Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Gramin: How a small restaurant managed to grow and succeed

Gramin in Koramangala, the restaurant hub of Bangalore, has just completed 13 years – a remarkable achievement given Bangalore’s open-and-shutdown rate – and has marked the milestone with an expansion, acquiring space, adding covers and augmenting the kitchen.
Gramin began life as a tiny, even cramped restaurant in November 2002 and I went there in the early days on the recommendation of a colleague, a vegetarian, who ate there almost every day. I was utterly impressed on my first visit by the sharpness of focus and the commitment to quality that the owners, Sima and Kashyap Doshi displayed. I went several times after that, always dining on excellent vegetarian food -- cooked with good ingredients and eschewing artificial colour, flavouring agents and other tricks that commercial kitchens resort to – and served in a simple, rustic setting. It was my pleasure to pick Gramin as Best Vegetarian Restaurant in Bangalore for the Times Food Awards the next year.
So, it’s most gratifying to see this restaurant grow from its original 20-seater version to a space that seats 150 diners now. I was there on a Friday afternoon and it was reassuringly packed. The all-in-one thali is a hot-seller at lunch time, but guests can order a la carte, too. The menu hasn’t deviated from the original concept: a line-up of tasty vegetable dishes, dals, well-made rotis and rice dishes. They’ve now added on ‘diet subziyan’, low or no-oil dishes that taste just like home-cooked and also do home deliveries.
The success of Gramin lies in what the Doshis have done as well as not done. They have resisted the urge to expand too soon, waiting for nearly a decade to do that. They haven’t wanted to scale up or even open another branch, despite many demands to do so. This is because the very essence of this restaurant is the quality that can only be assured by the hands-on approach and involvement of the restaurateurs. Kashyap Doshi is there, day in day out, at every meal service, keeping an eye on the kitchen, interacting with customers, rushing to address the smallest complaint. And it’s all paid off.
Here’s wishing this gem of a little restaurant many more years of success.


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