New play group

Mumbai-based start-up Stappu is set to change the rules of food pop-ups and flea markets in the city

The Stappu team with all the “food artists”
The Stappu team with all the “food artists”

After two years of writing about food and eating out greedily, I’ve recently started budgeting my dining out expenses and the biggest cuts so far have been on my trips to food festivals, pop-ups and flea markets. Believe it or not, I end up spending a lot more in a few hours at these events than on a weekend of eating and drinking at new restaurants and bars. The fear of not sampling everything on offer and acquainting myself with the latest food trends results in me leaving with jars of homemade pickles and jams and a tummy-full of (mostly) substandard snacks and baked goods by home-based chefs.

Gaurang Bailoor’s hors d’oeuvre of homemade, lemongrass-flavoured chicken sausage with pumpkin slivers, topped with a red pepper cardamom sauce.
Don’t get me wrong; this is an important exercise and I’ve met some really cool and now very popular food entrepreneurs through these weekend meet-and-greet carnivals. But now, since I see a lot of the same faces at these markets and exhibitions, I’ve started exercising a bit more caution before signing up for them. I was a bit sceptical when I received an invite for new start-up Stappu’s launch event “Taste The Game” and, if I am being completely honest, I didn’t think it merited time on the weekend. In hindsight, I wish I’d got there at the stipulated time rather than the last 30 minutes or so because it was easily one of the most exciting and refreshing food events I’ve attended in a long time.

Given the venue – the House of Tales gallery in Kala Ghoda’s quaint VB Gandhi Marg behind Rhythm House – I assumed it would be like any other exhibition-cum-sale of dips, desserts and assorted nibbles made by first-time exhibitors in small batches at their homes. I didn’t get the first-time exhibitor peddling homemade food bit wrong but I was so wrong about the kind of food I assumed they were going to sell. Actually, none of the participants were selling any eatables at all. Stappu’s event was a ticketed affair where visitors (limited to 50 in number) could sample as much food, drink and dessert as they liked and take home details on how to place orders through the start-up’s Facebook page and eventually their e-commerce website.

Ek Cutting, another new food business by fashion stylists and self-confessed “foodies” Mansi Shah and Hirav Patel. who sell home-made dips, drinks and desserts, packaged in dainty cutting chai glasses (set of six)
Upon arrival, we were served glasses of cool watermelon gazpacho by former software developer and budding food entrepreneur Sanjay Gandhi, who offers private dining experiences (mostly European cuisines “with a modernist flourish”) under his brand new venture “Atelier” through Stappu. Next we sampled some excellent, value-for-money party dips by Ek Cutting, another new food business by fashion stylists and self-confessed “foodies” Mansi Shah and Hirav Patel. Packaged in dainty cutting chai glasses (set of six), we immediately identified our favourites here: The sunset hummus made with coloured bell peppers and a spinach and potato dip called Popeye’s Favourite.

We also picked up a bruschetta-style toast with a “Amma’s Mutton” topping by one of our favourite home-based food entrepreneurs, Sneha Nair of Poppadum, who specializes in hosting guests for Malayali meals at her home. She was sharing her table with self-trained cook Gaurang Bailoor, who conducts cooking classes in partnership with Stappu. We were most impressed by the two dishes he brought to the table: A cauliflower pate on a bed of mushroom marmalade on a brown toast, which reminded us of Heston Blumenthal’s meaty mains disguised as dessert and an hors d’oeuvre of homemade, lemongrass-flavoured chicken sausage with pumpkin slivers, topped with a red pepper and cardamom sauce.

Our loot from the Stappu event included Manga and Cream Cake Dessert jar, a “Red Velvet” beetroot halwa from Ek Cutting, coffee sugar and herb salt by Aditi Keni.
Also on offer were delectable dessert jars by Lisha Parikh under her brand BakerHer, brownies by Drishtii Makhijani and cake pops by another home-based baker duo called Madd Batter but our favourites came from Sucrée’s Preeti Shetty, who made a delicious salted caramel brownie served with an even better jalapeño jam and mini crepes with Nutella and banana. Stappu founders Jeevika Tyagi (former banker) and Kanika Khosla (a trained architect and former marketing and communications manager) also sent us home with little jars of “Sugar Coffee” and herbed salt by celebrity chef Aditi Keni.

Eventually, Stappu (hopscotch is popularly known as Stappu in north India, according to Tyagi and Khosla) will diversify into various other forms of goods and services. The idea is that Stappu’s monthly events help familiarize the city with the city’s hidden population of talented cooks, bakers, painters, artists, performance artists, musicians, designers and pretty much anyone who wants to sell or offer their wares or services alongside the company’s strictly curated assortment of sellers. Tyagi and Khosla, both in their mid-twenties, tell us that Stappu will be a bit like e-commerce portal Etsy but they will keep close tabs on who gets featured on the website through stringent checks and whetting procedures.

For more details, to shop for food or to book services and for information on upcoming events, visit here.

This weekly series, which appears on Tuesdays, looks at what’s new with food and drink, and how we are interacting with it.

More From Livemint