Ooty, the first restaurant venture from entrepreneurs Pooja Nayak and Aseela Goenka, opened its doors in Baker Street in London’s Marylebone area in February. Named after a small town in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, it will focus on serving up the cuisine of southern India. The kitchen is headed up by Manmeet Singh Bali, formerly head chef at Michelin-starred London restaurants Rasoi and Vineet Bhatia London (VBL).
Ooty comprises three distinct spaces; an 80-cover fine dining restaurant; Ooty Club, which is a colonial-style basement bar; and Ooty station, an all day casual dining space and cocktail bar. The interiors at the restaurant bring a distinct, individual feel and look to each of these spaces.
Speaking ahead of the restaurant opening, co-founder Aseela Goenka said: “We both have fond memories of the delicious, aromatic cuisine and fresh fish from childhood holidays to south India and, whilst we do enjoy curries, baltis and butter chicken dishes, we wanted to focus on the cuisine of the south to show that Indian food is so much more than this, Whether for an after work drink, quick bite or long lunch, Ooty will be the perfect place to try this delicious food, and we hope London diners will agree.”
Firm friends Aseela and Pooja both grew up in India. Aseela regularly holidayed in South India as a child, where her father owned fish farms and she fell in love with the cuisine on these early experiences, which in turn provided the inspiration for Ooty. Her varied professional career has taken her from landscaping to HR management in the hotel and property management sector, notably for DB Hospitality owners of Hilton Hotel Mumbai, and Grand Hyatt Goa. Since moving to London, Pooja and Aseela have worked extensively in the charity sector. Pooja is currently the chairwoman of the WIAUK (Women in India Association UK), a charity dedicated to supporting women and children both in the UK and India, and Aseela is the Vice Chair.
Chef Manmeet Singh Bali Manmeet trained with the Taj group of hotels in India where he worked for 6 years. He moved to England in 2004 and spent time at Rene Deluxe Macintosh Hotel as head chef and at the Westin Tanbury, before rising to the position of Head Chef at Vineet Bhatia’s Michelin starred Rasoi & VBL. During his time at the Taj group, he took part in a traditional house kitchen with the local housewives in south India and developed a love of the cuisine. His menus reflects a blend of the traditional skills he learnt in his early training and the fine dining techniques acquired during his time at VBL, and are based around the use of fresh, locally sourced ingredients with south Indian flavours and spices.