High-end global restaurants sprout to feed India's wealthy
By Tony Munroe
MUMBAI (Reuters) - Chef Matteo Boglione, at the newly opened Le Cirque Signature in Mumbai, says that when he was getting started at the offshoot of one of New York's elite restaurants he was told repeatedly: "We want more vegetables".
So, alongside the pricey $130 Florentine-style T-bone steak (for two) the menu features dishes such as a cauliflower flan with porcini and avocado panzanella, buffalo mozzarella fondue, and black truffle shavings, at a more affordable 1,250 rupees ($20.40).
The branch of New York's venerable Le Cirque, at the Leela Mumbai hotel, is the latest in a wave of overseas-based high-end eateries to enter a country that has been slow to embrace the global-restaurant trend that has taken hold in cities like Dubai and Hong Kong.
Top-end restaurants are targeting India's growing affluent classes. Indian household wealth nearly doubled to $2 trillion in five years through 2012, according to Boston Consulting Group, which expects that to grow to $4.5 trillion in 2017. Millionaire households totalled 164,000 last year.
Other global chains in India include London-based Chinese-themed Hakkasan, which opened in 2011, and its less-expensive sister Yauatcha, a hit in Mumbai that will soon open its fourth Indian location. Last year, Spain's Arola opened at the JW Marriott in suburban Mumbai.
Top flight international chains in India face the challenge of matching the standards of the original while adapting to preferences in a country where many people are vegetarians and most don't eat beef for religious reasons. Most ingredients are imported, which pushes up costs and prices.
Indian consumers, meanwhile, have proven reluctant to splash out on branded luxuries, such as designer labels, said Vir Sanghvi, a journalist and food writer. "So far, India has been immune to the culture of the global restaurant, because India is a price-sensitive market," he said.
NASCENT FOODIE CULTURE Continued...