28 May 2009


updated with a postscript - see the end of the post.
mooli's aren't about to serve something we don't love ourselves.
mooli's aren't just wraps, ok?
mooli's are worn out from the hunt for the perfect bread.
mooli's are giving 110%. always.

it is 2.49am on a wednesday night. i am no longer on my 'night schedule'. we've been meeting banks early in the morning dressed in suits (i shall post a picture of mathew and i looking MIB soon) so its been a long day. today we met HSBC followed by our now usual flat white in fitzrovia. later, we had a big cooking session with raju followed by a tasting for anon nyc and andrew.

i'm physically tired now but my mind is not. the balcony door is open. i can hear the buzz of the fish tank, the sound of an occasional water droplet hitting the sink but otherwise it is dead quiet. a quietness which i have known and loved for as long as i can remember. anyway. time to focus.

i am finally going to write a post about the bread again. i have been struggling with this for a while now. on 1 nov 2008 i wrote a post titled finding moolita about the search for the perfect bread. we're now in may 2009 and we're getting closer but i don't think we're there just yet.

the bread is absolutely key. the earliest idea was to make roomali roti's. fresh. but then cost, skill, process and scale considerations made that seem impossible. a lot of people in india said we could use a tortilla machine, put our own flour mix in, adjust the settings and make our own great bread cost effectively and without skill constraints. but we realised that outsourcing bread would reduce complexity immensely and make our lives easier. so we searched for good tortilla suppliers (tortillas being the closest thing to roomali's in terms of thinness). the only good tortillas i have had in london are made by Dodie Miller who runs the Cool Chile Co. (best Habanero sauce in town) as well as Taqueria (incredible Mexcian food in Notting Hill). Dodie is a really cool woman who has created a great company from scratch. i visited Dodie at her unit in Willsdean Junction and she showed me Lupita (Taqueria's first tortilla-making machine from Guadalajara, Mexico) and her replacement - a huge tortilla making machine which spits out hundreds of fantastic corn tortillas in minutes. the corn tortillas are fantastic because Dodie does not use dodgy preservatives, E22 (or E213449 for that matter) or gluing agents. wahaca and chilango both use her corn tortillas for their tacos even though they are more expensive than some commercial suppliers because they know they're the best game in town. and guess what? their tacos are great.

unfortunately, Dodie does not make wheat tortillas. and corn tortillas are not strong enough to hold a mooli (or a burrito). all the wheat tortillas i have tasted are synthetic full of gluing agents. the one thing wheat tortillas have going for them are they are thin - but synthetic is not good. its not real bread.

today, anon nyc pushed me on what mooli's was really about. and i said 'we'll have these incredible wraps and people will say - i'm dying to have a paneer mooli'. simple. we need to create mooli's we love. that's the core of mooli's. 110%. if we stick to that and create mooi's we are mooli madly deeply about, we'll be there. i found this written in an internal word doc (not for use in the store etc.) ages ago: "When you eat (or for that matter drink) anything at Mooli’s, we want you to go ‘wow’." much as we love our branding and design, we know this business is really about food and location. get those two right and chances are you'll be ok.

the one thing mathew and i have noticed in the last month is that all the places which serve really really good food or coffee are always packed (duh). sometimes they also look very nice (eg Lantana, a lovely cafe in Fitzrovia - the owner Shelagh Ryan keeps a cool blog, other times they look shit (Maoz in Soho) but it comes down to quality.

a lot of people (Dodie, Tara, Vrinda) pointed us towards Khobez bread (Lebanese flatbread). we checked out Dina and Omnia in Park Royal and quickly realised that Omnia was MILES better. its real bread. made fresh everyday. it feels soft, and as mathew says 'it smells like bread'. and a lot of people love it (Fran, Vrinda). and today i realised that i love it too (as did Mathew I think). there is unfortunately a but though. its not thin enough. the reason its not thin enough is that it has two layers. that's why it becomes chewy (if i put together 3 roomali rotis, they will be chewy too). we tore it today (just as some Lebanese places do) and made a roll with just one layer - it was amazing (the Lebanese places tend to use both layers after splitting them WHY do they bother tearing it then???). you can't just use one layer though - its too thin and one side isn't cooked so its too weak. but its real bread. Fran even came up with a 75% khobez idea (which i only got once it was demonstrated to me so i shall not attempt to describe the concept).

in many ways, mathew and i are both getting very practical - we're becoming smart 'businessmen'. that is good (i'd go as far as saying probably essential) but we cannot lose our focus. my uncle sent me an email about the bike picture and pointed out that it appropriately says FOCUS. i say this because it is tempting. dozens of places use synthetic wheat tortillas to make wraps/burritos (from WrapItUp to M&S to the Mexican places), LEON does 4 wraps with wholemeal khobez from dina (the inferior khobez supplier). most of them make good money. but going down that route would be a mistake. imagine someone saying 'their fillings are great but the bread is a bit chewy.' or 'their fillings are fantastic but the bread is a bit synthetic'. and how would we feel if we didn't absolutely love our product.

where does that leave us at this late hour? i think we are close. the khobez is actually great bread so maybe mathew can convince the owner to make it thinner for us. we'll look into sourcing and testing Lavash (a thinner option). we're also going to find places/Guju women/TAB lookalikes who make chapatis (though i am convinced that making bread by hand is going to be just way too expensive. we did the rough maths today and if you paid someone £7 per hour you would pay more than £0.40 pence for a chapati - 4 times anything else out there. and definitely not scalable either.) OR maybe we'll find our own moolita (or borrow Lupita) and create mooli's own bread. we'll do what it takes.

our fillings are genuinely wow. both mathew and i were so touched that many of our investors (you know who you are) basically wanted in not just because they think we're ok but because they absolutely love the goat, the paneer or the beef as the case may be. we'll make sure the fillings are always wow (we'll process this baby like no one has done before to ensure that). if we find our bread, we'll be there.

postscript: spurred on by comments by jonathan and anon nyc, as well as the countless people at our tastings who have pushed us on the bread, we're happy to say we are very seriously considering using a machine to make our own mooli's bread. Raju is confident and he really pushed for this option yesterday while we 'worked' (yeah right, i'm sure Mathew is going to put some pictures up soon about this really fun trip!) and 'brain-stormed' looking for breads in Ealing.

imagine each Mooli's store making fresh bread. now that would be something else. as Richard Branson says, 'Screw it, Let's Do it'. this machine looks like the right size and the tortillas/chapatis look incredible. look at this video for a slightly bigger size. also check this video of Chevys Fresh Mex using El Machino ("The Machine" in Spanish) right in the restaurant (the machine is featured in the later part of the video) - those tortillas totally look like chapatis - all puffed up just like at home!!

I found out who supplies Chevys Fresh Mex their tortilla machines - BE&SCO Machines. And you would not believe it but BE&SCO machines can be found in Gandhinagar, India. On the right, HH Pramukh Swami Maharaj observes the BE&SCO BetaMAX used to make chapati. As their website says, 'BE&SCO machines are also used all over the world to make a variety of ethnic breads, such as chapati, naan, lavash, greek pita and many other flat breads.'

21 May 2009

14 May 2009

The Incredible Lightness of Being Self Conscious

Paris is an enchanting city for many reasons, not least for the behaviour of its locals. Although most of my my time here has been full with happy unfulfilled thoughts and experiences, I have enjoyed the privilege of observing another culture for an extended period of time.

That much became very clear recently as I have slowly begun to persuade, ever so suggestively, genuine French people to invite me to their parties. Entering a party where you do not really speak the language enables you to focus on things other people forget or overlook. For me it began at this recent party, when I cracked why it is that, despite not always being classically beautiful, French women can be so attractive. It is in large part to do with their lips.

I am not talking about some collective decision by French women to pout. It is simply that spoken french requires a greater movement of the mouth, and flip of the lip, than spoken English. Whereas the idealised English entails minimum mouth movement, and praises vocalisation through closed teeth, French is quite the opposite. Indeed there is a rhythm about the way they speak each word, dwelling on it a bit longer than your average English speaker, and ending with a little flourish. All this simply means that a French three breasted freak is likely to be more attractive than the equivalent in England.

I noticed all this at a party where I was passed around from lady to lady. I thought it was because of my fragrant (I recently purchased a new perfume with notes of rose and wood) exoticism, but I later found out that they were unnerved by my staring at their lips. The most charitable of them thought I was severely cross eyed (I don't have anything against this type of illness or disease, some of my best friends are cross eyed).

I should also say something about the men of course (although I am not Gay (TM)) (I have nothing against Gay (TM) people, some of my best friends are Gay (TM)). French men, in many cases, can be beautiful creatures, accentuating their "otherness", and therfore some mystery, through their penchant to fit scarves into their attire come what may. All this is usually twinned with a fitted jacket and 3 or 4 days worth of 9 0'clock shadow. But perhaps more than anything else, I noticed (at this party and others I have been to) their proud (usually furry) chests. Perhaps like some other European nations, all the men at this party had 3/4 buttons undone, revealing a lot of chest with long almost combed hair, all framed with a very well starched shirt.
To be quite frank I was strangely attracted to this look-it felt so carefree, confident and Enrique Eglesias. And so, and I am not afraid to admit this, I went into the toilet and undid my buttons too. Except that my now exposed chest was not really ready for this sudden exposure, because you still needed some sort of tan so as not to provide such a great contrast between the chest hair and relatively pasty brown chest. But even worse I realised that I was afflicted with patchy pubic style chest hairs, unlike the combed, slightly ruffled, solid growth enjoyed by the French male. All this I am afriad made for an unseemly sight which could not be ignored no matter how much confidence I tried to display. Another lesson learnt.

I think Mooli's should open a branch in Paris, hire French waitresses and give away chest wigs.

12 May 2009

there are places i'll remember

.......fanoos to fort kochin, calcutta club to bangalore club, martins & britannia, itsu, taylor street baristas, russel market to bangalore ham shop. oshiwara, ballard pier and colaba.......ottolenghi , kenwood cafe.

07 May 2009

To Soar

This is certainly not of the creeping kind
Just taking the first step will always be a bind

It lies vacant amongst us all
We dream, we wonder, we try and ignore 
But you know and I know it will always be there
Oh God please help me find/Oh God don't let me submit

But when it comes you will know
You will taste the stars
You will covet the fear
A child you will be once again
For if you look up you will see
It is the year of the ________

03 May 2009

02 May 2009

stay ahead of the game

coffee@bermondsey street was selling swine flu masks today for £1. some guy actually bought one. apparently he was seriously worried. the masks looked pretty dodgy (girl in the cafe said they were from the DIY store). LOL.

do you have the swine flu? find out.

thanks to anon nyc for this important resource.

Rhythm of the Beet

My ode to the humble Beetroot, a vegetable overlooked for too long:

Underrated for too long
Hiding a history which spans the Earth and Beyond
They just can't see it
Why can't they see it?
With a rare faculty to engage all senses
They still just confine you to some cold bed
oh! what a waste
Your versatility does not deserve this fate
Just carry on crying and bleeding
Because one day you will be saved