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Biryanishk keeps Lucknowi cuisine's magic alive

The Kolkata-based fine-dining biryani brand tries to recreate the essence of old world Lucknowi (Awadhi) Biryani, while being very particular about health and hygiene factor

Saugata Banerjee, Founder, Director, The Biryani Company

Saugata Banerjee, Founder, Director, The Biryani Company

Kolkata's home-grown fine-dining biryani brand- 'Biryanishk,' floated by an academician and strategy consultant-turned restauranteur- Dr Saugata Banerjee, which has already started giving the city's traditionally stronger biryani brands like Shiraz, Nizam, Aminia, Arsalan and relatively newer ones- Paradise from down South, Karim's from Delhi a run for their money-albeit in a somewhat different category, has now lined up an ambitious plan of expanding pan India and some overseas destinations at an appropriate time through the franchise route.

Speaking to Bizz Buzz exclusively, Saugata Banerjee, founder and director, The Biryani Company, shares his views on how Kolkata's biryani culture and biryani business are evolving and seeks to drive home the point that good food is sold without alcohol

You were formerly a Professor, an international management consultant and a corporate chief executive. So how did the Biryanishk journey start?

Biryanishk, previously known as The Biryani Company, began its journey of producing the most authentic Biryani and Mughlai delicacies nearly eight years ago, when I came back to India and gave up my corporate job to do something on my own. Being a foodie myself and coming from a foodies' family (especialy, Biryani lovers), this was like a natural choice. My vision was simple: "It should be food that my family and I would love to eat without having to worry about its effect on our health!" Thus, being the passionate epicurean that I am, I engaged master chefs across India to create a delectable menu without using any artificial or harmful ingredients.

How does 'Biryanishk' stand out from other popular biriyani joins of Kolkata like Shiraz, Arsalan, Aminia et al, and now Paradise from Hyderabad?

Biryanishk is completely different from the rest because we showcase detailed Kolkata and Awadhi (Lucknowi delicacies) cuisine unlike the others, which is customised to the taste buds of Kolkatans. Biryanishk is a complete royal dining experience. Be it the architecture, the ambience, the costumes, artefacts, background music and the recipe, we wanted our customers to go back with an experience which they wouldn't have imagined sitting in Kolkata.

We tried to recreate the essence of the old world Lucknow or Awadh, as it was known then, in every corner. The crockery and cutlery resemble the grandeur of the era. Besides, keeping in mind the growing health consciousness among the connoisseurs of good food, we have been very particular about health and hygiene factor and also about not using artificial colours and dalda. We only use whole spices.

Are you sticking to any particular genre of biryani or are you experimenting with various forms?

Quite significantly, the Lucknowi (Awadhi) Biryani is the footprint the Moghuls left on the eastern part of India. From Lucknow the biryani moved to Kolkata when, in 1856, Nawab Wajid Ali Shah was deposed by the British. His team of cooks moved with him and so did the biryani. In Kolkata the biryani entered poorer homes, which could not afford meat every day, so the meat was replaced by potatoes. Aurangzeb is believed to have invaded the South and installed the Nizam-ul-Mulk who later as the Asfa Jahi ruler became the Nizam of Hyderabad. That explains the movement of the Biryani down south.

But with the passage of time, Kolkata's Biryani or Awadhi cuisine has traversed a long way from new market's cosy corner called Nizam, or Aminia, or Shiraz or Arsanal to plush fine dining joins. Experiments are still on to add fresh gastronomical delights to this time-tasted Nawabi cuisine. Being foodies ourselves, we had thought of carrying on with these gastronomical experiments. Our passion for food continues to drive us to gift Kolkatans various types of healthy Biryani without compromising on the taste factor.

Where and how do you position 'Biryanishk' brand?

Biryanishk is a complete royal dining experience and the best biryani in town…that's how we plan to position it. In home delivery segment also, we want to be among the top ones, when it comes to Biryani, Kebab and other Mughlai cuisine. We serve all over Kolkata and we have our own fleet. And mind you that Kolkata is one of the fastest growing F&B market. And Bengalis' love towards biryani and Chinese has always been on top of everything.

It is experiential dining with a regal ambience and delicious food that takes you back in time. Only superior quality meat, superfine long-grain rice, most select whole spices, real saffron, sunflower oil and desi ghee are used. Dalda and artificial colours or flavourings are strictly banned from our imperial kitchens! Our signature Kebabs and Saalans bring alive the recipes of royal Bawarchi khanas that would otherwise be lost in time. That's how we would like to position Biryanishk.

How many outlets do you have currently and what is the plan like, going forward?

At present, we have two royal dining restaurants in Mudiali and Patuli. The decor is imperial and classy, the food is mouth-watering and the service is regal - stepping inside Biryanishk is a transformational experience that will take you back to the days of the Nawabs! We also have a coastal cuisine restaurant under the brand name; Pappadam and we serve food at one of the most prestigious clubs in Kolkata. From 2022, we are planning to move outside Kolkata and prove that good food is sold without alcohol. We are keeping our fingers crossed at this point in time, but we have plans to make our presence in different cities. We have actually lined up an ambitious plan of expanding pan India and some overseas destinations at an appropriate time through the franchise route.

Ritwik Mukherjee
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