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Mixing it up in food and art 

When it comes to tasty eating it is not just about visiting popular joints, it is about consuming food in wholesome surroundings that allows best digestion by the body. The Hugs and Mugs, art gallery cum restaurant at Alto Mapusa does a good job of both. The place is conceptualized by Cecille Rodrigues who set it up with friends Gaurav Pokle and Clive Ellens.

The trio have no background  in the food industry and started the place  with the sole purpose of offering something different in the hospitality industry. “It was just our determination to do something different specially for the people of Mapusa,” says Rodrigues.

The friends started Hugs and Mugs in an old house in a residential area of Alto Mapusa, away from hustle and bustle of the city. The place is near the St. Mary’s primary school at the court area. If you want to visit be prepared for some searching for the location is not easy to discover. Hugs and Mugs is located somewhat in the interior and searching becomes difficult as it is not much advertised. In fact the only publicity is done in social media via Facebook among friend and well-wishers.

According to the trio, Hugs and Mugs is catching up with the young generation and the next on the agenda will be to make it popular among families. The owners want nearby families to visit the place and   taste the interesting menu. On offer is a variety of unusual mocktails that are unique to the place. The most interesting part of the joint is the fascinating interiors that need to be seen. It is designed using scrap material and the brain behind this unique concept of designing is Ellens who is not a professional artist but is interested in art. Hugs and Mugs showcases Ellens talent in artfully using waste.

Usually in a restaurant when one places an order, one needs to wait to kill time. So people chat or scroll over the messages or read the Whatsapp messages on the mobile or play mobile games. But in here, customers get the opportunity of playing cards, chess or read. The place has a decent collection of books. The whole ambiance is homely with some cozy wooden chairs and sofa sets. Customers will never that they are in a restaurant but at home, albeit a tastefully decorated home.

One of three partners, Rodrigues needs no introduction as she shot to fame in the Dance India Dance Super Mom Runner-up Season I contest. Rodrigues has also contested assembly election on the AAP ticket from Taleigao constituency. She has also  been into teaching students dance at classes in Panjim. She explains that, the interiors design in the art form was carried out by Ellen and Pokle who is businessman is a silent partner.

“None of us are professionals in the food industry. Our friends and family members lend a helping hand and even their friends chipped in to help us with the  place. We have not hired staff,” says Rodrigues. But the kitchen is taken care of by Marilyn Ellen sister of Clive who has been in the hotel industry for many years. “Her experience has give us a edge  specially as she  worked at Talasa and Sakana a Japanese outlet  in Vagator which gives her that much needed experience to  handle the kitchen,” adds Rodrigues.

Before starting Hugs and Mugs, Rodrigues and Ellen were close to finalising on starting a Food Truck. But the idea was dropped after Pokle showed them the premises which was  a residential house. “We just fell in love after seeing the house and immediately set the ball in motion,” say the two partners.

“We still have our ups and  down,” divulges Rodrigues but they sort out things easily. Hugs and Mugs gives an opportunity to young, upcoming entrepreneurs who wants to showcase their products. They get table space to display their work. At present there is some art works and even some clothes for sale. The restaurant has Faliya, a Russian coming in daily to do ‘jelly nail.’ Soon art workshops will be held at the place for visitors. To keep abreast on events, log on to  the social media page for a clue on the dates.

Hugs and Mugs will soon start Karaoke nights. It will be for young talents to perform, especially a platform for those who are shy. “Customers need to bear with us as it takes time after placing an order,” explains Rodrigues. .

She reveals that favourite drinks that sell like hot cakes are the Brownie Shake, Oreo Shake and there is also the cookie, shack sneaker shake. The place specializes in sandwiches, grills in fillings of beef, sausages, tuna, chicken and barbeque. Rodrigues suggests the French fries menu for patrons who want to try something different or a place to relax after a hard day’s work. “You can hug your friend over a mug  of coffee here,” whispers Rodrigues.

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