Follow Mint Lounge

Latest Issue

Home > Food> Discover > The man behind Dubai's best restaurants

The man behind Dubai's best restaurants

Bhupender Nath, who runs multiple fine- dining spaces in Dubai, believes a restaurant must make a ‘guest’s soul rejoice’

Bhupender Nath.
Bhupender Nath.

Restaurateur Bhupender Nath may not know how to make an omelette but he has cracked the code for running extremely successful restaurants. Some of them have won Michelin stars.

The 51-year-old entrepreneur is the force behind Trèsind Studio (two Michelin stars), Avatara (one Michelin star) and seven-month-old Aamara, which has entered the Bib Gourmand of the Michelin Guide that lists restaurants with moderate prices. In fact, Passion Food and Beverage, the parent company of these Dubai-based establishments, started by Nath in 2014, took home the maximum number of awards at the Michelin ceremony held in Dubai last month. Two days ago, Trèsind Studio, a smaller version of Trèsind with a tasting menu, was named The Best Restaurant in Middle East & Africa by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants and secured the 11th rank on the prestigious list.

The story begins with Nath’s father. In the 1970s, his father, along with a business partner, established the Palace Hotel and Restaurant in Patna. “One day, I saw him crying. He had lost the business,” says Nath, without explaining further. It seeded a desire in the seven-year-old to give his father a restaurant “as a gift” one day.

But Nath, who says he comes from a middle-class family, knew he would be able to start a business only once he had the capital. “It would require 25-30 lakh to open a restaurant. So, somebody told me if you work abroad, you can make money like that.”

So he worked towards getting a business degree through correspondence and looked for opportunities abroad. A relative introduced him to P.K. Gupta, who ran an import-export business, Parco Enterprises Nigeria Ltd, that exported chemicals and bicycle parts from India and imported steel from Ukraine. He was hired; within six years, he was heading the firm’s shipping and chartering arm. “But in the back of my mind, I knew that I had to open a restaurant.”

So he left Parco to start a business, African Fish Company Nigeria Ltd, importing frozen fish in Nigeria in the late 1990s. “(At that time) who would think that this business could bring in millions and millions of dollars in turnover?” says Nath.

In 2008, Nath and his wife moved to “safer” Dubai in search of a good education for their two young children. It was here that his dream of starting a restaurant materialised. Not without hiccups, though.

Nath secured a franchise to open an acclaimed, fine-dining Indian restaurant there. The plan fell through a day before it was due to open in 2014—he refuses to say more. Nath would open Trèsind in the same location, in the same year, self-funding it.

This plan took shape after a phone call from US-based chef Himanshu Saini, who wanted to work with him. Nath, in turn, had tasted Saini’s food at the Masala Library and knew he had immense talent. In a matter of days, he emailed a flight ticket to Saini. “We knew that we wanted to start something different.” It meant there would be no kadhai chicken served in a small balti and naans would not come in a bread basket. “The whole idea was to take people on a culinary journey.”

This translated into one of Trèsind’s most popular menu items, the 20-ingredient khichdi. The comforting dish comes with masalas and condiments—papaya chutney from Gujarat, saffron from Kashmir and ghee from Punjab—sourced from 20 Indian states and is placed on a plate shaped like the map of India. It’s a compelling idea to demonstrate how a simple dish can be reinterpreted in a fine-dining format.

This is in line with Nath’s philosophy that a restaurant must make a “guest’s soul rejoice”. He explains: “I started an Indian restaurant. This is the kind of food that Indians who visit my restaurant have at home. In fact, theirs is perhaps better than what I can make here. So, as an Indian, why would you come to my restaurant? I have to give you something different. Plus, I have to give you value for your hard-earned money. This is my USP. The food should please your eyes, satisfy your palate and fill your stomach.” Phrases like “something different” and “value for money” repeat throughout the hour-long interview.

While Trèsind was the first restaurant, Nath went on to establish Trèsind Studio, a casual-dining iteration, Carnival by Trèsind, a catering arm, Gala by Trèsind, a curry-focused restaurant, Maison De Curry, and a tapas-oriented bar, A Cappella.

Last year, he opened two more restaurants—the slightly lower priced Aamara and the sattvic, vegetarian and vegan Avatara. Carnival and Avatara are scheduled to open in Mumbai soon.

Quick takes

• Fave restaurant in India: O Pedro 
• A dish that reminds you of home: Litti bharta
• Fave food city apart from Dubai: London

The writer was in Dubai at the invitation of Dubai’s department of economy and tourism.

Next Story