybe two modest glasses. Gulati hunted down every pint
he could find and, very soon, he was selling wine alongside Indian food in a manner and in quantities that can put
the finest of five-star eateries to shame.
Heres why I think pints are working so well:
1. Ideal quantity for two people to share.
2. Affords variety, as one diner may pursue whites, while another stays with the reds.
3. Freshness guaranteed as opposed to some open bottle languishing in the bar somewhere for weeks.
4. International options aplenty, although currently blocked by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of Indias (FSSAI) import restrictions.
5. In Gulatis case, great pricing.
Such lucid points almost make one wonder why other places dont employ this simple tactic. Whatever the reasons, it was a great case in point for us to analyse and learn from. Even a typecast restaurant can reinvent itself and show that Indian food is, in fact, wine-friendly. But like with all friendships, one party needs to first teach itself to extend a warm, friendly hand.
The writer is a sommelier