Back in the late 1990s when I had just started working in Delhi, as a Tamilian in love with paneer and all-things-Punjabi-food, I used to thoroughly relish eating out. Delhi was foodie heaven for me and the prospect of cheap/affordable Punjabi food in any and every street was delightful.
I used to go out to eat with my office colleagues often and one day, a colleague took us to a place called Gulati’s. I have completely forgotten which area it was in, but I recall the colleague telling us that this was one of the top caterers in Delhi and the restaurant was a small’ish extension (not their main focus, since it was almost hidden). But the food there was heavenly.
I then moved to Bangalore (it was called that, then!) and have been to, over a period of 2+ decades to many eateries/restaurants. Many of them have vanished since. Some of the favorites that I can remember immediately…
– Lalitha’s Paratha Point in Domlur (if I recall right, there’s a Shanti Sagar in its place now),
– Bobby da Dhaba in Ulsoor (one of the dingiest places I have ever been to, with the most incredible and sinful parathas),
– Victoria Hotel’s superb Sunday brunches,
– Danny Lambas’ in Indiranagar BDA complex that used to be one of the few places in the early 2000s that was open till 1 am+, for a post-pub-hop binge,
– a pub near Cantonment Railway station that I don’t recall the name and which used to serve heavenly garlic bread,
– Udupi Garden Restaurant in BTM Layout that I have frequented so often with my wife while residing in Jayanagar 9th Block,
– Maharaja’s restaurant above MK Ahmed Bazaar in HSR Layout that used to be an almost-every-weekend outing for us…
…and so on.
If I just hear ‘Bobby da Dhaba’ now, my mind automatically and instantly goes back quickly to my own memories of that place. At what point in my life did I used to go there? Where was I working at that point? Who were my colleagues I used to go there with? What did I eat? And so on.
Here’s Bobby da Dhaba, by the way (courtesy Bangalore Daily Photo)!
I’m fairly sure every one of us would have a lot of stories (if not photos too) of the many eateries and restaurants we have been to which do not exist anymore. Seen from our perspectives (as users), we’re left with only memories of these places that have been replaced by something else in the path to the development of the cities.
We may remember why went there so often, some of the cherished memories of going there, the kinds of people we went there with, some of the major occasions we were there for, the favorites we had from the menu and so on.
Seen from the perspectives of the owners, the now-lost eateries and restaurants were memories of dreams and ambition… and an interest in food too, perhaps.
Even if the cities have gobbled and buried these establishments because they are associated with food, eating out and people that we like (the reason for going out to eat with them), they are etched in our memories.
So, I wonder if it may be useful for a brand that loves and cherishes food and eating out, to revive and create a permanent online corner for such memories. When shared online in a central repository of sorts, our individual memories become collective, shared memories.
The one brand that comes to my mind when I say, ‘food’ and ‘eating out’ is Zomato. Zomato continues to have profile pages of eateries and restaurants that are closed, with a tag ‘permanently closed’. Imagine Zomato creating a city-maps based section for lost eateries/restaurants. You should be able to explore the city through its lost eateries/restaurants, share what you can (a photo of the menu? memories of going there? tagging who you went with, and on what occasion? what was your favorite there?) and keep the memories alive.
Zomato could tie the edit privileges with its own Foodie badge system. People who do not have enough points should be able to connect with someone else who does and be able to join Zomato and add their details about a lost eatery.
An extension of the idea that could connect this project to the present times is also possible! For instance, a dish (or a few dishes) especially associated with a lost eatery/restaurant could be attempted again, perhaps with help from the chef/cook/owner of the restaurant, branded with that lost restaurant’s name and sold again in a Zomato-partner restaurant or kitchen.
In a way, this is an effort in time travel… traveling through time via food!
There are book versions of this idea meant for specific cities. Like the Lost Restaurants of Chicago, for instance. But that is a research-based project and covers a single city. A food aggregator like Zomato is perhaps better equipped to expand it as a shared, online project that covers multiple cities (limited only by Zomato users’ participation and sharing).
Cover picture courtesy, Bangalore Swinging in the 70s, illustrated by Paul Fernandes.