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Social inspired by Kolkata’s deep obsession with food: Riyaaz Amlani

The CEO of Impresario Hospitality and Entertainment on all thing Bengali, more Socials coming to the city, his fave eats and more

Urvashi Bhattacharya | Published 02.11.23, 06:51 PM
Riyaaz Amlani with Social’s Bengali Breakfast

Riyaaz Amlani with Social’s Bengali Breakfast

All photos by Soumyajit Dey

Social has finally come to Kolkata and it has brought some new Bengali dishes with it as well. The three-storied chill spot on Russel Street covers 10,000sq feet and is all things Bengali.

My Kolkata had a chat with the CEO of Impresario Hospitality and Entertainment, Riyaaz Amlani, on the day of its launch party. Edited excerpts from the conversation follow…

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My Kolkata: Congratulations on opening Social in Kolkata. What made it the right time to open now?

Riyaaz Amlani: Thank you very much, we are very excited to be here. We have been planning to come here for a very long time and finally, we are here after five years in the making. We got a nice property that we liked and which had all the licences, it was a clean property and it was on Park Street (Russel Street). Finally, the stars aligned for us and now we are here.

Of all the localities in the city, what made this address the perfect location for Social?

Park Street is kind of the central vortex of Kolkata. Everybody comes to Park Street at some point of time. It has a rich history and tapestry of some of the best and most legendary restaurants in Kolkata. It is a good place to start. We were very keen that the first outlet in Kolkata would be in Park Street before we go to other areas. Before we go to the north, before we go to the south, before we go to Salt Lake or Rajarhat. This is a good place to start.

Are you hinting at more Socials opening in Kolkata?

Yes, absolutely. We will be opening more Socials here.

All Socials have a local touch given their different locations. What can you tell us about this one?

This Social is very heavily inspired by the coffee houses of Calcutta and the cabin restaurants of Calcutta, and you can see that. We are sitting in a cabin (The New Social Restaurant). The inspiration has been that adda culture of Kolkata, where people just sit around and interact and talk to each other. This is a space that is inspired by that. Everything that you see here has been taken from scavenger hunts, from auction houses in and around Kolkata. It’s full of Kolkata and it’s through a Social lens, so I hope that the people of Kolkata like it.

We believe a lot of the decor has been picked from places like New Market and more. Can you tell us about them and how they represent Kolkata?

Everything you see here has been picked from old bazaars and auction houses. Nothing here has been made from scratch. There was this old scavenger hunt we had gone on. We had got some tin items on Amazon, but other than that, all of them are from bazaars. The old radio is also something that is functioning.

Coming to the menu, what is the Bengali touch you have added there?

We have a Bengali breakfast, we have Luchi, Mangsho, Kolkata biryani with “duto aloo and duto deem”, Daab Chingri, Malai Chingri. So we got some definite local heroes.

What are some of the new must-tries?

I’ve tried everything on the menu, but our all-day breakfasts are very popular. Our Naga Chilli Cheese Toast is very popular. Of course, Social is famous for its Longest Long Island Ice Tea. The local dishes are pretty good, the biryanis are excellent and so are the China boxes.

For a city that loves its adda and lyadh (lazing), how well does Social fit into that emotion?

It is a relaxed place. You have lots of little nooks where you can create your own little corner. It has a little bit of a relaxed and unhurried vibe, which we hope that people will like to lyadh in!

The Longest Long Island Ice Tea, and (right) Naga Style Chilli Cheese Toast

The Longest Long Island Ice Tea, and (right) Naga Style Chilli Cheese Toast

We noticed a dance floor and DJ booth on the second floor, what are some events we can expect?

On the second floor, we have a coworking space and a conference area for people who want to do presentations or have joint meetings. In the evening, we change gears and become a very high-energy dance place. Din mein kaam, aur raat mein dance.

Finally, how social are you? On a day off, would you rather be out and about or chill at home?

I’m Social most of the time, but sometimes I’m Anti-Social as well. The last thing I want to do on my time off is see another restaurant or bar. I would really like to kick back with the family, because I see them so little. I would love to just hang with them and my kids are young, so I can’t take them to noisy bars. But my time with them is spent in trampoline parks and childrens’ play. It's quite a gear change!

On to the business side of things, where are you planning to take Social next?

Hyderabad and Goa are up next. We are launching in Goa in mid-November and Hyderabad at the end of November. So it's a busy time!

Which cities and which brands are you bullish about, at the moment?

The conference room on the second floor

The conference room on the second floor

Social, for us, is the number one brand. We believe that it is the perfect product-market fit for a place like India. We are very excited about Kolkata and we’ve been wanting to be here for the last five years. We are very excited about going to Hyderabad too, because we don't have a single outlet there right now. We are very excited to go back to Goa… all three cities in which we don’t have a presence.

Industry friends like Vicky Ratnani opened Speak Burgers in Kolkata this month, Zorawar Kalra opened Farzi Cafe some time ago. What's the feedback you’re getting from them about Kolkata as an F&B market?

Didn’t ask them (laughs). I think anybody who lands in Kolkata, within half an hour, will tell you how obsessed the city is with food. And this is not a superficial obsession, this is a deep obsession. In no other city do people go to the bazaar the way they do in Kolkata. They pick out their maachh, they pick out their meat, their chicken themselves. They know what they want and it’s all about freshness. You only see that level of love for food in Kolkata, and you only have to walk down Park Street to see it for yourself.

Rapid fire with Riyaaz

A food you try when in Kolkata?

  • The rolls. Anamika, Kusum, Nizams… the OGs! Also, Kosha Mangsho, Daab Chingri and some mishti

A nightclub you party at?

  • I recently went to A Little Bit Sober, which I really enjoyed. I like Olly Pub, Whats in D Name, AMPM…

A place you always visit?

  • Park Street! (laughs)

A go-to hotel?

  • The Park. But I also think ITC Sonar Bangla is beautiful

Something you pack for home?

  • The shikanji and masala mirch packets.
Last updated on 03.11.23, 04:37 PM
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