When Tatva opened in 2016, it was the first fine dining vegetarian alacarte restaurant in Hyderabad. "The aim was not profits, targets for breaking even was not even on the cards. The aim was simple – to have a fine dining option for vegetarians," shares Executive Chef Naveen
The year was 2016, and this was around the time when eating out for a vegetarian in Hyderabad meant choosing from a limited choice. The green end of the f&b scene was dominated by dishes with paneer as replacement for meat in a mixed menu of a multicuisine restaurant, or the thali and Mysore bajji at a Udipi restaurant, not to mention the outlets known for their south Indian breakfast. And, this despite the fact that the city of Nizams has always had a high percentage of vegetarians. Amongst these limited spaces was Rajdhani – a popular four-decade-old all-vegetarian hotel. The owners of Rajdhani also vegetarians envisioned a high-end fine dining vegetarian restaurant – and that marked the beginning of Tatva, paving way for many more of the kind in the coming years.
“The owners approached me with the idea, and to tell frankly I was not too sure how we were going to do it. They wanted something different and upmarket, and completely vegetarian,” shares Executive Chef Naveen, who has been with the restaurant from Day 1, and saw it grow from strength to strength. AYUVE caught up with Chef Naveen, who is busy with the upcoming menu change, and setting up the new outlet of Tatva that would be opening soon. He digs into his memory and shares a few highlights from the making of perhaps the first vegetarian fine dining restaurant in Hyderabad.
Naveen studied from IHM Hyderabad in 2001. He worked in Pune and Aurangabad before working on a cruise ship for nine long years where his knowledge of European cuisines strengthened. Back in Hyderabad, he worked for Ohris group and Holiday Inn, before teaming up with Rajdhani Hotels, for their new fine dining alacarte vegetarian restaurant with a clear focus - quality, taste, service and ambience.
“I am a non-vegetarian and until then I worked on a variety of cuisines, and to be honest, I was stuck, and in two minds as I was not sure how we would be able to pull it off. The fact that the owners were clear about what they wanted and gave us the direction. The aim was not profits, targets for breaking even was not even on the cards. The aim was simple – to have a fine dining option for vegetarians, and tell the eaters of the city about it.”
Tatva opened in the prime location on Road No 36, Jubilee Hills, Hyderabad. This restaurant on the first floor is spacious, airy and bright. The wooden elements in the décor, antique furniture used as statement pieces and the modern chairs and tables give it a contemporary look with a touch of tradition. The décor pieces and the paintings on the walls complete the understated luxury look that the restaurant aims to sport.
From Day 1 Tatva stuck to alacarte menu, and stayed away from catering, concentrating on creating tasty dishes served with an ambience. In addition to having continental, Oriental and European dishes on the menu, the Chef preferred to create Indian menu that is popular yet made diligently using the best of the ingredients with richness in taste – a policy that continues till date.
“It was challenge at first. But I have always had a free hand to explore and try best possible ingredients from the market. Lot of thought went into creating the vegetarian menu, especially the continental and Mexican – the main course is predominantly Indian, and we mostly stuck to the classics, and added variety by finding the right replacement for a non-vegetarian dish.”
Instead of meat in a kebab, lotus stem was used to make the melt-in-the-mouth Galouti kebab, and instead of a regular paneer tikka – there was a Smoked Paneer Pesto Tikka for the X factor, and Jalpeno Poppers for the Mirchi Bajji lovers. Ingredients like Makhna and Water chestnuts made their way into the menu. Commonly found dishes like Methi Chaman and Paneer Tikka Masala got the Tatva touch. “Just by using the best of ingredients the dishes became more superior than most restaurants,” shares Naveen. “Slowly people began to understand what is the difference between a
“When the restaurant opened, it was only a certain vegetarian community people, who would come. But, gradually it started filling up. Today, you see even the non-vegetarians come in to enjoy the paneer butter masala or dal makhni.”
“Initially, people did not understand why a vegetarian biryani costed over Rs 400 at Tatva, where a non-vegetarian biryani could be bought at around Rs 200. Now, they understand. By the way today the biryani costs over Rs 500 but is fine, as everyone knows the cost is for quality, the richness and ofcourse the experience,” states Chef Naveen.
Today, the restaurant expanded to yet another outlet in Begumpet, and one is gearing up to open in Kokapet, the new hub of eating out.