Inside Bandra's 34-YO Khane Khas: Co-Owners Hardeep & Atul dish out story behind their success!

Inside Bandra's 34-YO Khane Khas: Co-Owners Hardeep & Atul dish out story behind their success!

Serving home-style food without pretences, since 1989.

Embracing the ethos of home-style cooking, Khane Khas in Bandra is a quaint open-air restaurant serving up the finest in North Indian cuisine since 1989. Founded by four friends—Nutan Bajaj, Hardeep Chadha, Atul Sahni, and Prithipal Singh Bajaj—whose shared passion for simple and honest flavours sparked the inception of this beloved establishment.

Khane Khas offers dishes that are rich in flavour yet light on the palate, earning it a loyal following over the past 34 years. In a conversation with Knocksense, co-owners Mr. Atul Sahni and Mr. Hardeep Chadha shared their experiences, the newest additions to the menu, and much more.

"...there are no pretences in our dishes"

Q. What is the brand's origin story?

Mr. Atul shares, "We are the partners who have been running Khane Khas since 1989. We were all actually working together at a restaurant called Mela in Worli. And that's where the seed of or the idea of starting our own business developed in early 1989 and along with our two other partners Nutan and Prithipal the four of us got together and we started Khane Khas in 1989."

Q. Top 3 words which come to your mind when we say Khane Khas?

Mr. Atul says, "For me there would be simple, special, honest." Mr. Hardeep adds on, "I would have said honest food. It is honest food. There are no pretences in our dishes."

Q. What factors were considered while choosing Bandra?

"Bandra is the best possible location not only in Mumbai but I would say in the entire country" says Mr. Atul. He explains, "It has such a diverse clientele that we have access to and it has a clientele which is very generous. You know literally, we've grown because of their support, they have been critical at the right time, they have been supportive at the right time, I would always love to be in Bandra."

Q. Since Bandra has many restaurants that serve North Indian food, what makes Khane Khas stand out?

Mr. Hardeep mentions, "Khane Khas right from the inception has always believed in giving food which is closer to home style rather than purely restaurant kind of food which is heavy, spicy, oily and that's one of the reasons we have so many people who are ordering every single day over here because they do not get a heartburn and they don't have acidity issues after eating our food. And basically, most of the recipes that we have have been inspired by home cooking. That is one of the reasons, I guess over the last 34 years we have had so many people who have been like consistently ordering with us."

Q. What are the culinary preferences of Bandra-Khar diners? Any trend you’ve noticed?

Mr. Hardeep shares, "Over the years we have seen so many different cuisines coming into Bandra. So many different restaurants, I mean, from Italian to Continental to Mediterranean, Southeast Asian. All these people have come in, they're all doing well. But one thing we have realised is ultimately the daal chawal is a guest's favourite and they come back to it."

Mr. Atul further clarifies, "Bandra provides the right platform for all these different cuisines and different restaurants to nourish. They nourish it and these brands or these restaurants or these cuisines continue to prosper and at the same time, like Hardeep said, the Indian-ness thankfully remains and we are always there for that."

Q. How do you ensure consistent quality and customer satisfaction in Bandra’s competitive food market?

Mr. Hardeep says, "As far as consistency is concerned, and the quality of food is concerned there is only one single trick I won't even call it a trick, one single funda, and that is maintain your kitchen staff. Once you have the same people cooking your food day in and day out over a number of years, the consistency remains and then I am a chef by profession I am hands on. So if a new person comes in, I am always there to guide that person and take him through the training process."

Mr. Atul says, "I'd like to add here, that there are a lot of restaurants which are dependent on individual chefs, who have their own style. We've been fortunate that we had a chef in our founding team that is Hardeep. And whether an experienced or inexperienced or less experienced kitchen staff who come and join us, they are all finally guided by him. The recipes are set by him, so that is another big factor which helps us maintain consistency. And, you know, even though we are a small operation, we believe we are quite a professional operation on that particular aspect."

Q. What would you recommend from the menu?

Mr Hardeep mentions, "Oh that's asking a parent who's your favorite child," says Atul. He adds, "We would say whatever is on the menu is special because maybe you're one day in a mood to have just a nice simple Tandoori Roti with our Kali Dal Makhani. The dal is not the regular 'Maa ki dal', but it was taught to us by chef Qureshi from Lucknow. And on other day you want a more lavish or a more exquisite dish like a Stuffed Tandoori Mushroom. So for us everything on that menu is special. You can even try our Lal Maas, which is definitely made of chillies, but not spicy enough to make your tongues burn. We try to gauge your preference for the day and recommend a meal accordingly."

"We do have a few dishes which we had incorporated in the last one year, there is Dhuan Chicken, there is Tandoori Broccoli and these dishes have been very well appreciated by our guests", he further adds.

Online orders versus walk-ins? Who wins?

"Well, online unfortunately comes at a higher cost to us. Let's be honest about it, but it is also the reality of today's world," says Mr. Atul. He further states, "What has helped us though, are the walk-ins, when we started in 1989 and to date in 2024, we are going to be 35 years old. We've never advertised our restaurant and it has been purely on word of mouth, and that started with walk-ins."

Mr. Hardeep takes over, "I would like to add something over here, the younger generation prefers to order online but the people who have been with us from 1989 to date are still the ones who would prefer to call us and speak to us personally, and it's always a pleasure talking to them. They are the ones who have been supporting us for so many years and we really thank them for it."

What is the secret to attracting customers?

Mr. Hardeep states, "I would say there are two things, not just one. One is the consistency in the quality of food and second is friendly but professional service." Mr. Atul adding on to it, says, "And like I said in my favourite three words and he highlighted the honesty in our food. So to a certain degree, innovation, which in the past one year, like Hardeep mentioned, we introduced the Dhuan Chicken, the Afghani Broccoli, and we've got a very good response on that, so we hope to continue with that."

Q. Any expansion plans?

"We are more passionate about our work rather than the business. We look at ourselves as more of people who enjoy the whole food and hospitality aspect of the thing than the business; though business is important. So may be expansion plans, yes, but nothing at the moment that we can share," says Mr. Atul.

Q. If you had to choose an area for expansion, which area would it be?

Mr. Hardeep states, "I think Central Mumbai, the Worli, Lower Parel, Elphinstone-Mahalaxmi belt. Currently they seem to be really hot for business hospitality business and we may in future consider doing something over there."

Q. Anything exclusive that is coming up?

Mr. Atul states, "It actually would go against our character because we keep highlighting that we are not gimmicky, we are not into any big ticket announcements and stuff like that. People who have known us for all these years would know, that has now become our character. So we keep things simple. Holi is a very big event for us annually, we are known for Thandai that we make, where everything is as per the recipe again that Hardeep has created, which of course he's also learned from his past experiences, combined it with some family cooking. So our Thandai is very popular and it is purely homemade in the sense that it's in-house. It's made at the restaurant. There's nothing ready-made which goes into it, of course, we have to buy the milk."

Mr. Hardeep adds, "So this Thandai recipe happens to be my grandmother's recipe, and she used to love having it during summers when I was in school. And, she was not allowed to have it because of her medical issues but you know, she would coax me in my school days, I used to make it on a silbatta, and she used to sneak some part of it and I would get the rest, that's how I learned making a Thandai.

Q. Any upcoming additions to your menu?

Mr. Atul mentions, "Our menu additions earlier on used to happen around our anniversary and Diwali time which is in October. But like we mentioned, in the last one year we have incorporated a few new dishes which is not set to a timetable. So this is the point where I'd like to also introduce another team member, who unfortunately is not here with us today. His name is Ikjot, who happens to be Hardeep's son, but he's here by virtue of being a chef in his own right. And the dishes that we mentioned earlier on, the Dhuan Chicken and the Broccoli were introduced by him. So with him, as a young team member, he brings in new perspective to the whole thing. So we don't have a timetable. He comes up with some new dish and we try it out, get a response, a feedback from our guests. So it can happen tomorrow, it can happen next month, anytime."

Mr. Hardeep notes, "So this Sarso ka Saag season started with new Sarso ka Saag dishes like Sarso ka Saag Keema, Sarso ka Saag Chicken, Sarso ka Saag Paneer and these are all Ikjot's creations and his idea and, they have really taken off surprisingly and they have been received very well by our guests."

Committed to continue culinary explorations

At Khane Khas, the dedication lies not just in business, but in the passion for authentic flavours and hospitality. While expansion may not presently be on the horizon, the focus here remains on preserving the essence of home-style cooking and delivering an indelible dining experience. With innovations like Dhuan Chicken and Afghani Broccoli garnering acclaim, Bandra's much-loved Khane Khas is committed to continuing its journey of culinary explorations and delighting patrons.

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