Our series of online HK people profiles covers a wide range of backgrounds, careers and personalities of individuals in Hong Kong. In this instalment, we chat with TANVIR BHASIN and VIDUR YADAV; they’re the brains behind Bengal Brothers, an exciting new venue for classic Indian street food and grab-and-go snacks!
Tell us a bit about your background; where are you from, where did you grow up?
Tanvir: I grew up all over India – from big cities to small, lesser known ones. Such is the life of a military kid! I left India to attend university in the US, and I’ve been a proud Hong Kong resident for several years now.
Vidur: I grew up in Delhi and went to a traditional all boys boarding school. I attended hospitality school in Switzerland and came straight to Hong Kong from there.
Is Hong Kong “home” for you? How did you two meet?
Vidur: Hong Kong certainly has my heart. We wouldn’t have opened Bengal Brothers here if we weren’t committed to this wonderful city.
Tanvir: We met on the stoop of a restaurant in Soho. Vidur was working and I was going through a tough time. Meeting someone from back home was so comforting. We became instant friends.
Congratulations on opening Bengal Brothers; tell us about the eatery.
Vidur: Bengal Brothers is fast-casual, it’s fun and it’s authentic. We missed the street food of India and recognised that between the bargain curry houses and fine dining Indian restaurants in Hong Kong, there is very little. We’re delighted to have opened the city’s only kati roll concept. This is the type of food you can eat multiple times a week – and people are! We have seen several customers come back days in a row. Seeing our neighbours enjoy the food of our childhood is very special.
Why did you choose this location?
Tanvir: Did you know that Calcutta is the only city in India that has a tram service?
Vidur: We looked at close to 20 venues, but when we saw this spot, with the trams clattering by, we knew this was it.
What have been the surprises and challenges of doing business in HK?
Tanvir: A good surprise has been that the city is completely kitted out to support businesses. There is always an expert available; you don’t have to scramble for information. On the other hand, the challenge has also been trying to absorb all that information and sift through it. It’s a lot!
Give us an insight into a typical working day for you.
Tanvir: I get up at 8.15am and have a hot cup of water. I start the day with intention setting, stretching and reviewing my to-do list. Then I have a hot shower and grab my bag to leave. I’m very organised because I was raised in a military family!)
I hop onto the bus to Wan Chai and then have a cup of chai with the team and catch up on the day before. Then we start setting the shop up for business, and we open at 11. Our first customers come in at 11.15 and then it’s very busy until about 2pm. At 1.30pm, we start thinking about staff meals and we eat as a team once lunch service has wound down. 3.30pm is team coffee and then at about 5 we have a pre-dinner meeting. We’re busy again from 6.30 onwards until about 9.30 on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. I usually get home at around 9.45. I’d love to walk home but it’s just too hot right now!
Vidur: I wake up at 7.30 and go over the previous days reports for Bengal Brothers and our sales analytics. I check my emails and come to the shop by around 10.30am. I make sure everything is set up, that everything is clean and that the music is on, and so on. I do the lunch service and then in the afternoon I take any meetings I need to, including interviews for additional staff. We get into dinner service at about 6.30 and then finish off at around 9.30 or 10. I go home and check if I have any urgent emails and then I head to bed.
What neighbourhood do you currently live in, and why did you choose it?
Tanvir: I live in Mid-Levels. I’ve lived in a few apartments in that area. I like my neighbourhood routine.
Vidur: I live in Kennedy Town. I love the neighbourhood. It’s a good mix of nice cafés and shops and has a real neighbourhood vibe.
What are three things you like about your neighbourhood?
Tanvir: I like my local coffee shop, the fact that my gym is just a couple of streets down, and all the public transport options in the area.
Vidur: Kennedy Town has great neighbourhood restaurants and I love the coffee shops. The fact that it’s by the water is another win for me.
Describe your home to us.
Tanvir: My girlfriend is Hong Kong Chinese and spent a couple of years in Bombay. She might even miss it more than I do. Our flat is an old Bombay flat from the 1950s. We have an old-style refrigerator lift, and a 16th-century safe in the middle of the flat. Lots of earthy materials and colours.
Vidur: I live with my girlfriend in a cute apartment on the 27th floor. It’s filled with knickknacks from India and our travels.
Outside of work, what are your hobbies in Hong Kong?
Vidur: Tennis, swimming and reading culinary and lifestyle magazines.
Tanvir: Yoga, Muay Thai and reading as many religious or geographical history books as I can get my hands on.
Quick questions about Hong Kong: what is your favourite …
Date night restaurant?
Tanvir: The now closed Cafe Gray.
Tanvir: I like casual bars. The Phoenix pub at the top of the escalator hits the spot.
Vidur: Mizunara Library, a whisky bar.
Tanvir: Turnip cake.
Vidur: Char siu bao.
Thing to do with visitors?
Tanvir: Up the Peak Tram, around Lugard Road down to Repulse Bay.
Vidur: Late night dim sum.
Nearby holiday destination?
Like this? See more in our HK people profile series in our Living in Hong Kong section!