Mister Merchant’s brings more Parsi quirk to Pune’s restaurant scene

You may dress things up all you like, and court the crowds with all the razzmatazz, but the success of a contemporary Indian restaurant often depends on what it does with spice. At Mister Merchant’s—Pune’s ode to Indian and Middle Eastern culinary indulgence—generous sprinklings of sumac, delicate strands of saffron, and a battalion of reviving garnishes are helping to bring flavours from the Silk Route to life.

A sense of style and character flows through every element at Mister Merchants including its bespoke crockery and cutlery

A sense of style and character flows through every element at Mister Merchant’s, including its bespoke crockery and cutlery

Anchoring itself as an address for ‘Contemporary Indian Mezze’, Mister Merchant’s captures the eye through a post-colonial vintage air, before it gratifies the taste buds. With its textured walls of green and rust, dark woods, photographs that hint at a bygone romance, artefacts that keeps the ruse of antiquity going, geometric black-and-white flooring, and a general speakeasy vibe rooted in mellow tones, this is very much an address for the breezy affair or the intimacy of grown-up conversation. That speakeasy vibe is heightened by the elevated al fresco bar entrance that gives way to steps that lead down into the restaurant, affording it a touch of playful secrecy.

Against the backdrop of an eclectic soundtrack of distant jazz and ethnic lounge, are plated the cuisines of India and the Middle East. The restaurant lives up to its promise of being mezze-heavy; the selection of entrees, small plates, and finger foods is exhaustive and beautifully plucked from select, coveted food philosophies that came to define the cuisines along the Silk Route.

The zerowaste cocktails are an able accompaniment to the array of mezze on offer

The zero-waste cocktails are an able accompaniment to the array of mezze on offer

The Saffron Chicken Cigar, for instance, is a crunchy coming together of poultry, cheese, onions, and spice—ideal for finger food nonchalance. The Mushroom & Truffle Baklava melts before it fully hits the tongue. A portfolio of Indian and Iranian kebabs pay homage to their origins while deviating playfully in the form of sumac immersion and such, illustrating how closely the two lands are bound by flavour and culinary imaginations. Dishes like the dhaba-inspired Thecha & Curry Leaf Hummus and extravagantly juicy Chicken Joojeh Masti are fine examples of the collaborations at play.

Mister Merchant’s is part of a curious contemporary fashion in dining where new restaurants, to infuse enigma and narrative into the brand, arrive with created mythologies. There is no Mister Merchant, to be clear. The team at Pass Code Hospitality (the parent entity of Mister Merchant’s, home to SAZ, Jamun, and others), spent time deciding on the type of food it wanted to do, the ambience it wanted to create. Mister Merchant’s the restaurant and its eponymous character were born out of that process and out of the team’s personal journeys. As a gourmand then you’re at home with a Parsi trader, where the food is a reflection of his voyages through the world—taking inspiration from a generation of men who used to travel to Persia, the Middle East, and Central Asia to trade goods—across the Levant, Egypt, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, and back home to India. Mister Merchant’s assumes the form of a gastronomic rendezvous with the Silk Route, in a stylish contemporary atmosphere that oozes warmth, geniality, and a certain subtle plushness.

Light greens warm woods and the geometric blackandwhite flooring make for a warm arresting ambience at Mister Merchant's...

Light greens, warm woods, and the geometric black-and-white flooring make for a warm, arresting ambience at Mister Merchant’s, Kalyani Nagar, Pune

“The menu is a reflection of this character’s travels and his life. We’ve created an elevated Mediterranean-plus dining experience that takes you places. Middle Eastern dishes have Indian swagger,” says Executive Chef & Partner Rahul Pereira. “The Indian dishes have elements of Arab seasoning. And some dishes are left true to the original, via the best of ingredients and a Mister Merchant’s signature. For instance, many of the old Parsi business families had Goan chefs, so you’ll find some unexpected Goan appearances on the menu.”

An assortment of hummus plates—including the Ghee amp Podi Hummus and Steak Hummus—start things off on the menu

An assortment of hummus plates—including the Ghee & Podi Hummus and Steak Hummus—start things off on the menu

Together with the mythical Mister Merchant, the restaurant has been a journey for the team too. The members have scoured antique shops and thrift markets to gather the things that would go into a Parsi gentleman’s home. Family photographs, ornate frames, world maps, faded certificates, heirloom lamps and figurines—they’ve all gone into the making of this space. The journey has been more literal for Chef Pereira. “I was at the India By The Nile festival a few years ago on invitation, and each night we’d have koshari from a different place. There was no way koshari was not going to be on my menu—but with desi ghee and an Indian heart,” he says.

A hearty selection of Indian and Persian kebabs follow

A hearty selection of Indian and Persian kebabs follow

A new song comes on. In its drowsy vibe, the female singer’s lush chants, and exotic heartbeat, it’s hard to pinpoint the track’s provenance. It could be Indian, Lebanese, Turkish, or a mélange of all these ethnic cultural flavours. You get the feeling Mister Merchant’s wouldn’t have it any other way.

Mister Merchant’s, Suman Business Park, next to Hotel Royal Orchid Central, Kalyani Nagar, Pune. Hours: 12 noon–4pm for lunch; 7pm–1am for dinner. Call +91-9175822202. Meal for two with alcohol: approx Rs2,500.



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