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February 19, 2012

View From the Top

Text by Malvika Sah.

Located across the iconic Qutub Minar, the well-appointed Circa 1193 satiates the palate and senses alike. Vidhur Parashar – one of the four partners of the popular restaurant – chats with Verve on what makes it a must-visit eatery in the capital

Four young entrepreneurs – Vidur Parashar, Nikhil Kanwar, Varun and Wasique Soni have given New Delhi ‘The Complete Dining Experience’ with over three levels at the very successful and popular eatery – Circa 1193. The restaurant is lavishly done up in antique finish and silver leaf mirrors and represents the lively vibe of a contemporary European Trattoria – with some of the best food on offer throughout all the courses.

What was the inspiration behind launching Circa 1193?
We always wanted to open a restaurant serving world class cuisine in an environment that would make you to feel that you could be anywhere in the world.

What does its name signify?
We are situated directly across one of India’s most iconic monuments – the Qutub Minar – which was commissioned for construction in the year 1193.

What is the USP of Circa 1193?
Definitely, the food.

Its décor also makes it unique.
We wanted to keep it as natural as we could without going over the top with the use of bright and shiny elements. So, the décor is very neutral with huge canopies of greenery. Lots of water and earthy colours with low lighting have been used. Old-world music completes the picture.

What’s the cuisine like?
We serve contemporary Asian food with flavours from Japan, Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam incorporated with European essence. Our food is all pre-plated, and we have dishes with flavours ranging from subtle and beautiful to powerful, wholesome tastes. We are constantly innovating our menu and change it once, every three months or so.

We also do things like Steak Night Wednesdays, where we pair eight different steaks with malts, wines, and cigars. In fact, our executive chef, Kapil Sethi has been trained in America, under some of the best chefs in the world. He incorporates that training along with his own vision and creativity to come up with different vivid menus.

How did the four of you think of starting a restaurant?
We are all very old friends, and so it was quite a natural progression. I have always wanted to open a restaurant; Nikhil showed me the space, which I fell in love with, and we started on the project. Somewhere as we were starting off, Varun and Wasiqa returned from New York and were looking to set up something of their own. We invited them to join us… and the rest, as they say, is history!

How do you all unwind?
We all like to go for nice meals or just hang out at a friend’s place with a few drinks. I am an avid sportsman and Varun and Nikhil are extremely dedicated to the gym. Wasiqa is an excellent baker and so she is always baking us some delicious goodies or the other.

What is the one common passion that binds you all?
We are all passionate about our product and how it comes to the customer. We are passionate about delivering to the best of our abilities and that is what binds us.

Any plans of expansion to other cities?
We want to create a brand and we are on our way to doing it. Once that is established, we will definitely look at places like Mumbai, Bengaluru and Pune.

What are the challenges you face in the Indian market?
The bureaucracy is never easy. In this industry, the red tape to go through is constant and not just at the point of inception. That’s probably the most challenging thing so far.

Are Indian customers easy to satisfy?
The Indian palate is difficult to cater to because most people are used to overpowering flavours with spices. If (you’re trying something different, it takes a while to set in to their mentality. Having said that, the tastes are definitely evolving with people travelling and acquiring more global exposure and experience. It is definitely a challenge to cater to individual tastes though because as first-time restaurateurs there was a lot of experimentation, tweaking of dishes, and learning the hard way! I think we are at a happy place now with our menu, catering to something for everyone, and ensuring everyone leaves the restaurant more than satisfied.

Which are your favourite restaurants in Delhi?
There are so many now, but amongst the top few, they would be Mamagoto, Gung Palace, Wasabi, Smokehouse Room, and Swagath.

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