Piccadilly Square’s Pooja Baid believes in broadening her horizon
Foodpreneur Pooja Baid, the face of the very popular vegetarian bistro Piccadilly Square, knows just how to turn challenges into opportunities. The gritty entrepreneur, who started the European-style bistro when she was only 21, has been taking Piccadilly Square to newer heights ever since. Earlier this year she had delighted coffee lovers with her bespoke coffee roastery Drumroll and during the lockdown, she rolled out gourmet gift options, which became popular with the city’s style-conscious brigade. We got the ever-smiling Baid talking about constantly innovating and expanding the horizons of vegetarian cuisine in this city where non-vegetarians rule. Excerpts:
While everyone thought Piccadilly Square was a death wish, you proved them wrong and ran it successfully for 12 years now. What keeps you inspired?
For others, it may have seemed like a death wish, but for me, it was a wish fulfilled. I stuck to my vision and concept. The acceptance and love we received from the very first week gave us a kick-start and kept us rolling for over a decade now.
You kept adding innovative elements to your bistro, whether it’s drumroll coffee or switching to delivery and gifting...
The pandemic has been a learning experience for us. We spent a considerable amount of time upgrading our skills and experimenting in our kitchen, which resulted in coming up with 10 new products. Staying home meant missing out on celebrations, so we stepped in to bridge the gap with bespoke gourmet gifts packed with an assortment of sweet and savoury bites. We took special care to develop tamper-proof packaging and worked with a closely-monitored small team. The response was overwhelming and orders flew in from across the country as well as overseas.
People’s perception towards vegetarian cuisine has changed a lot in the last decade with more veg diners doting the gastro scape of the city. Do you agree?
People no longer feel deprived or limited to “ghas-pus” when it comes to vegetarian food. A plethora of options are available to cater to every palate and preference. Even with respect to ingredients and substitutes, there is a wide selection readily available.
Who would have thought that aqua fava (chickpea water) could replace eggs in a macaroon?
Also, people have shifted to a vegan lifestyle that has led to a spike in the number of vegetarian outlets as well. Moreover, during the pandemic, there was an inclination towards meatless options stemming from the hygiene and safety concerns. I presume this will continue and not be just a short-lived trend.
Now that things are becoming normal again what are your plans ahead?
It’s encouraging that people are stepping out and socialising again but we feel it’s not yet ‘normal’. We are still following all safety and hygiene protocols. The pandemic has opened up several new verticals for us like bespoke gourmet gifting, artisan bread, packaged sauces and coffee. For the first time, we went beyond the city boundaries and delivered hampers across the country, opening up several new opportunities for us. We are happy to once again see faces, new and old, enjoying our signature dishes at both locations. This winter, we have an exciting new menu that brings together the best of the seasonal produces and festive cheer.