Mandira Bhalla and Dhruv Lamba's love story reads like a Bollywood potboiler - boy meets girl at a wedding, thereafter bump into each other at different functions, fall in love and get married. The 41-year-olds, who have been married for 16 years now, were born and brought up in Delhi.
Dhruv's family owns the iconic Kwality Restaurant, started by his grandfather Peshori Lal Lamba at Connaught Place in 1940, while Mandira’s parents are avid art collectors Nitin and Anjali Bhalla.
"The Kwality group had the rare privilege of laying the foundation stone of India’s post-Independence food landscape. It introduced the country to the delights of ice-creams, hotels, and fine dining. I wanted to take the business to the next level when I returned from Les Roche, Switzerland after completing graduation in business administration, 20 years ago. We extended operations into bakery and confectionery products, and changed the name to Bread & More," informs Dhruv, the Executive Director of Kwality Group.
This revamping exercise began in 2003 with renaming their existing outlet at GK-1 to Bread & More. followed by opening a second one at Vasant Vihar. At present, the Kwality Group runs 15 other outlets across India, including the Pali Hill Restaurant in London. The brand offers over 40 international breads, truffles, macarons, breads, croissants, confections, sandwiches and coffee.
"Bread & More is a patisserie and boulangerie concept that revisits traditional French classics and gives them a contemporary twist to craft delicious modern creations," shares Mandira, the Creative Director at the Kwality Group.
A graduate from the NY-based Fashion Institute of Technology, she is also the Chairperson of Young FICCI Ladies Organisation and Founder-Director of art ventures Blueprint12 and Tribal Art Form. At 13, she earned a black belt in karate.
While Mandira finds Dhruv to be a super organiser and a perfectionist, Dhruv is appreciative of Mandira's people skills and marketing ideas.
On the flip side, Mandira is critical of Dhruv's impatience and Dhruv feels Mandira needs to be more punctual and disciplined. Like most couples, Mandira and Dhruv do have their differences of opinion "but we have matured, and 16+ years of marriage has taught us to handle such situations better. Most of the time, Mandira is 'politically correct' and manages to turn disagreements into healthy discussions. Eventually, we find a middle ground," says Dhruv.
To make time for each other while straddling their individual and joint ambitions, the two decided in the beginning of their relationship to discuss business strategies only on workdays and use the weekends to completely unwind.
Conventionally, the couple returns home from work by 6:00pm and thereafter, it is family time. "It is difficult to completely switch off as the food business needs your attention 24x7, but we try our best to spend as much time as we can with our 11-year-old son, Aryaveer. On weekends, we play golf, watch our favourite TV shows, binge on desserts.. This is our weekend mantra!" avers Dhruv, adding that the two love going on short trips and trying out new restaurants in the city.
With the hospitality industry hit hard since the onset of the pandemic, the couple has to leverage upon each other’s strengths in this time. "It is only when we are together that solutions come our way," says Mandira.