Bandra's Desi Deli: A Chat With Founder Lolita Sarkar

Lush Lamb Burger
Lush Lamb Burger | ©Desi Deli
aparna bhat

Started in June 2015, this vibrantly decorated cafe is located in Bandra Reclamation, close to Lilavati Hospital. All of the decor and the food has been carefully planned by the founder Lolita Sarkar, and each detail embodies her love for food and hosting people. Here, we have excerpts from a conversation with Lolita.

Can you tell us about the concept behind Desi Deli and how you began this journey?

I’ve always loved hosting people at my house and serving them quality food. I finally took the plunge in October 2014 and switched careers to become a home based chef. Starting a food business is tough, but I would say it is as tough as starting any other business. From October 2014 to June 2015, I used to organize pop ups and participate in festivals like the Little Flea. The whole concept behind our food was to offer quintessential American favourites like hot dogs and burgers and to adapt them to the Indian palette by adding Desi twists. For instance, we have a dish called Begum in Crepe, which has the Hyderabadi Khubani Ka Meetha stuffed inside a Crepe.

So when did the cafe actually start and how was that transition?

We started the cafe in June 2015. The decor and the logo were intended to be dramatic, and something that would help create a replicable brand. We took a lot of care to ensure that the staff at the cafe is trained to maintain the quality of the food and the service, which is the core of what Desi Deli is. Whether I am at the cafe or not, the staff has full liberty to replace a dish if a customer is not happy with it. For instance, these Dubla Patla Fries took a lot of training to cut so thin, but I always thought, “my mother can do it, why can’t I teach my chefs?”

What is the idea behind the additions to the menu?

Even though we started with items like hot dogs and burgers, we realized that most customers don’t feel like that is a complete meal. Hence, we have expanded the menu, adding new burgers and hot dogs as well as salads, desserts and teas. One of our new burgers is the Super Lush Burger, which has two patties. The first order went out just now, and we are quite excited! I am going to call and check with the customer to make sure it reached them and that they enjoyed it. We have also added a range of teas, sourced directly from Sikkim.

What is your vision for the future of Desi Deli?

Currently, our location is quite small, so we have to cook in a kitchen in Khar and only assemble dishes here. We are working to bring in investors so that we can expand within Mumbai and beyond, keeping the vibrant decor and the quality of food as a standard.
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