28 May 2010

Another level

It has been so long that I feel like a gushing bride sitting on a bed of roses atop a soft mattress on a 4 poster bed crafted by the finest Bengali* hands, all against the backdrop of a sensual hum of the sitar, awaiting the entrance of my tall (6 ft 2) tanned groom in a silk dhoti. I have not thought about this too much, promise.

One does not need reminding about the wonderful progress of Mooli's: 750 FB friends later (I remember that at inception Mooli's had around 545 or so friends), countless more followers and tweeters, reviews in the dozens, and the birth of Mooli's regulars. I was thinking what is next? How can Sam, Mathew and crew step it up even more? How can they have those queues? Does twittering and facebooking have its limits for this goal? Will I ever sleep with a girl again especially while I am in Dubai? How effective will the Evening Standard piece be? Has Sid lost weight on his you know what?

Perhaps we need to move from the virtual (and boy have they used that effectively to communicate their message) to the visual. As a brand Mooli's are more than just the 5 and now 6 beautifully made rolls. They are about the ideas and passion behind them, the passion that inspires you to cook, to want to go out and open your own place, whatever cuisine you desire, to make out that by association you also opened Mooli's and this should impress the girl you are talking to, to open a place and make sure that you are sourcing the best materials you can etc.

I am now getting sick on my own saccharine and marketing speak so let me get to my point. I think Sam and Mathew should showcase the broader canvas of their skills and passion by posting short videos of dishes they enjoy cooking and eating at home. A 5 minute quickie on scrambeld eggs with the twist of mango or chilli, the thai curry that is not thai curry, the hot cross buns that are not covered in butter but smokey peppered fish etc etc. They can even film their friends cooking their favourite dishes. I appreciate this can be time consuming but a short movie, which may not even need to focus on the face and kitchen, can be made relatively quickly. The key is for people to see the life behind the brand and to want to be part of it, to come and meet the folks who have created Mooli's and come up with cool ideas for quick suppers.

I can see the reviews right now:

"He may have hairy hands like Richard Keys or Teen Wolf, but let me tell you that man Sam can cook a mean scrambled eggs in 5 minutes." -Vogue

"He may look like a leftover from the 1960's ashram scene of Liverpool/India, but boy does he know how to rock my world with Tanzanian fish curry with an okra twist. Go try it." - Tatler

"With his sweet smile, cute dimples and little girl ponytail, I was shocked to see the way he butchered that piece of meat. But it was all worth it in the end for the Indian style carpaccio he created was simply heavenly. And so easy!" - Marie Claire

* Every Bengali I have met tells me that they are the artistic/cultural leaders of India. So that must be true.

18 May 2010

we're here to stay

a few weeks ago, on a sunny Saturday, i found myself near Baker Street. after meeting a friend in Regents Park, i walked back towards my first flat in London on Melcombe Street. i remembered the German bakery Breaco which had opened opposite my flat - they made good fresh bread and did decent coffee. they also had some yummy mini croissants (which other cafes in London should do). mathew and i had coffee there last year - we had admired some of their furniture (a standing back rest in particular which we almost ended up having at mooli's).

as i got closer to my old flat, i suddenly had this sinking feeling that Breaco was no more. there was no light on and then i saw all the unopened mail and flyers under the door. game over. all over the city, whenever a place shuts down, there is all this unopened mail.

it's a tough business, this. lots of really good places shut down in London. i was amazed to find that recently Cafe Macondo in hoxton square had shut down. when we first moved into 50 Frith Street, quite a few locals reminded us that there had been 14 different restaurants in the last 10 years at 50 Frith Street. Mark and Gavin, two brothers who have had an office in Soho (above the Nando's) for 16 years said 'we don't know if you guys will make it'.

slowly, during a very cold London winter, we realised that while our location was good, it was definitely not great. only people in the business and locals know this. Soho has so many streets and so many different ways to walk that you can miss it. and the footfall isn't amazing on Frith Street (Old Compton Street on the other hand is a different story). we also learnt that marketing was pretty tricky. unless you get lucky with a big splash in the metro/timeout/evening standard or similar, you've got a big task ahead of you. Simon Woodroffe warned us about this before we launched, but you need to experience some quiet evenings to really understand how hard it can be.

in the last six months, we've had some incredible mooli evangelists. normal everyday customers who have made it their mission to spread the mooli, much in the same way converted appple folk go on about the mac (seriously my MacBook Pro is a joy. so much so that i think the Buddha rests as comfortably in the MacBook Pro as in the petals of a flower). you could see it in their eyes - they really wanted us to make it. so that they could have mooli's of course. 'It's really getting busier now,' they would happily say.

there are so many people and stories. Mark from Hill & Knowlton (not to be confused with other Mark earlier in the post) went to the trouble to design an e-flyer for us. Joce, MD of Rushes made sure mooli's were had at lots of screenings and evening drinks - she also wrote in with some kinds words: '..the personal service and passion for the business you show and have, makes Moolis a unique experience. You know the food is great and made with passion and integrity.' Rohit, our mooli champion of the first three months, made sure he brought ALL his friends to mooli's, one by one. the countless number of customers who helped us run free promos for our local offices and made sure their colleagues came in to try one ('you have to have a mooli' they say).

without our mooli evangelists, we'd have had no chance. so thank you.

on St. George's day last month, Mark and Gavin were blasting loud music from their office and Soho was alive. Donald from the Karaoke box (who is addicted to the paneer mooli) popped by and said 'No one else in this location has generated all this buzz. Everyone is talking about you guys - I went to the Curzon and they all had mooli's.' later that evening, Mark came by for a mooli, and told us that 'it looked like we were going to make it.'

yup, we're here to stay.

16 May 2010

Genre Bending

This evening i watched Kick Ass. It took me back many years to when I first saw Pulp Fiction. Back then I knew that I was watching something very special. A new genre. A new space that Tarantino had carved out for himself. The old words and phrases just didnt do his style justice.

And so it was with Kick Ass. It felt Tarantino-esque, but it is so much more. I dont know the right words. I expect someone is creating new words to describe it.

When we decided to call a mooli a mooli, we had the same issue. The mooli isnt a burrito, or a wrap or a roll. So we created a new and catchy name. One that we could trademark and call our own.

And we dont badge ourselves "Indian street cuisine", because you will not get a mooli on the streets of India. Moolis are inspired by the streets of Allepey, Delhi, Goa...but Tokyo and London as well.

.......it took a while, but the word has caught on. On Friday we had a group of young Indie rockers. All seven of whom walked in and confidently ordered a "goat mooli" without even looking at the menu. Not a goat wrap, not a goat burrito, not a goat roll. They all wanted a Goat mooli.

11 May 2010


Mathew and I spent our Mooli's six month anniversary away from Mooli's (well, it was on a Sunday) - at the launch party of Chipotle in London. It was a very small affair and we were touched to have been invited by Sam Patel - who we've gotten to know because the Chipotle team love mooli's and order from us a lot.

It was fitting in many ways to spend our six month anniversary at the launch party because Chipotle has been one of our inspirations. anon nyc describes Mooli's to Americans in New York as 'Indian Chipotle' and they get it. We're definitely not Indian burritos but there is a lot we share with Mexican food and with Chipotle. We loved their line 'SLOW FOOD, FAST' the first time we saw it - it captures our beef, pork and goat mooli's so well. There's a lot of love and attention to detail which goes in to all our fillings. And with Chipotle, "food with integrity" isn't just a slogan. There is a real commitment to use naturally raised meats as well as natural ingredients. And this is largely due to the efforts of their founder and CEO, Steve Ells - even after 17 years and over 1,000 stores in the US. There is also a lovely simplicity about Chipotle's approach to design and their offering which we love.

Steve showed the world that not all chains are bad. And we were thrilled to meet him on Sunday. He even made Mathew's first ever Chipotle burrito!

The whole team was incredibly warm and friendly and have offered to show us around in New York. One day Mooli's will cross the Atlantic and go to New York. It might take many years but we'll get there. With integrity and freshly made rotis with no preservatives.

It's a small world. Today, an old customer Julie Falconer (who wrote a lovely piece about us ages ago) came back with some friends and I was talking to her about Chipotle and it turns out that Steve was her neighbour in the US!

On Monday, 10 May 2010 when Chipotle formally launched their first store in London, Steve was cooking away in their restaurant on Charing Cross Road... 17 years after he launched the first Chipotle in Denver, Colorado, in a former Dolly Madison Ice Cream Store near the University of Denver campus using an $85,000 loan from his father.

That is commitment for you.

PS: I loved their tacos BUT our bread is better. :P
PPS: I got drunk on their margaritas. :-O