It’s plant-based, sustainable, farm-to-table and has a menu for your four-legged furry bestie too…just a few of the reasons that make Chef Abhijit Saha’s latest outing — the Pet People Café in Bengaluru — an ideal venue for a pet’s (and its parents’) day out.
On the façade, it is hard to separate the Pet People Café from any other pet-friendly restaurant that peppers Bengaluru’s dining-scape. Following the same theme as PawsnCollars, a sister venture by pet-parents Ambika Ramachandran and Santhosh Pasupuleti that has in the past four years (most of which were spent as an e-commerce site) gained a reputation for being a fabulous one-shop stop for all pet products, the café looks warm, inviting and one where you can walk in with your furry buddy assured that s/he will have a fun time there. The state-of-the-art pet retreat (it has everything that a pet needs for a day of absolute pampering) has a comfy yet minimalistic café with an open cooking space. In fact, the open cooking space has been designed keeping a pet’s mood in mind — and hence has everything electronic and tuned down in volume so that nothing jitters the four-legged friends.
And yet, when it comes to its offerings, it has the makings of a world-class, food-forward café built on the principles of hyperlocal, farm-to-table, and clean eating. In fact, for Chef Abhijit Saha, a legend of Bengaluru’s culinary landscape and the mastermind behind the café, the project has been nothing less than a challenge — “and a stimulating one at that.” “I really had to go back to studying once again to put together this café that serves not just humans but their beloved pets with meals that are a blend of taste, comfort, and sustainability,” he quips.
It took Chef Saha, a pet parent himself, nearly a year to not just decide the theme of the café but also the menu that features both traditional and new-age ingredients like hemp hearts, hemp protein powder, avocado, almond and oat milks, nuts, seeds, berries, hydroponic and organic produce, plant-based cheeses, plant-based mock meats, tempeh, healthy grains (farro, brown rice, quinoa grown in India), millets and sugar/honey substitutes moulded into dishes that are not only loved by all but have been part of Chef Saha’s signature menu through the years. These include the Grilled Zucchini and Apple Salad, the Panini Neapolitan, and the Arborio, Farro, and Mushroom Risotto. Each dish, says Chef Saha, “has not only been tweaked to suit the seasonal produce that Bengaluru receives from nearby regions, but uses as many homegrown products as possible, including cheese.” The beauty of the menu is that most dishes can be made vegan —including the ones with cheese.
An authority on cheeses and wines, Chef Saha’s search for vegan cheese and milk alternatives has been a good half a decade long story now. It began, he says, “during one of my travels when I saw a rising trend among diners who were opting for vegan options as part of their eating right lifestyle.” That, coupled with the new demand for dairy-alternative dishes back home urged him to start working with substitutes that were safe, healthy, and easy to source. Chef Saha turned to the wide variety of plant-based products that often fit into the nutraceutical category. A result of his years of R&D is the interesting array of smoothie bowls, salads, appetisers (especially the hummus made with beet and gnocchi with sweet potatoes) and soups that are generously peppered with a variety of ‘superfoods’.
Co-owner Santhosh Pasupuleti, who volunteered to be the ‘lab rat’ at the many tasting sessions before the menu was finalised recalls the experience as a “great learning”.
“Thanks to our Indian DNA, we often know how to eat seasonally, locally and even healthy — but that was what I believed too before we began working with Chef Saha on the café, and the process changed my understanding of the famous saying, ‘we are what we eat,” says Pasupuleti. While the café’s buzzing ambiance stands testimony to the great tasting, fresh, on-sight food, the high point is the Day’s Special menu that Chef Saha along with his team creates for the pets that come to visit PawsnCollars.
Unlike the café menu which is out-and-out plant-based, the Day’s Special segment has food that is made keeping in mind what a pet should eat — and is provided as an option to the packaged food that is part of the brand’s handpicked inventory, and this includes the special treats that are specially crafted by pet expert Shruti Saha.
The reason, says Chef Saha, “to have a freshly cooked menu for pets along with other pet food at the store was to tackle a common practice where we share our food with our furry friends. While it is a way to show our affection, most of what we eat isn’t suitable for the pets. Hence, we created a menu that could be ordered for your friend along with yours. The exception is that the Day’s Special while follows the same philosophy of gourmet dishes made with high-quality, locally sourced ingredients, are often meat-based. Like the Quinoa in Chicken Broth or the Devilled Egg served with brown rice, and the most popular sweet treat, the Yoghurt and Pumpkin Bowl. Developed in consultation with pet experts and doctors, each of the dishes is void of any sugar, salt, nuts or spice — and works on natural flavouring.”
Chef Saha’s penchant for using tastemakers to aid the evolution of natural flavours is a theme that is common across all the food that the café serves, even in the bagels (which come with a dollop of plant-based butter), cakes, toast, and pancakes that are served as part of the Village series in the menu that is divided into small plates, large plates, and bowls for effective navigation.
“What we have tried to do with the Café,” concludes Chef Saha, who is working on a new segment of juices and Buddha Bowls, “is to provide people a place where they can come and not only experience the charm of a one hundred percent plant-based meal, but also get a different perspective on food, not only from the point of discovering new ingredients but also how to incorporate them into their food habits effectively.”
What better than to do so with your best buddy in tow at the Pet People’s Café.
Address: Shree Arcade, 19th Main Rd, Sector 4, HSR Layout, Bengaluru, Karnataka 560102; +91-9900703009