Women in Food | Annie Bafna from The Nutcracker
If comfort food in Mumbai had a one-stop-destination it would be The Nutcracker. On a regular day at this café, you will find all sorts of people, someone enjoying a good book with delicious hot chocolate, another having a casual meal with colleagues, while a bunch of friends indulge in their Instagram-worthy dessert.
Established in 2014, this all-day breakfast café is Annie Bafna’s passion project; and if you’re a fan of this cozy eatery, like we are, you must know their simplicity and old-world charm is what keeps us going back. Their classic breakfast options, season-special menus, kind service, and of course, their indulgent 7 Layer Cookie, makes every visit worth its while.
It’s safe to say that The Nutcracker is one of the most well-thought-out restaurants in our city and the woman behind it all, Annie Bafna, spared a few moments to share her journey and future endeavours for this space.
How has The Nutcracker journey been so far and how did it all begin?
The Nutcracker launched in 2014 – it was my first step, a small one, towards doing something I loved and felt passionate about. Since I did not have any industry experience by way of education or work experience, everything felt new and exciting. Each day was a new challenge and a whole lot of fun. The objective then was to take it one day at a time, and just focus completely on the food and service without overthinking the rest of it.
What was the initial plan for making your café stand out? How has it changed today?
The Nutcracker was designed to be a space that offers comfort food, inspired by local and international flavours, with a large focus on the breakfast all day menu, specially with a fun range of egg dishes. The idea was to offer the customers a casual and homely feel, a non-pretentious vibe with a bit of quirk, coupled with warm service and happy food. At the time, most cafés only served breakfast till about noon and the all-day breakfast concept was new to the city.
Today our core philosophy is still very much the same, however, over the years we have absorbed feedback from our customers and surrounding communities, and incorporated them into our system. The one thing that has stayed constant for us through these changes is to stay true to what we started as – comfort, fresh, home-style and community engaging.
As a woman in the food industry that’s recently been thriving with many more, how was it being a food entrepreneur about five years ago?
Honestly, I haven’t been in this space for that long, however, I do feel that the past five years have seen a lot of movement in the space, loads of new entrants, and also a customer profile change where people are way more aware of flavour, ingredients and willing to experiment with the new. So today we are more on our toes than ever before, and that’s exciting!
Which restaurant/chef is your favourite at the moment?
Internationally, I love (Yotam) Ottolenghi for his simplicity and focus on freshness of ingredients; and for pastry I love Dominique Ansel for his ability to make things look amazing but not overly pretentious.
Local all-time-favourites, depending on occasion are The Bombay Canteen, Royal China, The Table, Masque and Soam. Though I do have a whole list of new places I want to try and haven’t had the time to visit yet, so it wouldn’t be fair to make a definite pick.
The Nutcracker has kept it simple and followed new trends too, like this year you guys hosted live music days, what’s in store for 2019?
Honestly, I am not good at following trends. Instead, I’ve always loved a sense of engagement of communities, and customers woven into what we do. So, the live music evenings we had were to encourage young talent and offer them a platform to perform. Previously, during The Kala Ghoda festival we allowed enthusiastic photographers to have their clicks up on our walls. Recently, we engaged with a cause called “Masterchef for Many” where young kids designed and cooked a menu at our kitchen with the help of our chefs, and served the food to underprivileged kids at a street school.
None of these were pre-planned. They popped up in my head at the right time and we initiated them. So, I’m sure 2019 will have equally interesting things lined up.
- Your favourite dish – Nutty Spaghetti
- The healthiest pick – Asian Salad
- Best breakfast choice(s) – Akuri, Turkish Eggs, Truffle Scrambled Eggs
- Top toothsome drink(s) – Lava Shake, Breakfast in a Bottle, Mint lemonade
- Most delicious dessert – 7 Layer Cookie!
We sense a craving. 7 Layer Cookie, anyone?
The Nutcracker has two outlets, one at Fort and one in Bandra West.