Zobet’s Nikhil Sekhani on how he launched Kolkata's largest all-day gastropub amid the Covid crisis
The city's biggest all-day gastropub opened its doors amid a pandemic. Zobet, at Camac Street is one of the few joints in the city where you can score an elaborate Bunny Chow, Cheese Naan Bombs and an authentic plate of English-style Fish N’ Chips during the course of the same brunch. In the last year, more and more properties have opted for an inclusive world cuisine memo which is lucky because an old fashioned pub crawl is one of the first things the pandemic cost us. But running one of Kolkata’s largest eateries amid a raging health crisis is no cakewalk. Managing director Nikhil Sekhani was ready to launch the swanky 165-seater eatery at Fort Knox in March, but as things came to an abrupt halt, Sekhani improvised and started running the joint as a cloud kitchen for a few weeks until it opened its doors in September.
“We didn’t have a choice because our team was ready but the situation wasn’t back to normal yet. But we were lucky because our kitchen got a trial-and-run practise for about 60 days with the delivery-only format. We took a call and opened the cloud kitchen in July, so we got to really understand our strengths before we resumed dine-ins. All the mishaps which usually happen in a new kitchen were much easier to manage with the added experience,” Sekhani tells us.
Zobet is the new ‘It’ haunt for anxious, distancing-obsessed pubbers, courtesy the diversity in its seating arrangements and an unbelievably commodious set-up that is ideal for the new normal of the pubbling experience. Designed by Mumbai-based interior stylist Sumessh Menon, Zobet introduces some Middle Eastern and Mediterranean influences and quirky minimalist accents in its interiors, along with a 25 feet-long bar, two 40-seater PDRs and a cozy 10-seater one. “I really wanted the Moroccan-themed interiors. When I was travelling I got influenced by the culture. In fact, the word Zobet in Turkish means blessings. But the menu is truly world cuisine, from Chinese favourites to Indian curries, pizzas, baos, some regional specialties, to exotic global picks like Bunny Chow, we have about 145 items. Krishna Khetle from Mumbai was our consulting chef for the menu, which helped us fine-tune a lot of fusion recipes,” Sekhani shares.
Zobet introduces a no-frills, functional approach to the themed pubbing experience and is also leading the way when it comes to a distancing-first set-up. There are, of course, a lot of spatial gaps between tables, contact-less menus, thermal temperature screening, mandatory temperature checks for staff as well as delivery partners, and a lot of vigilance about packaging. Zobet even has a separate elevator which is exclusively reserved for Zobet customers since Fort Knox is a commercial building. “The industry here has been through a phenomenal growth, the pandemic notwithstanding. People love stepping out to eat here which is so great, and people of all ages. In fact most people eat out at least once a day in the city. Although sourcing ingredients was a bit of a challenge initially when we started out, since we have a diverse menu, it’s now pretty manageable,” he tells us.