The Coastal Macha's Piyush Menon talks misunderstood cuisines and the famous ghee roast
You’d think selling a coastal faire to seafood-loving Kolkattans is a cakewalk, but Piyush Menon of The Coastal Macha didn’t take the easy way out. The three-year-old Hindustan Park diner explores the entire breadth of desi and Oriental coastal spread with its spectacular curation and the joint’s Kasundi Crab has a following of its own. But how hard is it sustaining an eatery this niche? Menon opens up:
Tell us what made you come up with The Coastal Macha
I observed that people in the country are finally opening up to newer, more interesting things. I assumed nothing like this exists in Kolkata; also, I didn’t want to go for the same old Asian-style cooking or Chinese joints. My father is a Malayali and my mum is Bengali and I stayed in Kolkata for a year before I started the joint and I observed the culinary patterns in the city.
It’s funny both Malayali and Bengali cuisines are very similar and share some ingredients, like the ‘paturi’ ia very similar to a Pollichathu of Kerala; both the cuisines are also very misunderstood, people narrow it down to 2-3 things, which is unfair.
You are a business grad…
Yes, in college a couple of friends and I used to run a part-time catering business in Bangalore. Post college, I travelled excessively across the country and I observed a lot of commercial and homely styles of cooking in coastal areas, especially.
After college, I also missed cooking with friends and my friends were already busy with their respective jobs. This made me want a place of my own, Bangalore was my initial choice, but coastal cuisine was already a thing there; I was aiming for a niche monopoly and a better market. So, Kolkata made sense
What were some of the anxieties you had about opening something this unusual?
I was anxious about the awareness about this cuisine, I wanted people to know how diverse this genre really is; people associate coastal with South Indian-style of cooking, and for some people that that only translates to Idli/dosa. Plus, we have included many numbers from South East Asian regions as well.
What were the numbers you were banking on when you started The Coastal Macha?
There is this Ghee Roast in mutton or chicken, I fell in love with this in Bangalore. We usually update our menu every few months, we take a few numbers out, but this is something that has stayed on my menu since the beginning.
How has your customer base evolved in three years?
It has grown enormously; in the initial months, people were quite skeptical about trying it out, there had been a stereotype which they were struggling with. But the word spread soon enough, and the college crowds love the food!
Has social media helped your business?
Absolutely, the steady stream of blogging and virtual attention always helps, especially now that people are looking out for options.
Is there a change you’d like to see in the culinary spectrum in the city?
I think people here are easily led by discounts offered by the food apps, for some restaurants t’s obviously difficult. People are also a little apprehensive about newer businesses here.
Is it hard for new businesses?
Not exactly, for any business, sustaining and acquiring the working capital are the biggest challenges. There are a lot of factors involved, for instance, Kolkata is fairly cheaper than most metro cities when it comes to rent. You should be able to give your business some time and be ready for losses in the first year, at least.