The quaint hill town of Coonoor has seen a few changes since the summers of my childhood.That’s why I was most excited to see the sign that said ‘Open Kitchen pizzeria & deli‘ set above the provision store at Bedford. Apart from a couple of mentions on my instagram feed about the pizzas I didn’t really know much about it but boy was I curious !
The cool mountain air brings on the hungry munchies and a hot fresh-out-of-the-oven pizza sounded irresistible an option to try while on vacation.Since I had heard from the locals that the place was quite small,I called ahead to make a reservation.The owner Priyak Mitra promised to have a table ready for us for lunch. Despite the visibility of the sign board,it’s not until you climb the short steep stairway that one actually catches sight of the narrow rectangular space that houses just about 4 wooden tables and benches.The bright red door sets the tone for the pop culture vibe that the space imparts.Movie posters and other fun framings make it a cool place for people of all ages to hangout.The menu is designed to resemble a blackboard and chalk effect and the options though limited are extremely appealing.
My brother said someone recommended the ‘bacon bomb’ pizza so we ordered one of that along with a pepperoni and one with bell peppers.The opening in the wall opposite us allowed a view of the kitchen and it was great to see the pizzas being made fresh on order. Priyak’s wife, Pixie came by to ask if we’d like to order drinks and added that bottled water is not sold since the kitchen is fitted with a water purifier.
The pizzas came fast,served on pine wood bases along with paper plates and napkins to pass around. Steel cutlery was available as an option. Both the pepperoni and bacon pizzas were excellent. The whole wheat thin crust base was baked to the right level of crispness just when the ages were starting to curl and get a bit of char on them. It felt light despite the high calorie pork toppings ! The veggie pizza though well cooked,lacked a bit in terms of flavour. Moments later Priyak did come by to apologise that his chefs had forgotten to add the olives and jalapenos. By then we had given it a fair dousing of herbs and chilli flakes so it didn’t matter all that much.
Another round of the non-veg pizzas later it was dessert time.A bigger blackboard on the wall has the names of dishes which aren’t on the menu.I learn later that these are made by Pixie at home and served depending on the availability of the ingredients. Though she is more familiar with cooking Asian food, Pixie is enjoying the discovery of her dessert prowess.
I love a traditional apple and pastry dessert and the apple tart looked all golden and extremely appetizing.After the first mouthful(which I absolutely loved) I have to say that in order to fully appreciate a caramel of this intensity one needs a more aware palate. The boiled sugar syrup is taken just up until the stage where it starts to turn slightly bitter ,to a golden brown almost before being added to the fruit.It is paired with a sweet scoop of vanilla ice-cream which is just super. Despite enjoying every bite of the fresh mango ice-cream my mother suggested,to our amusement that they needed to bring the generosity of the serving down by a notch! The egg-less strawberry ice-cream was equally delicious as was the chocolate brownie !
The couple moved to the Nilgiris just 4 years ago. Having had his upbringing in the hills all through his childhood,Priyak said that Coonoor seemed the most idyllic setting for him , particularly when he did most of his work as a journilst , online. Cooking is a passion which he tested commercially for the first time when operating a beach shack in Goa. Given the choice between making his two favourites ; pizza or mughlai food, he opted for the former due to his work space limitations. He is conscientious of where he buys his groceries and does not compromise on quality. Plans are afoot to swap the sandwiches on his menu with wholesome burger options.
There is a little metal sign that says ‘Ayesha’ which is placed right between the words ‘ SMILE’ and “HAPPY’ which was made for their daughter and fit in well with the décor. It really does add insight into the personalities not only of the folk running the place but also about the sort of customer vibes they hope to attract ! Though the taste of the food is of paramount importance while running an eatery , as human beings we also often crave for spaces that can offer us a sense of all that is positive in our surroundings. I can honestly say that I felt rather happy during the time I spent at The Open kitchen and it definitely was about more than just the food !
Since setting up the pizzeria Priyak says his social life has taken a nose dive but that he’s happy with what he’s been able to achieve in such a short span of time doing exactly what he loves!
Open kitchen (please call ahead for reservations)
27 Simrath villa,
Staines school road,