When Mumbai’s bars go ‘healthy’
A person walks into a bar and says, “What can I get that has no sugar, no carbs and is fat-free?” The exasperated waiter responds, “Water”. While variations of this joke — with a few of the punchlines being an order of a bowl of ice cubes — have been doing the rounds of social media over the years, Mumbai’s bars are now tweaking their menus to accommodate the needs of their health-conscious customers. With low-calorie cocktails, gluten-free beer and bite-sized portions being doled out, the restaurants claim that this reduction of calories is the need of the hour.
Having recently launched their new menu, The Irish House came across a revelation about their customers’ eating and drinking habits that helped them in this decision. “Customers want to continue going out just as much but while making some health-conscious eating and drinking choices. We kept getting requests from our regular customers to add more healthy, cleaner eating options to the menu,” says Sanju Arora, General Manager, The Irish House.
Small plate agenda
An “honesty” bar concept in town, which lets you pay whatever you want for the drink, have shifted their focus from vegetarian and vegan small plates to include non-vegetarian appetisers as well. Alok Nanda, the owner of Hyde, says, “Today, our guests demand more appetizers than main courses as it complements their drinks order. Small plates are more diet-friendly whether it’s gluten-free, low-carb or keto dishes.”
Another restaurant, in the heart of bustling Bandra, agrees that serving smaller portions is healthy because, “you have to consider the guest’s mindset — that small plates equal small quantities, making them think that it won’t affect their body when it comes to eating healthy small plates,” says Alok Kumar, executive chef at Invincible Boudoir et Jardin.
How healthy is ‘healthy’?
Having a full-page keto menu at Invincible, which consists of cauliflower salads and cheese pesto zoodles (zucchini noodles), Kumar adds, “Keto works by changing the way our bodies turn food into energy. We thought of helping our guests revive their energy at our restaurant while they also relish the menu.” Their other non-keto but “healthy” dishes include the Cottage Cheese Brisket and the Crispy Korean chicken croquettes.
SodaBottleOpenerWala’s chef Irfan Pabaney has concocted a fresh fruit and vegetable beverage. The Pink carrot drink, which is mixed with fresh pineapple and ginger, is for those “few health-conscious folk” that visit this modern-style Iranian cafe. The chef says that the pink carrots help with weight loss and eye health, while pineapples act as a “great antioxidant and helps with digestion”, and ginger is good to keep your blood sugar under control. Having seen the trend of healthy eating picking up “gradually”, over the last couple of years, Irfan says, “We use no artificial or processed sugars. When you are using fresh stuff and no packed juices/syrups, automatically the drink tends to contribute to your body’s nutritional requirement.”
Hyde’s menu has keto-friendly options as well, with their selection of Chicken Salami Tacos, which are also gluten-free, and others such as Grilled Prawns and Moroccan Lamb with Couscous. How are these options healthy you ask? “We make sure they have enough of the good macronutrients such as protein from meat, seafood or dairy. We also use good carbs such as whole wheat, sago and sweet potato along with good fats such as olives and cheese and, above all, fibre with all such as adding lettuce and mescaline greens,” says Nanda.
But for Irish House, the idea, Sanju says, was to “ensure our guests still get to enjoy their classic pub favourites and also introduce new innovative appetisers blending healthy and delicious meals.” Substituting baked or roasted versions for fried options, the restaurant now offers Baked Nachos, Baked Pita Chips, Backyard BBQ with grilled appetisers in vegetarian and non-vegetarian options, and others such as Disco Potatoes, Skewed Jamaican Cottage Cheese/Chicken, Shrimp Chilli Garlic and Sloppy Ribs.
Hyde estimates 30% of its customer base to be calorie-conscious, while 30% “eat as per the macros”. Invincible’s Kumar adds, “From the footfall that visits our restaurant, we know that everyone who wants to lose weight does not order from our keto menu, as its ingredients involve a lot of protein and fat with zero carbohydrates. Only people who are currently following the ketogenic diet do so.” But, recently, the chef says they have noticed “a lot of people trying out at least one dish” from the keto side of the menu. Being located in India, Kumar says that they “find a lot of guests looking for variety in veg only or keto-friendly dishes, which is quite difficult as mostly all fruits and vegetables have some carbohydrate content in it.”
About the calorie-conscious lot at their restaurant, Sanju says, “They might have come to The Irish House to drink and while they can’t do much shifting on drinking options, they surely want to be able to control the calorie count on the food.” He also adds that they do expect an increase in sales by “healthy margins” with this launch.
While the irony of the tonnes of calories imparted by alcohol and other fried bar snacks goes unnoticed by these conglomerates, let’s hope their healthy, baked goods are enough to offset the calories from the fried bacon grease add-on, which is still an option for us unhealthy folk.