The Restaurateurs: Jay Yousuf and Gauri Devidayal of The Table

April 16, 2012 8:02 am by

Photo: Sheena Dabholkar.

Restaurateurs often bemoan the fickleness of the Indian consumer, but the formula for their fealty is rather simple: serve great food in a great ambience; play around with the menu on occasion to keep eating ennui from creeping in; stick to the restrictions of seasonal and geographical diktats; and customer loyalty is likely to follow. The Table, with its distinctive black and white zig-zag floor, has managed to grasp this exceptionally well in its existence of little over a year, and that’s entirely due to husband-and-wife owners Jay Yousuf, 50, and Gauri Devidayal, 31.

For a start, the duo who chucked up jobs in technology and accounting respectively, heeded the advice of a restaurateur friend from San Francisco who dissuaded them from setting up a French bistro/patisserie here. “He said, ‘Don’t do it; India has its own bread market and you’d need to import most of the ingredients’,” says Gauri Devidayal, who was imaginging something along the lines of France-based bistro chain Paul. Instead, they decided to bring back a slice of San Francisco, where Yousuf spent 14 years, enlisting the services of acclaimed chef Joey Altman and his cousin, current executive chef Alex Sanchez, to draw up a daily-changing menu that amalgamated various influences with such fluidity that you appeared to jump countries in a single plate. It was the kind of innovation that hadn’t been attempted and executed, at least successfully so, since Indigo opened its doors in 1999. As a result, The Table has irrevocably raised the bar for what can be achieved in the local food scene.

The restaurant has garnered every noteworthy award and accolade in the industry (including ours for best fine dining establishment of 2011), and still prompts the same excitement and satisfaction for first-time and repeat diners (without, it should be added, pandering to our proclivities for spice and cream). They’ve ably proven how to do high-end bistro fare with similarly exacting standards of service and ambience as that of a five-star, all within the produce and ingredient restrictions of the Mumbai food market. Furthermore, you’re likely to find either Yousuf or Devidayal or both at the restaurant every single day. Devidayal, who spent eight years working as a tax consultant, is often seen answering the phone, taking reservations, and personally attending to guests. For those who have been hoping for a second branch, know this: the duo say they have plans to launch The Table in Bandra or Delhi soon.

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