Lupa is a portal to a world of Tuscan treasures, and also the first time we get unrestricted access into the wild imagination of Manu Chandra & Chetan Rampal.
The thing about Manu is that he’s a history buff. He’s also a design geek, tile aficionado, lover of verandahs, and may very well be moonlighting as an ergonomics expert. He studied arts in high school, but gleefully reveals his scientific bent of mind.
He also cooks. Rather well.
I remember completing a campaign with Manu and meeting him for a quick glass of red in September 2021 at the charming Olive Bangalore. As always – cool as a cucumber, full of quips, chatting about entrepreneurial hunger, rolling eyes over influencer marketing. Days after, Chandra and long-time colleague Chetan Rampal exited a 17-year-long partnership with the iconic Olive group. “What next? Where to?” was the most wondered question, obviously after “why aren’t more people masked up?”
16 months forth, here’s what’s next. The Lab Mag got an exclusive preview of Manu Chandra Ventures co-founded by Chetan Rampal and Chef Manu Chandra. This multidisciplinary company has a portfolio of brands across creative & operational verticals of the business.
Let’s start with the newest restaurant on the block that has everyone in a tizzy – Lupa.
Lupa is the first time we get unrestricted access into the wild imagination of Manu & Chetan. Niki, our Content Lead, reminds me about the word limit….but holy duck (#iykyk), Lupa deserves a book. The flair across food, drink, and service is contemporary; the thought, design, and inspiration are charmingly old-world. Named after the mythological La Lupa, Italian for ‘the she-wolf’, who raised Romulus and Remus, the founders of the modern city of Rome, Lupa manages to combine age-old artistry with modern presentation.
Manu walks us through the impressive 11,000 sq ft space, peppered with details that make the experience equally seamless for the diner and service team. The outdoor courtyard is washed with the calming sounds of water trickling in a hand-carved marble fountain, custom-made curved terracotta roof, and bespoke urns. The indoor bar & dining offers grandiose via high ceilings, cut glass, Tuscany flooring, a mix of on-trend fringe and seductive art-deco lighting, bar chairs at the right height, and comfortable leg rests. Special focus on dynamic sound and light for the space to be responsive to the time and vibe of the day. If you’re not already tickled silly, there’s a mini Gelato Lab and a Salumeria serving hard-churned gelato, cured meats, and local cheese (hurrah for Begum Victoria cheese). The space has more design details than the days in a year, yet feels comfortable and lived in.
The outside deck is perfect for cocktails, conversation, wood-fired pizza, live grills, and a late night boogie. Is this Manu’s dreamy & laidback Tuscan country home? Add a bed, steal some of the uber comfy sinky cushions, and we’re ready with a one-way ticket.
Two specific spots at Lupa firm up our travel plans – The Wine Cellar and the Private Dining Area. The former is India’s first & unique stone-clad cellar that will soon hold a curated list of 2,000 bottles of wine. The latter seats 12 people and offers a vantage view of the restaurant. Perched on the mezzanine floor, flanked by two old-world winding staircases, this chef’s table is intimate, sexy, and exciting. Both spaces are available by prior appointment.
The European food programming, led by Chef Prashanth Puttaswamy, is inventive, well-portioned, seasonal, and (thank god) tasty. Table pleasers include burrata with spray-dried tomato powder, baby arugula, fennel, basil oil, and tomato; hamachi with red cabbage, ponzu dressing, and bonito mayo; spicy baked halloumi; a Tuscan-style pressed half brick chicken. Special hurrah for the grazing boards, tigelle buns, condiments, spicy edamame & green pea pâté with toasted brioche, and Nonna’s tub of tiramisu. We didn’t go in for a second bite of the raviolo (one more boiling minute) and poached meringue with passionfruit (too sweet). The food carries clear intent and doesn’t choke the diner with cerebral nothings. Yes, it’s elevated and fine, but also familiar, comforting, and rugged.
The tipple is exciting. Not just for the obvious skill and flavour, but for invisible-but-integral process optimisation. The menu is programmed keeping service speed and consistency in mind. True to his previous-life take on cocktails, you continue to see methods like shrubs, fat washes, and infusions. We would like our lifelong first order to be a Lupa-tini with vodka and house-made sous-vide Limoncello. Also enjoyed the Melon Cheese & Ham with gin, dry vermouth, house-made melon cordial, and a Mozzarella foam.
The bit that truly stood out, in a sea of cynical takes on hospitality, was Lupa’s focus on internal processes and dignity of labour. It doesn’t need The Bear (incredible) to reveal the gruelling side of the back-of-house. Lupa’s kitchen – oh my. 2,000 sq. ft. across two levels, brightly lit, washrooms and a cafe for staff, state-of-the-art equipment….oh my.
Manu and Chetan are award magnets. The plethora of press pieces will tell you that. This restaurant will be no different. The difference this time is that, finally, we get a real look inside Manu’s detailed mind.
Where: 86, M.G. Road, Ground Floor, Spencer’s Towers, Bengaluru
Call: +91 8792384999/ +91 8792385999
Be social: @thelupagram