In the five short years since it opened its doors, Leeds-based Bundobust has established itself as one of the most exciting restaurant chains in Britain. With outlets in its native Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester it has found fame with everyone from restaurant critics to beer connoisseurs with its winning blend of Indian street food and craft ale.
With a new outlet in Manchester due to open soon and plans to open two new restaurants a year around the North of England, the Bundobust brand is one of the most successful Yorkshire’s food and drink scene has seen for some time.
When I sit down with its owners Marko Husak and Mayur Patel however they both seem relaxed and composed.
“I don’t think that for both us that there is anything else that we want to do,” says Mayur.
He looks around the Leeds restaurant which, despite it being just after 12pm on a Tuesday is rapidly filling up.
“This is what it is about really. Building more Bundos, eating and drinking - it is fun.”
Marko agrees, saying: “We open the doors and it is instant. It just has the right atmosphere, the beer the food pricing. It is just a well-balanced proposition.”
It is a proposition that came together via a chance inquiry made via Twitter between two like-minded souls both running successful Bradford enterprises.
Mayur’s family run the revered Prashad restaurant, famed for its vegetarian Gujarati cuisine.
Meanwhile Marko was running The Sparrow craft beer bar in the city.
One day Mayur reached out to his soon-to-be business partner, asking if he fancied doing a beer and food event together. For Marko the answer was simple, given he was planning on asking Mayur to do the exact same thing.
As Mayur said: “We were both businesses in Bradford doing kind of the same thing and doing well in Bradford. We reached out to see if we could do something together, at least as an event.”
Marko adds: “We both had a meeting, we made the call, had the event where we basically did two nights at the Prashad where we brought the beer. It was a six course tasting menu, a ticketed event. And then Mayur came to The Sparrow and it was very much like this where beers were pouring and a bit of food was going out. So very informal. And we kind of liked that vibe.”
A few more collaborations followed before the forming of Bundobust officially occurred. The name itself, Hindi for “an arrangement” sums up the diverse offering well.
“Both of our businesses before this was each of its item,” said Mayur.
“It has gravitas, it is not just a concept we put together.”
But was the plan always to offer strictly vegetarian food?
Marko admits there was a brief discussion about bringing meat onto the menu but that it was quickly jettisoned when they all realised “it was just a stupid idea”.
Mayur adds: “We quickly realised that just was not where our area of expertise is and you know there are other cultures and cuisines that already do that better, so why would we want to do it. We just want to be the best at what we know.”
The initial site and official Bundobust headquarters is on Leeds’s Mill Street, a location that came up owing to the landlord being a regular in The Sparrow.
Marko remembers it fondly: “Trinity was just about to open. We were at the right place at the time. We though we would open this one. We didn’t really think about another one initially. But we soon did after a few months once it started doing well we thought we can potentially take it elsewhere.”
Manchester would soon follow, with Liverpool the next stop after that. The pair say that the main prerequisite for potential locations is ensuring that they are “beer forward cities”.
Mayur said: “We would not want to have to go to cities that don’t have the taste for it because that is our customer, that is who we are going to be serving.
“We certainly both of us had ambitions to open more Northern sites. That was part of the plan, to stay close to the base. And Manchester was just that logical next step.
“We tend to try and figure out the places that we would want to go to and frequent and see that customer fitting in with us. We did the Midlands recently.
“Nothing is standing out yet, but there is certainly space for us in Leicester, Nottingham and Birmingham.
“We certainly want to grow. We want to try and do two a year. That’s our goal.”
Not long after the Manchester branch opened came the Bundobust Eureka moment when Observer food critic Jay Rayner delivered a gushing review of the place.
“It is one of a kind,” he wrote.
“But if there isn’t a Bundobust like this in every university town across the north of England within three years I’ll be very surprised.”
An already successful start up restaurant had just hit the big time.
Marko said: “It had started well anyway. But that took us on to the next level really. We were having to turn people away in Manchester, and then Leeds had a positive effect even though it was the Manchester one that was reviewed.
“When you hear someone say something like that then you think, ‘OK, we better actually move on now and do that’.”
The only thing the pair took exception to was the student reference.
“It was really funny that, it does pop up in my head now again,” said Mayur.
“Because if you do look at Bundobust customers they are not necessarily students. It may have the perception of a hipster brand but its not. Beer and Indian food appeal to a lot of people.
“We have always said is to not be snobby about it. It is not an exclusive party we want everyone to be involved.”
I ask the inevitable question as to whether they feel Bundobust would have been the success it has been were it not for the explosion of interest in craft beer in recent years.
Marko answers: “Yes and no. It has helped a lot but we have helped introduce craft beer to the city, we have been part of that explosion.
"We have helped with a new generation of beer fans.”
Building a successful chain has meant a lot of changes for the pair.
When Bundobust opened initially Mayur was very hands on the kitchen while Marko spent much of his time manning the bar.
Marko explains: “That has changed now. We are in the office upstairs. It is a new challenge now but it is exciting.”
Mayur adds: “We have now become the worst people at either pulling a pint or cooking. And I think that is part of the growth.
“Growing up as a business has happened really quickly for us. I think over the last year the amount of systems and process that we have put in place, while not the sexy stuff, is actually really exciting to see because we are able now to grow without worrying every day.”