Dine here with fish hovering around

Cafe Hydro is one of its kind in the country. Owners have invested money to realise a dream

Dine here with fish hovering around
Borivli is a suburb located along the western suburban line of Mumbai and has several eating joints​, including themed restaurants. As one stands in front of the well-known Esspee Tower near the Borivli railway ​station, ​an aquarium shop, a rather big one, lit up well and spic and span, stands out.

 As one approaches the shop, the visitor would see Utekar Fisheries Pvt Ltd, one of the biggest aquarium shops of Mumbai and Café Hydro, the first aquarium-themed café in the country with the biggest fish tunnel.

Such aquarium cafés or ocean restaurants are quite common in some of the big tourist destinations in the world. In India it is the first of its kind with a fish tunnel or an aquarium tunnel. In the country, there are several restaurants with an aquarium or a fish tank or an aquarium wall.

For 41-year-old Rupesh Sakpal, the director of Utekar Fisheries Pvt Ltd and Café Hydro, this was not the first time that he had made an aquarium tunnel. The dream project of Rupesh is at Rajendra Nagar at Dattapada Road at Borivli East. In fact, Borivli is a bustling tourist destination and a happening place in the suburbs. ​

When the Taraporewala Aquarium on Marine Drive was refurbished  a few years ago​, Sakpal’s company was tasked to create a 180-degree acrylic glass tunnel of 10x15  sq feet.

 “A restaurant was on the back of my mind. We thought why not to make it more interesting. An aquarium always attracts crowd. In fact, in a restaurant where there is a fish tank, people prefer to sit by its side and dine. I thought of giving a different experience altogether,” said Rupesh, explaining his pet project.

The 17x15 sq ft fish tunnel is at the level-2 of Café Hydro.  The level-3 has a huge wall aquarium. “Setting this up was a challenge and we decided to give it a try,” adds Rupesh’s uncle Manohar Sakpal, who is the chairman and managing director of Bhagirathi Group.

“With  a variety of colourful, exotic, big and small fish of over a dozen varieties gliding around and  excellent lighting, you are in a different world. When you have a meal, there is nothing like it,” said Shaibal Gupta, a foodie who had dined at Café Hydro.

Manohar supported Rupesh, who has a Bachelor of Fisheries Science degree, when he started a 100 sq ft aquarium shop on September 9, 1999, near the Borivli railway station. His three-storeyed aquarium shop and café now are spread over 10,000 sq ft.

The ground floor or level one  is filled with youngsters and has a feel of Mumbai’s local trains. It has been constructed using train tracks, train floors, sleepers, racks, ladders and a blue-coloured staircase. The roof has several artwork and bottles.

The one-stop pet mall restaurant has been set up at a cost of nearly Rs 25 crore. “We have made investments to realise the dream. We are very clear that aquarium is our core business and everything will revolve around it,” said Rupesh, who is also developing a public aquarium in Ranchi in Jharkhand. “We have to look at hygiene and service and nearly 100 people work round the clock in three shifts,” he said  as he attended phone calls.

After Café Hydro was inaugurated on January 26 this year, the number of calls have increased. “Several corporate houses want to visit, do group bookings or have a similar aquarium in their offices and workplaces,” he said. Nowadays people are looking for what is known as a stress-buster aquarium.

Paste food, which is  made of proteins of fish, is the unique concept of this restaurant. There are variety of delicious dishes like fish bao, fish burger, fish hotdog, fish bullets, fish cake roll.

“I stay in Borivli and came to know about it and decided to visit the place. I found it interesting and it is something new. Visiting this place gives you a different feeling, different excitement and thrill,” said Vinod Yadav, a resident of Borivli.

“We constantly innovate,” said Rupesh as he rolls out the extensive menu that looks like a tabloid-sized newspaper.

“Café Hydro will soon become happening place for Mumbaikars,” said Rupesh. “The menu has been designed looking at the taste of patrons and we constantly take their suggestions,” he added.

Mouth-watering items
Some of the fast-moving food items include dishes from surimi, a paste made from fish or other seafood meat, which can be used as a primary ingredient for several dishes.  Fish onion ring is another interesting mouth-watering item and so is Thai fish cake.

The list also includes fried fish balls, cholli garlic fish bullets, crispy chicken pops, seafood har gow, grilled chicken and prawns shanghai, grilled fish cake bao and peri peri chicken roll. Vegetarian items include bao, hand-cut potato batons, herbed potato wedges and cheesy onion rings.

Besides Continental and Thai cuisine, the restaurant also offers simple Indian food like rice and chicken curry. There is a big spread of desserts and mocktails as well.

As of now it is a no-liquor restaurant. Asked about this, Sakpal said: “As of now we are on the launch mode.”  The aquarium shop is huge.  On display are 425 fish tanks and over 325 species of marine and freshwater fish. After a meal at the café, one can see and buy fish tanks, aquarium lights, tank decoration equipment, artificial waterfall, etc. Spa for pets is the another interesting thing.

Asian Arowana is the brand ambassador of Café Hydro. Arowana basically seen in various Asian countries like Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia. The shop has a wide range here. One can purchase a pair of guppy for around Rs 50. The shop also fish species ranging between Rs 1.5 lakh and Rs 3 lakh.

Some of the commonest ornamental fishes include guppy (lebistes reticulatus), molly (mollienisia latipinna), sword tail (xiphophorous hellerii), platy (xiphophorus varitus), siamesr fighter (betta splendens), angel (pterophyllum scalare), tiger barb (barbus tetrazona) and widow tetra (gymnocorymbus ternetzi).

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