The Conservatory In Bengaluru Is Changing The Way People Dine In The City, And We Are Loving It

Founded and run by erstwhile urban planner, Akhila Srinivas, this quaint tasting room has hosted some of the most talented chefs of India, treating the city to delicious meals month after month.

Published On Jun 16, 2024 | Updated On Jul 04, 2024


We love alt culture stories in Bengaluru, don’t we? That coffee shop no one really talks about, or a private terrace movie theatre that works purely on word of mouth, or that tasting room which gives you table only if you pre-book and pre-pay. It’s probably what keeps plenty of us sane, lost in the middle of Instagrammable everything. 

My memories of The Conservatory date back to the time when it was called just The Courtyard and housed a co-working space called Jaaga and a couple of little homegrown stores selling odds and ends. Not that I ever co-worked from there but every now and then, a few of us would drop in, get some coffee and act intellectual. The thought of people sitting around with strangers, who probably became friends later, working on their laptops and probably doing something super creative or thinking of their start-up plans was enviable. This is before co-working spaces in Bengaluru became a whole industry. 


The house aka The Courtyard is Akhila Srinivas’s ancestral property, and today it houses The Conservatory, Wine In Progress, Eat Naru and the soon-to-open Mumbai-based café, Subko. 

The Conservatory, which recently celebrated its second official anniversary, is perhaps one of the coolest places in Bengaluru to catch a meal every now and then. What makes it special? The fact that Akhila and her team work tremendously hard to invite chefs from different parts of the country and host popups. However, what makes it truly special is the fact that the meals you’ll eat at this beautiful greenhouse-looking space – “The design is inspired by Lalbagh,” she says – you won’t quite eat it anywhere else, not even at the restaurants with which the chefs are associated. 

“It’s perhaps one of my main briefs when we collaborate. The menu has to be different and unusual. Sure, we run the risk of displeased customers but that has rarely happened,” Akhila says. 

The architect, who also used to be an urban planner, found her true calling in The Conservatory – bringing the food lovers, the curious, the gourmands under one roof to experience something together. “That’s what community is all about, isn’t it?” she asks. 


The pandemic changed things for The Conservatory which has been hosting popups before the lockdown of 2020. “I think pre-Covid, we had to work a lot harder. We weren’t ‘The Conservatory’ as people know it back then, and those events were difficult to sell. Either we were not ready or people were not ready for the idea, but it was hard. But after Covid, something changed, you know. I feel when people sat at home, they either consumed a lot of content on food, or just cooked more themselves, developed a slightly different palate or just decided to do things that were not part of their routine,” Akhila opines, but the one thing she’s sure of is that the pandemic threw the spotlight on a lot of talent. “Suddenly, more people were being seen or noticed for their culinary skills. I also think a lot of non-chefs reinvented themselves. They had to since everyone was going online!” she further says. 

So, all of a sudden, The Conservatory was selling the best and the not-so-best all together in the same marketplace. “That, I think is what democratised the food space a little more? You could identify people from their face, from their work, from their brand,” she adds. Talk about a first mover’s benefits, The Conservatory isn’t really the first popup spot in Bengaluru. There have been others but they were and still are more like tasting rooms, focusing on one chef. “We were probably there at the right time, at the right place,” Akhila says. 

Bengaluru loves a good popup and Akhila believes it’s the whole curiosity factor, more disposable income at a younger age and that a large working population in the city are from other cities and completely independent. Plus, we are all weak for the non-mainstream. “A lot of our guests are designers, start-up founders, IT professionals, and everyone is looking for conversations, food that they’re not used to and in general a different experience, and it’s because they don’t want to be categorised as ‘oh he’s just an IT guy’, for instance,” she says. 

Organising a popup is hard work, Akhila will tell you. “It’s not really easy on the chefs. They have to leave their entire setup, move man and material and plan. It costs money, time and labour. Therefore, it has to be worth it, for them, for us and for our diners,” she says quite matter-of-factly. 

Needless to say, the pressure was very real until a year or two ago. “Of course, I have had thoughts that include ‘why am I doing this?’ but those didn’t last. As the community grew, we realised that it’s all worth it,” she says. 

What started as a bootstrapped business, The Conservatory today is a place that nurtures the art of culinary innovation as well as create unique dining experiences. “Here you have a chef you may have seen on social media or in some programme, right in front of you, curating a meal that is unique to that specific event. You get to know who they are, how they plate or how they describe their food. Here, the chef is not behind the door, which makes the experience very real. The food, the chef then becomes very enmeshed in your experience. Before you take the first bite, you've already sort of made up your mind which way you want to go with this, which to me is very exciting,” explains Akhila. 

That's for you is culture at play. 


Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article reflects the author(s) opinions and do not necessarily represent the views of the publisher and editor.

Photo: The Conservatory