Greener than green

An ‘eco-contemporary’ cafe bets on hydroponics

Smoked Salmon and Avocado Salad | Fig at Malcha Smoked Salmon and Avocado Salad | Fig at Malcha

Tulips, maple or mother-in-law’s tongue, there are several indoor plants that can project a restaurant’s commitment to green, mindful eating. We talk a lot about sourcing, sustainability, seasonal produce and farm-to-table meals. What if restaurants start growing their own greens next to the seated diners? A hydroponic set-up makes it look possible.

Hydroponic farming refers to a way of growing crops without using soil. A temperature-controlled environment lets the plants grow in nutrient-rich water. Some restaurants have begun growing greens the hydroponic way within their premises. A brand new ‘eco-contemporary’ cafe, Fig at Malcha, in the heart of Lutyen’s Delhi, might as well consider including a hydroponic set-up within their plush-white interiors, which blends a Japanese design aesthetic with a Nordic lifestyle. Their healthy, flavourful and plant-forward menu has a section dedicated entirely to ‘hydroponic salads’, with several ingredients drawn from their specialised farms in Delhi-NCR and Uttarakhand. Think wilted spinach, carrots and cashew cream in their Avocado Earth Bowl, or wild arugula and charred tomatoes in their Sicilian Burrata Salad. The freshness of the Pea & Truffle Soup recalls the sensory experience of cracking open pea pods and the rice paper rolls stretch around veggies and salmon like a delicate sheath of glass. 

“Eco-contemporary is not really a spin on what already exists. I think it is more about intent. We don’t promote or push any agenda like veganism. If you look at our menu, it pretty much has everything. Sustainability is brought in by researching and partnering with the right kind of people,” says Manish Yadav, founder of Fig. He already runs Fig at Museo, inside a camera museum in Gurugram. The greens in his new outpost at Malcha Marg, grown through hydroponics, are definitely crisper. “Their shelf life is also a couple of days longer than normal, organic produce,” says Yadav. “The challenge is that there are very few hydroponic farms. And even these farms cannot meet demands for bulk orders.”

The high ceilings with an exposed industrial look also include artworks by emerging and established artists in the mezzanine. Enough space for some hydroponic flora to bloom.