Bistro Vadouvan’s Durga Misra on combining French technique with Middle Eastern and Indian cooking

By Hannah Thompson contact

- Last updated on GMT

Bistro Vadouvan’s Durga Misra

Related tags: French cuisine

The Eric Chavot protege on surviving in the suburbs and the joy of creating new dishes

What’s the thinking behind Bistro Vadouvan?​ 

We want to present beautiful French cuisine in a modern way. We use less fat and the cream, but still pack the dishes with spices and flavours. The ambience is relaxed and casual. We are providing fine dining food in an informal atmosphere at bistro prices.

The French - Middle Eastern style is quite unusual. Where does the inspiration for the menu come from?

My food inspiration comes from a mix of my experiences working for the incredibly talented chefs, including Eric Chavot, Raphael Duntoye, Bruno Loubet and Joel Antunes. They taught me the fundamentals and subtleties of fine French food and that it’s not just about the Michelin stars. 

Why open Bistro Vadouvan now?​ 

This opportunity in Putney came up and it was right time for both of us. I’ve been friends with [business partner and co-founder] Uttam Tripathy for a while but until now I’ve always been busy in other restaurants, and he was busy at Potli [an Indian ‘market kitchen’ restaurant in Hammersmith]. I’ve also been incredibly lucky to have the support and advice of my former mentor Eric Chavot during the opening phase here. He’s been in the kitchen. It’s amazing to have someone like him so involved and helping me.

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The main dining room - Photo: Jade Nina Sarkhel

Where does the restaurant’s name come from?​ 

The French occupied a small region of India called Pondicherry which was their base for the spice trade. At this time they made a spice blend called vadouvan which has fried onions, curry leaves and fenugreek seeds. When I came across this spice for the first time, it intrigued me.

Given the name, and your and Tripathy’s Indian heritage, are there Indian influences?

It’s really a combination of what makes me happy, and I have long been adding various Asian and Middle Eastern ingredients to dishes as it makes them tastier and a bit different. For instance, I like to add a touch of harissa to a classic bouillabaisse, as I think it adds to the depth of flavour and really enhances the dish. Nowadays people do want more spice in their food, and they are also more conscious of health, so they want less cream and heaviness, and more freshness. 

How different is Bistro Vadouvan to your Michelin-starred days, in terms of hours or style? 

Nothing has changed for me. I work as hard as before if not harder [Misra's career has included time at Knightsbridge fish restaurant One-O-One, the two-Michelin-starred Capital Hotel in Belgravia under Chavot; La Petite Maison with Duntoye; as head chef at Kitchen by Joel Antunes; and head chef at Brasserie Chavot in Mayfair]. I am still sleep deprived but creating a new dish still gives bring me joy. 

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Bistro Vadouvan's Crab and prawn salad - Photo: ​Jade Nina Sarkhel

How do you make Bistro Vadouvan’s work in the suburbs?

We are really about doing great food at bistro prices. This has always been the ethos of Potli, and it’s been very successful. People who live in the suburbs eat out regularly in London’s top restaurants. They expect a high standard of food when they eat out around their homes, but they don’t want to necessarily pay the same as in central, so we pride ourselves on delivering that. That’s the secret to a successful local restaurant. We like to get to know our customers and really make them feel they are special. 

What has been the best thing about opening?

It’s been an incredible journey – for the first time being the person actually creating, defining and deciding on each dish. It’s a lot of pressure but unbelievably rewarding – especially now that we can see the customers really enjoying them and appreciating the effort we have made to bring out different flavours. 

What has been the most challenging thing?

I am a novice as a businessman so it’s all been a really steep learning curve. But I am really fortunate to have a great friend and business partner in Tripathy, who has a lot of experience in running a very successful restaurant already. His good judgment and calm business ability have really helped me. Chavot has also been quietly providing guidance and words of wisdom.

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