Interview: Marko Husak, Bundobust, Leeds and Manchester5 years ago
In 2013, Mayur Patel tweeted Marko Husak to ask if he fancied collaborating on a street food event. Patel’s parents owned Prashad in Drighlington – one of Yorkshire’s most celebrated curry houses – while Husak ran The Sparrow Bier Cafe in Bradford. The combination of Gujarati street food and craft beer soon took off and the pair were regularly selling out events. Next came bricks and mortar, opening on Mill Hill in Leeds in 2014. Glowing national reviews and recognition lead to a second in central Manchester in 2016. They will soon open a third in Liverpool.
Marko, Bundobust has been a smash hit in both Leeds and Manchester, next up is Liverpool. What did you get so right?
MH: “Yes, we’ve been lucky, but I guess we worked hard to get things right. The idea of Bundobust is a simple one; to serve fresh beer from the UK & beyond to be enjoyed with authentic Indian street food in a casual environment. Everyone likes Indian food & beer, right? We just wanted to serve it up in a completely different way. We didn’t want Bundobust to be a restaurant, we thought it would be a bar that did the best snacks, but it definitely evolved into a restaurant by accident. We focus on a good product, service & atmosphere at reasonable prices. If you get that right, then hopefully it will work out.
Bundobust is a rare beast: a vegetarian restaurant which pleases non-veggies. And craft beer types. How’ve you managed to keep all camps so happy?
MH: “When we first opened we didn’t advertise the fact we were vegetarian, as we thought it would put people off. In fact, we had a lot of people come in not realising that they weren’t eating meat and being surprised by that. I’d like to think that we have made people think about what they are eating without shoving an agenda down their throats. I’m a meat eater myself, but I don’t need to eat it every day.
“I think the beer fans come in for the drinks then get into the food, and the veggie crowd come for the food and get into the beers. It is a unique proposition. We didn’t know we would be this popular. Again, we just put Indian food and beer together and it worked. The fact that gluten-free, veganism and craft beer are now major food trends is a complete fluke. We got lucky.”
With serious expansion on the cards, do you worry about over stretching and losing control, maybe even a bit of soul?
MH: “It is important that we don’t over stretch and lose control. We are taking our time, working hard behind the scenes to make sure that the quality, consistency, staff training, attention to detail, customer service and everything we do is absolutely is 100%. We won’t be cutting corners or rushing to accelerate our growth. We will continue to work and collaborate with local brewers and other independent businesses in the cities that we open in. And we will work with the fabric of the buildings we inherit to make sure each site has its own personality.
“It’s a simple idea but we were the first to do it and I think we will always be at the top of our game.”
You’ve scored plenty of awards and loads of beaming reviews. Do you see competitors trying to emulate some of that success, maybe steal bits of your formula?
MH: “The way we eat Indian food is changing, just like the way we eat Italian food is changing, and we were part of that change with the likes of Dishoom, Mowgli, Chilli Pickle in Brighton etc. It’s not all Chicken Tikka Masala & Sheesh Kebabs anymore. People want authentic and regional, and I think there is enough of a market to go around.
“We didn’t invent Indian street food and craft beer, but we were the first to put them together in a certain way. There have been quite a few copy cats in recent years. A few of them have since closed down. It’s flattering really. It’s a simple idea but we were the first to do it and I think we will always be at the top of our game. Those who copy ideas can’t think for themselves. We have creativity on our side.”
Lastly, where are you favourite places to eat in the North West?
MH: “The Reliance in Leeds is my go to restaurant. The specials black board always has inventive seasonal plates on there, the atmosphere is super chill and relaxed, the product knowledge of the staff is incredible, and the wine list specialises in interesting natural varieties. The beer list is great too. It’s the perfect place for most occasions. My other favourite in Leeds is Ox Club.
“Maray and Wreckfish are my favourites in Liverpool. In Manchester, I go to Hawksmoor quite a bit. El Gato Negro, Rudy’s, The Refuge & Umezushi are also great.
“You can’t beat Bradford for a curry. The International, Sultans, Karachi, Sweet Centre… there are just too many to mention.”