Thursday, September 10, 2015

Freedom Café: Size doesn’t matter

This tiny eatery in North Bangalore is commendable for all the thoughtfulness that has gone into it.

It doesn’t have to be Riedel glasses and rose petal-dusted desserts. A small café can make a huge impact, too. The Freedom Café, newly opened near M.S Ramaiah Collge, is one such place. It impressed me especially, with its simplicity and honesty. And several other little things that count.
The Freedom Café is tiny, seating only 20, and still manages to be warm and welcoming, thanks mainly to a certain openness in its design. 

There’s a newsprint graphic element that adds a zing to the muted walls and it’s made up of carefully chosen words:
Affection Calm Compassion Creativity Debate Degrowth Feminism Green Integrity Kindness Solidarity Think Touch Transparency Values Walk Warmth – all ideas that represent freedom.
Owner and first-time restaurateur Manohar Elavarthi is a social activist and establishing the freedom to be, regardless of gender, caste, religion or sexual preference, defines much of his work, whether with transgender people or farmers in Karnataka.
His philosophies also inform much of how things are done at Freedom Café. Even with his small team, he has an inclusive hiring policy and wants more women on the staff. He pays better than market rates and strives to create a positive workplace experience for them.
While, in his activist role, Manohar Elavarthi espouses sustainable agriculture, as a restaurateur he’s attempting to be as eco-friendly as possible. The furniture is crafted from re-purposed wood, areca leaf plates are in use and the water is in reusable glass bottles.
Freedom Café’s menu is small and unpretentious, comprising breaded chicken and veg strips, served with four flavoured mayos, rolls, soups, burgers and two rice dishes – a Mexican rice and a veg dum biryani which I tasted and found most satisfying. There are hot and cold drinks, such as cold coffee made with filter coffee. For dessert there was a Mizo rice cake, a lovely thing Manohar apparently discovered while working with the Mizo community here during the time they were fleeing the city in droves because of a perceived threat.
There are several dishes priced under Rs 50 and nothing priced above Rs 100 – perfect for the student population in this area. Customers are welcome to linger, chat, debate or work here. It’s about freedom, remember?
My hope for this little venture, created from so much positive thought and energy, is that it should quickly become a commercial success as well.