Discern Chats with Aditi Dugar

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For the last few months, Masque has been serving up food to Mumbaikars that has been locally-sourced and infused with an unparalleled level of creativity and innovation thanks to the team of Aditi Dugar and Chef Prateek Sadhu. Masque was designed by Ashiesh Shah, and its architecture and art-deco inspired decor is reason enough to visit the restaurant. We recently caught up with Aditi and discovered that Masque had launched a Sunday brunch - and who doesn’t love a good brunch? Naturally, we bombarded her with a few questions on brunch, entertaining, and Masque. 

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What is it about Sunday brunch that people love?
Sunday is all about relaxation and indulgence. When you combine great food with a laid-back atmosphere and good friends, you’ve got a winning combination. Throw in some cocktails and who knows where the day might take you!
 

How have you approached the concept of brunch vs. the traditional understanding?
Traditionally, Sunday brunches were paired with champagne, but more recently, they've inlucded cocktails with a set open bar. Since inception, we've recognised Gin's incredible versatility and how it is gaining popularity as the preferred tipple of choice, which is how we conceptualised our Gin and Tonic Sundays came about. Mixologists craft gin cocktails to suit the tastes and preferences of diners and then pair them with the food. Another unique aspect of our brunch is its adherence to our course-by-course format, rather than offering a buffet or à la carte menu; the format allows our team to put together dishes that really work well together and, as a whole, create magic.
   
When it comes to the ambience, considering Masque is quite sleek and not necessarily what you think of when you think of brunch, how have you made it work? Or did this work to your advantage?
Natural light floods in from the skylight above and illuminates the restaurant floor which is part white polished marble and part textured slate surfaces. This gives the brunch an atmosphere that is natural and almost home-like. Masque’s design philosophy follows the Wabi Sabi principle, a celebration of the beauty of things modest and humble. Our food, too, celebrates the humble and the luxurious in a culinary ode to nature’s abundance. Brunches are meant to be informal, where you can just be who you are and eat what you want. In addition to this, kids are welcome for brunch and lunch at Masque, which adds fun to our fine-dining experience. 
 
Tell us about the menu you've curated?
The menu is inspired by classic brunch dishes, with a Masque twist. It's a tasting menu that features what we'd want to eat on a Sunday - comfort food elevated to fine-dining standards. Grilled cheeses stuffed with morels, Nutella French toast, bulgogi - the stuff Sunday dreams are made of!
 

More importantly, tell us about the drink menu for brunch!
The drinks menu features a variety of gin cocktails in flavour combinations you wouldn't necessarily expect. The Terra, one of Masque's most popular drinks, uses turmeric-infused gin with ginger and tonic; another one uses kale and cucumber juice to make for a beverage that feels light, fresh and healthy. We also do one using strawberries from our farm, and another with Blue Tokai's signature Masque blend. Gin is an extremely versatile spirit that pairs well with so many flavours, which is what we're trying to showcase.
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What are your suggestions when it comes to brunch entertaining - on music, ambience, decor, serving style, and menu!
The idea is to give the meal a relaxed hue while also being fun. The ambience is definitely set by the décor and the music, but also by the service and the food. The music should oscillate from being light and upbeat to perhaps swinging classics that are sure to get the crowd on its feet after a few drinks. The service, while being elegant at all times, must exude the idea of fun. The décor can be livened up with cheerful flower arrangements and loads of ambient lighting. The menu, which is the most important aspect, must have a lot of variety for all sorts of diners - from someone feeling peckish to someone feeling parched.
 
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Devika Pathak is a Mumbai-based freelance writer who enjoys the cinema, yoga and chocolate chip cookies. She's secretly a Panda, too. To learn more about her and her work, please visit www.devikapathak.com.

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