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Rohit Sachdev is the Managing Director of Soho Hospitality, a diversified hospitality company with investments in hotels, restaurants and an interior design division with projects across the region. Following the success of Above Eleven Rooftop Restaurant & Bar, Soho Hospitality is currently embarking on an aggressive expansion plan in terms of its Food and Beverage business with the recent opening of Charcoal Tandoor Grill & mixology, a new concept in indian dining. We sat down with Rohit Sachdev on a unusually cold Bangkok morning at his new restaurant after he returned from a trip to New York City.

The Interview

Q. So you were in New York City over the holidays? Was it for work or pleasure?

A. *A little bit of both. I lived in New York City for over ten years and the city has always been a source of inspiration to me, even before I knew I was going to be in the hospitality business. The purpose of the trip was to catch up with old friends as well as experience some of the new restaurants that have opened in the last year. I was truly inspired. *

Q. What is your restaurant top pick from all of the restaurants that you visited over there?

A. *I’d have to say it was Steven Starr’s new restaurant Upland. Named after a West Coast town where chef Justin Smillie built his reputation, the restaurant is based on a californian-inspired cuisine. The entire experience is compelling from the interiors, exceptional lighting, craft cocktails and food. I was impressed. I have always been huge fan of Steven Starr, he’s a restaurateur who started out in Philadelphia and then came into New York City with the restaurants Buddakan and Morimoto, a collaboration with the Food Network Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto. *

  1. So you recently opened Charcoal Tandoor Grill & Mixology in Bangkok. Tell us a little bit about your new restaurant?

Being an Indian, I have always wanted to create an indigenous Indian restaurant that would be a complete dining experience. Most Indian restaurants have traditionally focused on food whereas other things like the interiors, cocktails, lighting, uniforms, tabletop items have been seriously lacking. I wanted to change the preconceived notions of the dining experience. Working with my Food and Beverage team, we envisioned a restaurant with modern, industrial interiors, Indian accents and an unpretentious, social dining experience. As part of the Food and Beverage concept, we developed Indian spice infused craft cocktails to compliment with a traditional Tandoor and Mughlai kebab offering. We also created product differentiation by offering no fried foods or curries. Lastly, we didn’t give the restaurant a traditional indian name!

Q. No samosas, no curries?

*No! Indian food is always considered a heavy food and we wanted to offer a food concept where you wouldn’t feel overly stuffed after a meal. Having no fried foods also means we’re appealing to the health conscious consumer. I think its been quite successfully received. *

Q. I heard through the grapevine you’re opening a new restaurant?

*Yes, we will be opening a casual dining concept in Bangkok focused on chicken within the next 6 months. As we look to develop our portfolio of restaurants, we also want to focus on quick service and casual dining restaurants. They require significantly less capital expenditure and are quite scalable. We hope to expand the chicken restaurant across Thailand and the greater Asia Pacific region. *

Q. So you’re a speaker at the upcoming Global Restaurant Investment Forum in Dubai. What are some of the recent trends in Food and Beverage?

*Sustainability is now a huge push in Europe and the US. Restaurants are now more frequently using free-range chicken, eggs and meat, avoiding over fished seafood or fish raised by methods harmful to the environment, and using seafood low in mercury, which are locally caught. Customers are also increasingly concerned about where the food they eat is coming from. *

Q. What about your interior design arm? Tell us a bit about what’s going on there?

*Well, we designed Charcoal and that’s now our flagship Food and Beverage interiors project. The execution was exactly as we envisioned and the feedback on the interior design has been excellent. We’ve also recently completed three Food and Beverage outlets and a wing of guest rooms at the Moevenpick Resort and Spa on Karon Beach in Phuket. Currently, we are working on a number of hotel projects across the region including a new project acquisition in Pattaya. *

Q. What’s the key to success at Soho Hospitality?

To make sure we stay passionate and inspired while keeping our hands and feet on the ground. Consumer behavior is constantly changing and we need to stay humble, attentive and observant to the evolving trends. If not, we will lose touch with what our consumers want!

I have been to try Rohit’s new Charcoal restaurant and I can say that it definitely lives up to the hype.  The attention to detail was amazing – even down to pre-recorded sounds of Mumbai in the bathrooms.  We at will be looking forward to see the opening of Soho Hospitality’s new projects this year..