Rahul and Malini Akerkar, are proud parents of their 10-year-old Indigo today. Marigolds in glass lamps make for cheerful walkway companions leading up to this restuarant in a house.. formerly a residential villa. Inside, mom and pop, amble about their daily chores, blending in with their extended family comprising of staff and regular patrons.
Their story.. Rahul as a chef overseas.. their maiden culinary enterprise Under the Over at Kemps Corner.. their move to Bangalore to run a hotel owned by Protima Bedi.. their return to Mumbai to conceive Indigo, is well-known.
So, how did they hold their own in the shadow of the Taj Palace and Tower, tucked in one of Colaba’s snaking lanes? “We have stayed true to an ideology, one that maintains food as the driving force and stresses on impeccable service,” says Rahul.
As the city races towards an imaginary finish line, time slows down at Indigo. There is not the flurry of elbows bearing food, no intruding banter from neighbouring tables and no clatter or clang from the kitchen. There is polite service of a fine meal and a light stream of music to keep you company through tall cocktails.
“Fashion shows and events were never part of the plan. We are a restaurant and don’t knee-jerk at the developments consuming the city. But we did give the city a lot of firsts like a refined dining space, a unique format, carefully prepared food and great service,” says Malini, director of marketing for DeGustibus Hospitality, their parent company.
Innovation, then, is restricted to their kitchen. “Our menu changes twice a year. We have daily specials. The service has become more au currant but remains quality driven, starting with ingredients,” Rahul says.
The most remarkable change over the decade, they admit, is the re-education of the Indian consumer. “They have the vocabulary today to describe and reference what they have tasted and been exposed to on their travels.
“Back in 1993 at Under the Over, a patron complained that his pasta sauce was broken. I had to inform him that it was the nature of Ricotta (cheese). Today a consumer can pinpoint if there’s too much thyme in the food. Today, it’s a lot more challenging and rewarding to cater to an educated, sophisticated palette,” admits Rahul.
Having grown from a 50 to a 450- member enterprise, the master and mistress spend a lot of time acquainting their staff with the nuances of their restauranting beliefs and philosophies, starting with the doorman.
“It’s always been a family culture. Many have put Indigo on a pedestal, which is then misconstrued as a place of snobbery, but it’s not like that. Once you dine here, you will understand how approachable we are,” Malini says.
Indigo’s sister concerns, Indigo Deli and Indigo Cafe, might expand outside Mumbai. “We’re likely to start the deli in Delhi next year. But there’s so much to do within this metropolis.
“As we have done through this decade, Rahul and I intend on taking things a day at a time. We are very blessed to have so much support from this city and its people and yet we have no expectations because it's unwise to harbour any in this industry,” says Malini.