If there is one thing I have understood about Ahmedabad and its night birds is that the vibe is utterly local and it’s brilliant. Therefore, while for most restaurants to survive might be doable, it’s hitting that sweet spot that will require a lot of work. The ones that are successful cater to local taste buds and how. Pepito, a new addition to the city’s F&B scene, is a fine example of that.
The menu takes ideas from different parts of the world - here you can eat dim sums and pasta and cheese naan with paneer makhani at the same table - and then plays around with ingredients and puts out a fun dish. So you could call it experimental, but it’s something Ahmedabad is loving at the moment and what the city wants, it gets. And given that vegetarianism still rules here, paneer and cheese are still wearing the crowns.
The look and feel
Clearly inspired by Mediterranean aesthetics with its rustic white walls, the touch of blue here and there, woven chairs, it really is a pretty space, and it’s massive. Pepito might call itself a bistro but it’s more like a restaurant designed to cater to even a 20-guest table. It can accommodate up to 220 people and is spread across 13,500 square-feet and I kid you not, the night I was there, it was 90 per cent occupied. In fact, people were walking in at 11.30 pm for their dinner, post dinner.
Given the sheer size of the space, what is rather clever is how they’ve created various sections across this two-level restaurant. So if you’re alone and just want to eat quietly, there’s a nook that’s ideal for the anti-socials, or if you’d like to grab a coffee and some cheesecake, they’re a special cafe section within the restaurant for just that. And if you walk in with your entire family, they’ll find you a table without having to displace others or do the whole adjustment in a frenzy.
On the menu
You need to be in the mood for something specific if you don’t want to spend 30 minutes just wondering what you want. Pepito has Asian, European and Indian dishes on its menu. If you feel like something fancy, try Avocado Swirl Salad. It's got mixed quinoa, peppers, tomato, lettuce and of course, avocado, which is then garnished with micro-greens.
With that, could you say no to something deep-fried? The South American Poblano is at your service. Made with Bhavnagari chillies, this stuffed ‘bajji’ comes with fermented red chilli sauce and is delish, especially when there’s that winter nip in the air.
Try the Afghani Malai Chaap as well; it’s made from soy, cooked in the tandoor and then is tossed in a Sichuan dressing.
If your mood is more on the Asian side of things, the tempura sushi, and the asparagus and chestnut dim sums are not bad at all, albeit at some point I did miss the taste of shrimp in my mouth.
It’s quite easy to stick to small plates at Pepito and make an evening out of it over a Rose Fizz (rose essence, California grapes, citrus and CO2) or what they call the Elder 75 that comes with hibiscus tea, citrus, edible glitter and candy floss. If you’d forgotten your inner child, this one might be a good reminder.
The Burrata Raviolo, which is an open ravioli with burrata (remember, I said cheese is a thing in the city?) and then topped with a nice tart sauce made from San Marzano tomatoes. Enjoyable and uncomplicated. But if you want more carbs, try the blue pea rice with a spicy coconut curry, but the Stracciatella Kulcha, which is basically a stuffed Amritsari kulcha topped with more burrata (well, duh!) and seasoned cherry tomatoes would be a good bet. Pizzas, burgers, and pastas are all quite popular here. The pasta menu is basic. Pick your pasta, pick a sauce and voila!
For dessert, because how can you be in Ahmedabad and not eat something sweet, the Hazelnut Mousse, please. Their desserts are all eggless but not devoid of yumminess.
From the bar
Pepito is an alcohol-free restaurant but their range of mocktails, coffees, fresh fruit mojitos, boba teas and iced teas work hard to keep you refreshed.
Address: Pepito, lane of Taj Skyline & Shots, Off Sindhu Bhawan Road, Thaltej
Meal for two: INR 1,500 plus taxes