Calling die-hard foodies: Posto Bistro is in town! Founder, Pritha, brings the authentic hearty taste of Kolkata with a contemporary international twist. Predominantly serving local Bengali cooking, the North-Indian restaurant is also inspired by “Persian, Mughal, Chinese and British cuisine.” Mirroring the cultural range, Posto offers an extensive selection of signature dishes which defines the tasty brand. “We wanted to introduce flavoursome niche delicacies in addition to traditional Indian favourites e.g., instead of simply curry, we have slow-cooked lamb on the bone; mustard is very important in Bengal so we have steamed fish in mustard paste, wrapped in banana leaf. Additionally, we have vegetarian and vegan options e.g., dishes centred on jack fruit and beetroot cutlets. There is a distinct story behind every dish so the region is wholly represented. The ingredients we use are fresh, bringing out the subtler flavours and further making our comfort food healthy.” Thus, Pritha popularises the original benefit of South-Asian gastronomy.
“It is about understanding as well as savouring food. An expert dietician once told me one must concentrate while eating: it is important to imbibe. You shouldn’t be rushing or multi-tasking” i.e., making sure to feel the experience to get the most out of it. “The UK has not been introduced to the enormous dimension that is Indian street-food so this is the core mission.” Indeed, the consummate cook has managed to tantalise the taste-buds of those as far-flung as Dubai and Melbourne without spending a single penny on advertising: “The highlight of our franchise is that people across the world appreciate the quality. We’ve had a couple who work in Shanghai hear about us. They travelled to try our menu! This makes the effort worthwhile. Our business has grown organically via word of mouth. We don’t chase awards: the reward is having plenty of happy customers. We even get little messages from people in advance when they come to visit e.g., another great moment of satisfaction was when a client from South Africa expressed their thanks - they would have to had to import the ingredients themselves to make the creative dishes we serve.” Pritha herself loves to travel, along with her husband, and takes inspiration from different destinations. Indeed, the hallmark of fine cooking is transporting people through a profound palate to a universal sense of home.
This is why Posto is a bustling bistro instead of excluding through expensive dining. “People back home, those that are globe-trotting and anybody who wants to can connect to North-Indian cuisine. It's about more than the aesthetics: the food itself has to be good. There is often chit-chat and a vibrant ambience at the restaurant that reflects this this.” Starting out catering supper clubs as well as big community events, Posto later adapted to become an expansive delivery service at the time of Covid-19. This reach extended from London to the Northern most parts of Britain: “we’ve had new customers in Buckinghamshire, Glasgow, Edinburgh and many small villages and towns in-between. They had never had the opportunity to sample true Indian flavours and were happy with the meals. By then, we were used to having served as many as 6,000 people despite being a small team. I think that’s incredible. I’ve had people who’ve formally trained within the industry tell me they’re impressed and not been able to cook successfully for that many. My drive is being able to make accessible an innovative sensory heritage; to show that wholesome regional food can be exciting and introduce India warmly to all.” And so, Posto delectably boosts their base through pure enjoyment and treating the world. Passion, always, is the ultimate recipe.
How did you know there was value in starting a business?
Originally, we would have people around to our place and cook for big groups. We found that guests were often taking left-overs to their car and finishing the meal there! That was the beginning of knowing we needed a physical pit-stop.
How did you start your journey into cooking?
I come from a family of great cooks and foodies. My father was in the regional finals or Top 30 in Master Chef India a while back. My parents loved to explore different parts of the nation. I was actually inspired to create a prawn pudding by my dad and his knack of fusing traditional Bengali recipes with western cooking methods. Currently, I’m proud of the Shami kebab on Posto’s menu. Delving into the history of food has continued to form a big part of conversation for me. Merging cuisine is very interesting. I don’t think there could be a better launching pad than the cosmopolitan hub that is London.
What other specialities constitute Posto’s cooking?
As I say, we have dishes centred on jack-fruit that we cook very drily. This is popular in North-East India. We have rolls, wrapped in Paratha or flat bread with stuffing such as bell peppers, potato and lamb any way you want. Our range of breads is interesting too. We have pea breads which are seasonal and nostalgic, evoking childhood in Kolkata. This is served with potato curry and soft bread. We also have very good biriyanis. Ours are subtle Awadhi creations which you can have with chicken or lamb, served with a boiled egg and potato and cooked in a Dum.
What would be your tips for other emerging entrepreneurs at this tumultuous time?
It has been a huge learning curve gathering experience outside of the industry where my background is in finance: it’s hard-work. You must give the enterprise concentration and time; you must have patience and plan with a sensible profitable strategy; you must know why you are doing it because this is what keeps you going. There are times when I must spend long hours in the kitchen. The work is demanding; know that you must be flexible. What you begin with will only be the tip of a very large iceberg that you will perpetually be uncovering; know your strength. Allocate yourself the most apt role e.g. I focus on the cooking. Similarly, choose a team who have respective skills in every necessary department, from finance to customer-service; you must be brave. You must be able to confront and problem-solve without getting unnerved. If you have a demonstrable yield and feel happy about the direction you’re going in, this should give you faith. Posto had to change to have presence online through the first lockdown and we’ve always been creative with conviction; finally, you need to know yourself. Know the core of your brand and the financial health will follow.