01st Feb, 2018
The Great Bundobust Empire
Words by Phoebe Ryan
“Vibrant Indian food served with craft beer in a friendly communal space… Why has no one done this before?” So asks Jay Rayner – and such is the wisdom of Bundobust. It’s not re-inventing the wheel. It’s cleverer than that. Somehow, they found a hole in our culinary hearts, a hole that we didn’t know we had…
Reviews have been coming in thick and fast since Bundobust opened their second successful venue, in Manchester, just over a year ago. With massive love from Jay Rayner at The Observer, as well as shining reviews from magazines like Time Out, The Guardian, The Sunday Times, The New York Times, The Independent, Metro and Buzzfeed, it’s safe to say your taste buds are in safe hands.
If somehow you haven’t heard of Bundobust, they’re a craft beer and Indian, Gujurat-inspired street food concept – and they blow the idea out of the park. Serving up amazing Gujurati snacks, from masala dosa to chaat to paneer tikka, the food is all vegetarian (and some vegan, too). Not that you would miss meat for one moment, here. This is something a little alien to British cuisine, generally. Meat and two veg without the meat is a little sad. Not so with Indian cuisine. Traditionally all vegetarian, Indian food has no sense of absence, or lack – there simply was never an absence to fill.
The clientele can affirm how good the food is. People love it. This has meant that Bundobust were able to open a second site, after Leeds’ Mill Hill original. This one sits unobtrusively in Piccadilly Gardens, and opened back in December of 2016. As for 2018, this year will see Bundobust open their third site, with plans for a Liverpool Bundobust well under way.
The secret? They know their strengths. Co-founders Marko and Mayur have massive passion, knowledge and expertise in two primary fields – Gujurati-inspired Indian food, and craft beer. Both hail from Bradford, and this is where they cultured their knowledge. Marko set up Sparrow Bier Café, the first craft beer bar in Bradford (many have flourished since), and Mayur worked at his family restaurant – the well-renowned Prashad, which is now in Drighlington. Happenstance led them to collaborate, and that collaboration led them to today’s successes.
It hasn’t all been plain sailing, though. The two venues they have chosen so far are undeniably full of character; but character means history, and it can sometimes throw up issues. “There was no gas, no electric” Mayur points out, at the dilapidated building they took on, just off Manchester’s Northern Quarter, sitting on Piccadilly Gardens. “It was the potential it had, rather than its current state”. From street level, the Manchester venue is completely unobtrusive; indeed, eminently missable. But stairs down to a subterranean level open up onto sheer space; a high-ceilinged room flooded with natural light from roof windows above. The décor has a similar vibe to the Leeds venue, with stripped-back chipboard and bright colours, but Drew Millward’s art, which also graces the walls in Leeds, here gives a local flavour, nodding to its Manchester setting.
This insistence upon the importance of the venue is what sets Bundobust apart, as their empire increases. Not for them the anonymity of a chain, where all restaurants are the same and you could be anywhere in the UK. It is “absolutely crucial to us that the food is exactly the same, and of exactly the same standard, across our venues, so people know that they can get the great food they expect, whether in Leeds or Manchester”, Marko says, the nudges to the cities they are found in keep that feeling of a proud independent restaurant.
We can’t see Bundobust’s success stopping here. Liverpool is on the horizon – what next? Bristol? Sheffield? No one knows yet – but I for one hope to see this amazing food grace cities across the nation. But that throws up the next conundrum – what do we call an independent chain? Hopefully we’ll all find out.
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