Tucked into a narrow lane just off Bandra’s Pali Hill is a small, garage-sized food haven. A yellow and black sign reading ‘May the pav be with you’ hangs on the right as one of many quirky design elements filling the stall, complete with old English-style lamps adorning the front on either side. The counter presents itself like the front of a food truck, with a picnic tablecloth hanging over the front desk holding a bowl of candy, hand sanitiser, napkins, a menu card and a stack of business cards. As owner Rohan Mangalorkar explains, “We initially wanted to open a food truck, but they still aren’t legalised with a license, so we decided to design our restaurant to look like one anyway. Kind of like a food truck without wheels!”
29-year-old Rohan Mangalorkar’s brainchild Pack a Pav is a unique culinary experience that packs delicious flavoured mutton, chicken, or vegetarian delights into the locally beloved pav, topped with a spicy red sauce, a creamy yogurt-based sauce and crispy fried onions. It’s kind of like a burger patty and a pav’s lovechild, but so much better. His idea took flight in the form of pop-up food stalls at various flea markets and food festivals in the past, and has now come alive as a permanent restaurant that launched on Friday, April 15.
Mangalorkar’s business streak started when he got involved with Propshop24.com, an e-commerce site that curates products ranging from home decor, stationery and fashion to party and so on, all with funky designs and innovative prints. Still, his heart was always in the culinary world. “I was in the Andamans, sitting with friends,” he reminisces, “and it was around the time when the home chef idea revolution was everywhere, and everyone was doing new and creative things in the sector. We were sitting at a restaurant and there was a 60-year-old uncle who would go up to each table and take orders himself. Seeing that encouraged me.” Mangalorkar believes that, while some who start a new food business are rarely seen at their own restaurants, it’s important to be the face of your venture with personal and heartfelt involvement. And so, he stands at his newly launched Pack a Pav restaurant every single day, conversing with customers and taking orders, portraying the deep passion he has for his endeavour.
Pack a Pav’s design is as inviting as the intoxicating aroma of its food, complete with a yellow and black colour scheme, dark wood texture, and a curious bright yellow functional chimney on the roof [yes, we said functional. The chimney actually works!]. Rushabh Parekh, the mind behind the design, tells us, “My inspiration actually came from Rohan’s vision! He explained visually exactly how he wanted the feel to be, and we just had fun with it. We’ve played with both contemporary and old school elements which gives it a good mix. If I had to describe it, I would just call it a happy design.”
The nine dishes (five non-vegetarian, four vegetarian) and two drinks etched onto the top board of this restaurant are all Rohan Mangalorkar’s mother’s recipes, and you can almost taste the home-cooked love in every bite. From the mutton shammi to the Irani chicken, each creation has been conceptualised by her alone, and he never messes with mummy’s recipes. With a centralised kitchen in Juhu, his staff half-cooks everything there, and all the food is grilled to perfection and assembled behind the counter. “It’s been crazy,” he confides, explaining the process of training his staff to replicate his mother’s cooking.
“The Irani chicken is my favourite,” says 28-year-old Hiren, a patron standing outside Pack a Pav with his friends Tamana and Shreya, all gripping a black tray holding a scrumptious packed pav with crispy fried treats on the side. Since Mangalorkar’s food truck-style restaurant doesn’t allow seating, the street outside his endeavour is packed with hungry customers ordering pav after pav, washing it down with a mango chilli drink. He believes in word-of-mouth and social media to invite patrons to come taste his food, and hasn’t invested in any PR at the moment. As Hiren and several other patrons attest, most of Pack A Pav traction comes from Instagram, where the culinary innovator posts pictures of his restaurant or food daily.
“We’re going to start delivery in about 10 days,” he tells us excitedly. With people driving in to take orders to go and others crowding around the front of his place reaching for more dipping sauce, his patronage, right from noon when he opens up to 11:30 pm when he closes, speaks for itself. And there’s only more to come.
Scroll on for a look at the preparation process, delicious food and men at work behind Pack A Pav in Bandra by Rohan Mangalorkar.
Photographs: Karan Khosla (@thekhos)