A DIY Guide to Hipster Restaurants

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A DIY Guide to Hipster Restaurants

Illustration: Mandar Mhaskar

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ou’re done with all those hipster cafés. You know, the ones that don’t allow you to sit on your MacBook Air, as you write your post-irony, post-truth, post-colonial dystopian novel, while sipping on a tasteless cup of single-origin coffee all day long. You’re done. You’ll take your business elsewhere. In fact, you will create one such restaurant-café on your own, which will be an open space for young writers such as yourself, while doubling up as an art gallery.

Here’s how you’re gonna do it.

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Remember that location is of prime importance. So it can’t sit next to and be polluted by commercial cafés that serve regular cappuccino. Yuck. You’re going to have to be tucked into a tiny, cosy corner of Bandra or Hauz Khas. The greater the proximity between you and an urban village, the better. (But don’t go about choosing something out there like a Mira Road or Outer Delhi – you want to be close to the people who can actually afford the stuff on your menu.)

Now for the decor. This is mostly easy and can be pulled off on a small budget. Always, always have an exposed brick wall. All pipes and vents must be exposed, so you save painting and maintenance expenses. Think a factory but without the strong stench of the broken dreams of middle-class folks. You could give these pipes and walls a distressed effect that spells “I tried, but then the ennui took over.” Stay true to the look you’re aiming for – whatever it is, it should always look DIY and unfinished. Soup served with crumbled wall shavings will win you extra hipster points.

In Making of a Hipster Restaurant, the author delineates a few hipsterity measures that an establishment must take. For instance, throw together things that were never meant to be thrown together – like, say, a bicycle on the wall (if you have a penny-farthing, congratulations, you’ve already arrived, you don’t even need to open a restaurant). Have a couple of framed, black-and-white or sepia-toned pictures on the wall to simulate vintage-yness. You’ll also need a chalkboard where you can write Instagram-worthy quotes and for the specials of the menu.

For your furniture, choose a theme then abandon all conventional wisdom and ensure nothing matches. Eclecticism is key. Have an old sari? Repurpose it as a curtain. Found an old, rickety door on your latest jaunt through Chor Bazaar? That’s your table, right there. Steal your grandfather’s favourite chair. You might want to wait until he actually gets up but I am going to leave such judgement calls to you.

The bottled water available at the restaurant must be made from the streaming tears of Himalayan children. Again, it should be frightfully expensive.

Let the menu choices be limited, but certainly expensive. You want to append the words “homemade”, “artisanal”, and “organic” to everything. These three magic words are like “open sesame”, like a license to serve sub-par concoctions lacking taste and texture so you definitely want to pencil that in. The truly adventurous, however, will be unafraid of using “deconstructed”. Deconstructed is the IKEA of the food world. You can serve your patrons everything separately and pass it off as something that’s DIY. This way, you’ve to take no responsibility for the way it looks or tastes. Any which way you see it, it is perfect.

That’s the fun thing about being hipster, you can explain away most of your terrible taste – you were into it before it became terrible. However, you are nowhere close to being legit hipster if you are serving food in plates. Or drinks in glasses. Food must go to customers in various contraptions which could hold the dish together but don’t think of it as a necessary requirement. I mean, a little sauce seeping out of your upcycled floorboard plate is not going to kill anyone.

There is only one rule for serving drinks and it is spelt M-A-S-O-N jars. Or bamboo shoots. Or test tubes. Anything but a glass. You want people to really have to figure out how to have their drink, not just gulp it down like some caveman. Water is acceptable in glass bottles, but only in the company of a sprig of mint and a lone lemon slice bobbing up and down. The bottled water available at the restaurant must be made from the streaming tears of Himalayan children. Again, it should be frightfully expensive.

You’re nearly there! To seal the deal in Hipsterland, you’ll need to bring the bill to the patron in creative ways. This is because you want to take away the sting of paying a thousand bucks for a pasta dish the guest practically had to create on his own. It is now passé to serve the bill in a jar that has coffee beans, because every chain coffee establishment already does that (shudder). Or in an old spittoon. Or in an old jewellery box. Or even a defibrillator.

Once you’ve got the establishment in place, the rest comes easy. Especially the actual food. A few minor tweaks to a menu that reminds you of eating like a Neanderthal or as a child, paired with some kale or quinoa and single-origin cacao shake, and you’ll be up and running. Vegan and gluten-free, of course.

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