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.'


TaB said...

Great post. I would urge you never to use the tortilla shit they use in wraps. It is awful for the reasons stated. I am happy to help with guju women.

Jonathan said...

Everybody's life should be the answer to at least one important question.

In your case, you are asking about the perfect bread for your otherwise perfectly conceived business. There seems to be a gap in the world. George Bernard Shaw said that the reasonable man adapts himself to fit the world, while the unreasonable man insists on adapting the world to fit himself.

He added that all progress depends upon the unreasonable man.

Perhaps somebody should design, patent and create the perfect mooli maker?

It would take a while, and would have to be in parallel with mooli's taking flight commercially, but as one of your forebears, with chest hair that even (TaB) has to envy, famously said:

We must be the change the we want to see in the world.

Anonymous said...

"Everybody's life should be the answer to at least one important question."

Is one permitted to retrofit the question to which one's life is the answer and deem that question important because it is one's life that is the answer to it?

Jonathan said...

It depends who is asking...

mathew said...

all credit sam, you spotted the iportance of the bread from the very beginning.

after tonight when me made nano moolis with just the single layer -it is abundantly clear. the fillings are fantastic. very mooly madly deeply. the bread has some way to go.

sameer said...

J, your comment has hit on what i was beginning to think.

sometimes you have to at least check out the unreasonable to see if its worth being unreasonable so to speak. i'm going to try and find out if we can test making our own mooli bread with a machine.

@ anon that's deep.

TAB i am sure you are happy to help. :O

m, in search of mooliness. :D

Anonymous said...

I'm sure you've done your maths diligently, but, on first principles, if 7 quid an hour generates a cost of > 40p a chapati, the fellow making the damned things is on barbiturates. A mere slip of a child could make a chapati in less than 3.5 minutes, provided the dough has been kneaded already, and provided he has one of those nifty chapati presses that eliminates the tedium of the rolling pin. (I admit I have ignored the cost of the flour and the gas in my calculations.)

In any case, can't you pressgang three of these minimum wage unfortunates into an assembly line (kneading, rolling/pressing, and flipping)? Space in the kitchen providing, the turnover rate of the chapatis might compensate for the labour costs.

The thing with making your own bread is that you have absolute control over the fine specifics that matter so much. Plus you'll have serious cachet with the professional foodies: the twerps tend to note such things.

sameer said...

anon, thanks for that. i think 40p was excessive, maybe 25p is do-able. i suspect even lower if we make it with a machine. i agree that if we make our own bread (manually or with a machine), we are in control of our own destinY!

Anonymous said...

anon nyc - @moolis not sure if you are in control of your destiny but at least you will be in control of your mooli :)

my take / buy a machine, make your own bread - thick, thin, salty, sweet, tomato whatever you want, its yours + easily scalable + not super expensive (using machine) + you can sell your bread in the store too (with your chutneys on the side yum).

mathew said...

if they can do it....


mathew said...

even us good malyalis can make chappati. dont miss the commentary!


Anonymous said...

robots are the future, go for it @moolis.

anon nyc

jljunghammar said...

I often avoid buying a wrap even if the filling sounds tasty because I hate the really chewy white bread they use so I think that you are right to really focus on this and get it right.

Good luck! :-)

mathew said...

thanks Jenny. We'll get there!

VxD said...

Great post. I already feel like an expert on bread! And TAB cracks me up with his "happy to help with guju women"!

All I can say, with this dash of "unreasonableness", my hunger for a mooli only gets sharper!

TaB said...

jljunghammar, I agree with everything you say in this recent comment and every one of your other comments. If you would like to discuss any part of my opinion please do not hesitate to contact me, especially if you are a woman.


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Anonymous said...

My friend Jag mentioned that there where these Indian whallas who were setting up this new eating enterprise. After reading your blog it seems you want to get the Brits to become chapati-eating, head-nodding and burp-appreciating sahibs ...absolutely nothing wrong in that!

I showed my mother that you were looking for Guju women to make chapatis, or as we Gujaratis call them, rotlis; delicate and fragrant rumali rotlis, that all the rest of India love but also are so envious of.

But she is soooo angry - "These badmarsh boys want us Guju women working all day long making rotlis, who do they think they are...anyway, when am I going to have time when I already spend 6 hours in the kitchen, 3 hours doing laundry, 2 hours hoovering, 1 hour massaging husbandji and then 3 hours saying pratna - I am going to come down to London and hit them hard with my Whelan (Guju rolling pin)"

So, as much as I applaud your ambitious endeavours to re-educate the masticating habits of all in London yaar, I have to state that it may be better you get a machine and not try and rely on my Mom.

PS. You should taste her veggie dishes...um, ummm

sameer said...

LOL. you must tell your mother that our plan is to use a machine and make our own mooli's bread. the whole guju women thing was TAB's idea. :O