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Community of diners

As Out Of The Blue’s new outlet in Powai readies itself with a communal table, the city gears up to embrace eating out with strangers.

india Updated: May 11, 2011 13:59 IST
Serena Menon

A new piece of furniture is quickly making its presence felt in city restaurants. This big table that can seat about 20 to 30 people is initiating a new trend in the foodie circuit, called community dining.

While Le Pain Quotidien in Apollo Bunder, Colaba, was the first to introduce the concept of the communal table to the city, its neighbouring fine dining joint, The Table, was next to join in and make place for the elongated slab. Now, as popular Bandra restaurant, Out Of The Blue readies to open its second outlet in Powai, the eatery too is busy catering to patrons interested in community dining.

“The communal table basically allows conversation between strangers. People who I’ve met at such diners in the UK are still my close friends today. So why not encourage this culture here?” says Ambar Mahajan, owner of Out Of The Blue.

Recently, Bandra’s landmark café Just Around The Corner changed its name to Eat Around The Corner. With its re-launch, it too introduced a communal table to its seating arrangement.

The theory behind community dining is simple — various groups of patrons share the table and their respective orders are delivered to where they are seated. “It’s a very popular concept internationally, and since we attract a lot of expats, this idea works for us and them,” says Gauri Devdayal, owner, The Table, adding that, “Not all customers are open to the concept, but sometimes when they land up at the table unexpectedly, they don’t want to move.”

Though it seems to almost serve the same purpose as a bar, some argue that there is an added level of comfort to a communal table. “It is designed to allow guests to dine by themselves, without feeling alone. It provides a warm and cosy atmosphere. It does make for comfortable ambience with strangers, but it certainly does not force a conversation,” says Alain Coumont, founder of Le Pain Quotidien.

He further explains, “Communal table has been a central theme of our bakery-café since our first outlet opened in Brussels. We believe India has a huge heritage and history of communal dining, whether it is culturally or religiously. The idea of sharing food together with family, friends and even strangers is not an alien concept in our country.

India has been ready for such concepts for quite some time.”

Places to go to eat a communal meal:
Out Of The Blue, Powai
Eat Around The Corner, Bandra
The Table, Apollo Bunder
Le Pain Quotidien, Fort