Spontaneous, sassy and alarmingly sure about herself — Mishali Sanghani is truly a vision. As I meet the spirited girl in her moodily lit Pali Village Café, she throws a lot of surprises at me. She’s someone who’s drastically altered the real estate equations in the swish Bandra suburb with her three hospitality ventures — Pali Village Café, which has easily become one of the ultimate bastions of culinary hipness, Pali Bhavan, which has given a new surreal dining experience to city’s foodies and I Think Fitness, the trendy and spacious gymnasium where the crème de le crème works out. Despite all these accomplishments, she seems quite grounded and sometimes shockingly unaware about her success trajectory which she charted in such a short time along with fiancé Suren Joshi.
Mishali is a non-conformist and doesn’t believe in adhering to any rule book — be it her restaurants or life in general. The headstrong entrepreneur doesn’t attend social events, hates being photographed and never bank on the star power to pull the crowd. Hailing from a family which is into footwear export and manufacturing, Mishali was always rebellious as a child and had a mind of her own. Even though she studied accessories and interior design, she always had yearned to do something out-of-the-box. She had a dream to open a restaurant with a casual-meets-comfy vibe. She met her boyfriend Suren and both of them realised that they wanted to do the same thing. “We thought of opening a restaurant together and it was a very random thing. It was like, ‘let’s do this...’ Then we came to know of this place which nobody wanted. Even when we took it, a lot of people told us not to take it because nobody touched this place for six years. We could afford this place around that time and I think we have changed the whole real estate situation around it. It was a bad decision not to buy it. Two years after PVC, we got Pali Bhavan.
That’s also one-year-old now. I think Fitness and Pali Bhavan happened around the same time,” she shares.
“I look at so many restaurants opening and shutting down. I think there’s a lot that goes into a restaurant and sadly there are many things involved which people tend to overlook. What happened with PVC was quite unexpected even for us because people had no expectations. For Pali Bhavan there was definitely a lot of pressure and it was really tough,” she says. Today Mishali is proud of her accomplishments, however, it hasn’t changed anything. She feels more sorted now. “I think I’ve just grown up. I’m going to be 30 now,” she says with a smile.
The elusive Mumbai palate
“The menu at PVC doesn’t have a single dish which is fried as opposed to other restaurants which offer extremely cheesy and fried offerings. We have stayed away from that and that’s what people like. Even if they order a pasta or a risotto, it is very light compared to other eateries. At Pali Bhavan, the Indian food is extremely light. I don’t think that the food has to be heavy for it to be delicious. People today are so well travelled and exposed to all kinds of food. It has to be flavoursome. Classics have to be the same. Too much experimentation doesn’t work. The trend of molecular gastronomy might be cool but how many times will you eat it? Here clients come and eat every day. Food has to have a repeat value and they should come back again to relish it. We take special care of food’s quality and freshness,” she shares.
Fiance and I
“Both of us handle totally different things. That’s a good thing because we never clash as we are very different people. I look into the aesthetic and the creative part of it — food, menu, concept and he does all the dirty work. To run a restaurant in Mumbai isn’t easy so he looks into the paper work and the finances. They are two very distinct roles so both of us are very clear about each other’s roles. I am a foodie but he doesn’t care about food at all. He can live on boiled eggs, steamed fish and chicken. Since we like different things, we learn from each other,” she says. The couple loves entertaining friends at their home and perhaps their love for entertaining makes the bond even stronger.
Travel inspires me
“I have travelled all over the world. That sort of subconsciously made a lot of difference because I’ve always been very observant. Something which registers in my head stays forever. I was very influenced by Europe. I stayed in London for a very long time. I explored it a lot and was exposed to its cuisines,” she says with a twinkle in her eyes. However, there was not one thing in particular which inspired her but when she got PVC she knew exactly what she wanted to do.
Work life balance
“In the beginning when PVC opened, it needed 100 per cent of my time and same thing happened with Pali Bhavan for the first two months. I was talking to people and explaining them food. You can’t rely on your team till they get the hang of it. When I get some time I spend it with my family.
Like today my dad came to see me because I hadn’t visited him for a week,” says she.
Penchant for beautiful things
The sophisticate in Mishali loves all beautiful things. She loves observing well dressed people and soaking in visuals and references. However, she is not logo-besotted in a scenario where your bag determines your stature. “I don’t like expensive things. I feel if you can put together a look effortlessly and manage to stand out then you don’t need to buy a limited edition Chanel bag.” Her personal style is like her restaurant — chic, comfy and elegant. Since she’s working most of the time, she prefers flats over heels. “I need to be comfortable. I love shopping but I don’t buy a lot of things. I love window shopping. However, sometimes I get shopping attacks when I’m travelling,” says she.
Since she doesn’t go out to any of the social events, she never really gets a chance to dress up. “I meet so many people here that I don’t feel the need to go to any party. I am very low-key,” she quips.
What makes a party amazing?
“I think if it’s a group of interesting, intelligent and talented people — it can be a great party. Food and music are of paramount importance,” says she in a very simplistic, matter-of-fact way.
Is B-town relevant?
“Bollywood has been coming here right from the first day and some stars have tweeted about it also. However, we never invited anybody and they came purely by word-of-mouth. Also, Bollywood is very Bandra-centric. If they come we don’t talk about it in the papers. Although a lot of papers did write about it. It was great that they came but we were very subtle about it,” says the girl who plans to do a Thai restaurant and open a night club in Bandra soon. She is also planning expansion out of the city and also out of the country. More power to her!