Jaipur sisters Swati and Sanyogita Rathore quit their jobs to turn their grandfather’s old home into a quaint, vintage cafe named O’Baque Jaipur, which offers a mix of modern dishes with hints of nostalgia.
At O’Baque Jaipur, the main draw is the experience of tasting a host of new dishes and snacks whilst marvelling at the place’s old-world charm. Nestled in the quarters of a 60-year-old ancestral bungalow, the cafe and patisserie has a one-of-a-kind ambience curated by sister duo Swati Rathore Borgohain and Sanyogita Rathore.
The origins of this cafe has roots in a Pinterest board, which Swati says has been on her phone for as long as she can remember. “I was working in the hospitality sector for around 10 years before we started O’Baque Jaipur. All this time, I had a dream of opening my own bakery someday,” she tells The Better India.
“I would add my ideas on my Pinterest board, from the decor and the aesthetics to the pop of colour that my bakery would one day have,” she recalls.
And while Swati was dreaming of opening a bakery, her sister Sanyogita had spent her childhood experimenting with recipes and her love for cooking.
“I would often watch MasterChef Australia and take down recipes to try out later. My love for cooking only deepened through the years and I did a course at the Lavonne Academy of Baking Science and Pastry Arts in Bengaluru,” says Sanyogita.
So, when the COVID-19 lockdown gave the sisters ample time to sit and talk, they began to wonder if life could exist beyond the corporate world.
“We hadn’t spent much time together during our growing years as we were, more often than not, in hostels. The pandemic was the time we grew closer and decided to tie our individual dreams into a common venture — a cafe where we could serve people the food that we loved having ourselves,” says Swati.
An opportunity for a pastry venture
As for the question of where they would set up this space, the answer lay in the sisters’ 60-year-old ancestral home, measuring 1,200 square yards, in Jaipur’s Peelwa Garden.
Built by their grandfather in 1960, the two-storey house — with 10 rooms made with Kota stone and a roof made of stone slabs — has stood the test of time.
“The home was lying vacant and we thought why not, with a few renovations, have the cafe as an extension of our ancestral home?” says Swati, adding that the lockdown only fortified their plans.
“Long hours at work, the difficulties associated with travelling, and the burnout that my sister was experiencing made us believe that maybe it was the right time to set sights on this dream,” she adds.
In September 2021, what once was a set of ideas on a Pinterest board was now set to become a venture, when the sister duo quit their respective corporate jobs.
In November that year, work began.
Converting an ancestral home into a pastry cafe
The next nine months were filled with sketching out plans, reaching out to construction workers, and fleshing out ideas.
“We’d always had the idea brimming in our minds and seeing it come to fruition was overwhelming,” says Sanyogita, adding that while they were excited to embark on this new project, they were firm about one thing.
“We did not want the old-world charm of the property to be lost in the renovations. We did not want to change the entire look and feel,” she says.
And so they came up with an idea inspired by their travels to Lisbon and Barcelona — houses with attached cafes to make the entire space homely.
“We wanted to bring this concept to life through O’Baque Jaipur, while preserving the heritage of the ancestral home,” says Swati. She adds that instead of breaking down and modernising the entire property, they converted the old driveway, servant quarters and storage rooms into a bakery.
“An old office on the property was converted into a studio where we plan to hold culinary classes from December,” she adds.
In order to maintain the heritage look, the sisters used Kota stones for the construction. The kitchen, too, was left untouched. “The low ceiling and beams that have stood strong through the years were kept as is. We did not want the ‘feel’ of the home to change,” says Swati.
Furthermore, the crockery and cutlery used in the cafe has come down through the Rathore family’s generations. “Instead of going for modern elements, we decided to use vintage crockery as it adds to the magic,” she adds.
On 14 August, the sister duo was ready to launch O’Baque Jaipur.
Offering Jaipur a taste of continental cuisine
The patisserie offers the people of Jaipur a chance to transform their palettes, say the sisters.
“We are trying to gradually push Jaipur into things they haven’t tasted, or cuisines that are not very popular here. We want to convey to the city, through our cuisine, that everything is not fusion or spicy,” says Swati.
She adds, “We want the cafe to go beyond being a coffee joint where people come and work, and instead create a family experience. When people think of Jaipur, O’Baque should come to their minds. That’s the aim.”
While the menu started off with beverages, to provide people respite from the scorching sun, it evolved into an amalgamation of different snacks — croissants, Korean buns, bagels, macaroons, chocolate pastries, assorted brownies, eclairs, and even a Cassata ice cream called ‘Nostalgia’.
But if the sister duo had to pick a hit favourite, they say, “Undoubtedly, it would be the cakes.”
“Customers love the customised designs we do as they are ‘minimalist and spot on’,” says Swati, adding that along with the usual black forest and pineapple cakes, they also have blueberry vanilla, forest berry, etc.
Sanyogita, who is in charge of the baking, says, “This is a great time to be introducing these new desserts as the people of Jaipur are getting experimental.”
She adds that having always wanted to play around with flavours and introduce new twists in her dishes, this is a wonderful opportunity for her. “Every week we put out a new item on the menu and gauge people’s love towards it. Whilst doing this, however, we try to not stray too far from the path of what people typically enjoy.”
The team comes in at 8 am every morning and begins work. The store opens at 11 am and goes on till 9 pm, and sees around 25 orders every day. But, as they say, love goes beyond the numbers.
“Our core concept has been to maintain flavours that people are familiar with but with twists,” says Sanyogita. “Take, for instance, our pastry with pista sponge and flavours of cassata or our Jerusalem bagel that has flavours of garlic, or our lemon and berry cake. Our menu isn’t out of the box, but rather one that evokes nostalgia.”
Edited by Divya Sethu