At the table with Parallel

In the midst of Khan Market’s flurry you’ll find, behind a sunshine-yellow facade, this natural light-soaked eatery. Up one flight of stairs, Parallel is part-bar, part-restaurant, and all delicious. You’ll see a place that toys with parallel lines, a washroom that camouflages into a wall (all the better to mess with your tipsy friends), and a minimal space accented with honey-yellow cushions.

At the helm of Parallel are Heena and Abhiram, who take a far-reaching and very immersive interest in every facet of the business. From the interiors and the menu through to naming dishes, ensuring that everything is made in-house, the addition of family recipes to a progressive menu, and the crafty designs on the walls (that’s all Heena), Parallel is their baby through and through.

We sat down to a hearty brunch with Heena and Abhiram, tucking into savoury beetroot thepla tacos, haldi sliders, and buttery tilapia with sweet-and-sour mango salsa. While we all love a good, classic cocktail, there’s always a parallel, and if you pop round try their Broken Down Tibetan Mule (vodka base, topped with spicy ginger ale, sweet fig jam, and a zesty lemon-ginger foam) — it’s divine!
Tell us a little about yourselves.
We started Parallel as something something we both wanted to do, but often enough the idea got lost in translation. We were meant to start in February 2016, but it took two long years to build this space from scratch, and it has been a long process of evolution. We consider this a non-commercial restaurant (and that’s what we want it to be), but we initially had a team that would insist on adding pasta and pizzas to the menu, which we wanted to steer clear of. Before this? I was working with KFC at the headquarters in Kentucky as part of the research and development team.

Heena: I studied law, and considering we aren’t from this industry, it’s been quite a challenge to put this place together. It’s not about the permits, but more about the ecosystem; Khan Market isn’t a particularly friendly ecosystem, especially with all the competition that thrives here. As a side note, Abhiram handles the kitchen, and I handle the front of the house.

Why Parallel?
I studied engineering, but I was rather poor at Math. Also, my company is called Math Foodworks, and since this restaurant is about simplicity, I wanted to fuse math and simplicity. We initially wanted to create a space with an astronomical theme but needed to tone it down for the audience while keeping it relevant, so we decided to play with optical illusions, which is what the bar is all about. Kind of futuristic, but clean and simple. That’s where the name came from — simple, minimal in its theory, and mathematically-inclined Parallel.

Meenal Bhatia, a friend, did the decor. Working with friends is great because it makes the entire process personal. This was her first project, and so it was equally exciting for both us and her. The brief was that we wanted a minimal space that is intriguing enough, so the whole optical bit was Meenal’s idea. The washroom doors are awesome, mostly because people can’t find them when they’re a little tipsy. Look around and the space is all about the symmetry of Parallel lines.Tell us a little about the food.
The cuisine is influenced by Maharashtrian and Sindhi accents, and a lot of the dishes are borrowed (and sometimes adapted) from recipes handed down by our grandmothers and mums. While we like being quite adventurous with our menu, we realised that often enough people can’t wrap their heads around elaborate menus that aren’t anchored in some sort of commercial aspect. We’re also launching a new summer menu that’s more about an Indian influence with local produce, and it’s meant to be cooling so you combat the searing sun with something light on the palate, from our savoury dishes and desserts, to our mixology-influenced cocktails for which we concoct the syrups in-house (we tested their achaar-syrup and spice liquor, and they were divine). Our Bloody Mary mixed with tomato shrub promises to be a crowd favourite (we think).

Heena: We were once told by a chef that when you’re new keep the ratio to 80:20, 80% of what customers know, and 20% of what you want customer’s to eat, and when they get comfortable, start playing around more with your food, menu, flavours, and recipes.

We’re always experimenting with new combinations and flavours, and initially there was a lot of trying, testing, and back and forth with dishes. But at some point I had to convince Abhiram to have some relatable dishes on the menu owing to the customers that frequent the space. After all, people walk in and ask for dishes like hummus and pita bread without even glancing at the menu, and just assuming stuff like this will be on the menu.
What's the feedback been like?
The feedback has been fantastic, from those who’ve visited. We have a large loyal customer base, revisiting us every Friday, and 60% of our crowd is non-Indian, but that’s also owing to us being in an expat-heavy location like Khan Market. In terms of the space, there has been a fair bit of feedback about injecting a bit of colour into the space.

We’ve been told our place looks a lot like Perch, even though Perch is a tad bit more Scandinavian visually. Not heard of any other parallels (pun intended!) that have been drawn.

Is there a dish that everyone loves?
The pulled pork tacos, the beetroot tacos, and the haldi slider — these sell the most and are appreciated the most too.

What can we look forward to with Parallel:
The next step is opening our next store, in which we want to enhance our craft-laden bits, from injecting our recipes with surprising flavours, to finding new ways of using parallel lines and symmetry in our decor. Delhi has always been unwilling to experiment, but that has changed now. It was about kebabs and basic things earlier, but now we know there’s a niche crowd that understands the idea of a pulled-pork taco. A balance in the menu always helps, and we’re hoping to hit that nail squarely on the head.