Please meet Renee and Anshu, the curry queens behind London's Dabba Drop, a vegan, plastic- free takeaway delivered to your door in a traditional tiffin.
Tell us about Dabba Drop. How did it start and how does it work? How did you two decide to go into business together?
DabbaDrop was born out of a need for a delicious and convenient takeaway that didn’t come at the cost of the planet. Anshu, who comes from Mumbai, was working as a TV producer when the idea came to her.
“Life was busy and there were always lots of decisions to be made. Work, kids, childcare, schools, lunches, dinners, birthdays, holidays…. By the time it got to the end of the week, I didn’t want to make any more decisions, especially for dinner!
We would order a takeaway and it would take a good half an hour to decide what to eat. Trying to find a restaurant that has good vegan or vegetarian options was always harder. By the time the meal turned up it would be 10pm; too late to eat. The food itself was never as fresh or delicious as we imagined it would be. Plus, there was often the plastic that containers you ended up with and we’d feel so guilty.
This got me thinking about the dabbawala set up back home in Mumbai. Unlike a takeaway where you have to choose from an endlessly long menu, these delivery-only kitchens created weekly changing menus of home-style food, so all you did was unpack and eat. Hassle-free dinner just when you needed it most! And no guilt, you just left the stainless-steel tiffin out to be collected next time around”.
It was Summer 2018 when Anshu started cooking from her home as a trial for what would later become DabbaDrop. I was one of the first friends to sign up for the trial – we live across the road from each other so we had become friends through our children (who are the same age) and our love of food, wine and sustainability. I just loved the concept and the food so it was a natural progression that I jump on board to help grow the concept.
We wanted to create a convenient, tasty takeaway option that didn’t come with a guilty conscience. Customers need to pay a one-off fee for the reusable dabba (tiffin) which is then theirs to keep. They choose a plan (either hot or cold deliveries) and a frequency (either weekly or fortnightly), pick their start date and they’re all set! Our delivery cyclists collect customers empty dabbas when they deliver the full ones – and so the cycle (of reusability) continues!
Where do you live? What is home like? What is your neighbourhood like?
Home is Homerton and we absolutely love it here. I (Renee) moved in almost 8 years ago and have never looked back. I love how close we are to all the green spaces and the waterways – a 20 min walk along the canal towards the Walthamstow wetlands and you can feel like you’re in the middle of the countryside, in one of the biggest cities in the world, that’s pretty cool. We love the diversity of Hackney, it’s a melting pot and the music, art, food and markets all reflect that meaning we have such a broad array of delights to sink our ears, mind and teeth into!
I live in a Victorian terraced house which is quite neutral in décor, with lots of wood, plants, baskets and natural fibres. Anshu’s home is much more colourful with lots of bold objects, masses of beautiful block-printed fabrics and a very large shelf of well-used cookbooks. It’s great when we have a photo shoot as we just flit between the two homes for the different vibes. We feel at home in Hackney, there are lots of other like-minded and open-minded people who care about the planet, and a large sense of community which is so important.
Top 5 favourite spots in Hackney
Oh this is tough because it feels like we haven’t been out much lately but here goes:
- Victoria Park – nothing beats a stroll in the park and a coffee stop at Pavilion. We’re so lucky to live so close to such a slice of paradise.
- Conservatory Archives – we’re a bit plant-obsessed and this place has absolutely nailed it.
- Netil Market - a one stop shop for all kinds of goodies - from delicious food, to candles and soaps, natural wines, outdoor gear, gorgeous glasses - this is such a treat of a place to visit (especially if you can get someone to watch your kids for a few hours ;) and you don't mind the queuing)
- Yoga on the Lane - definitely is the "most beautiful yoga space in Hackney" Pre lockdown we loved going to Naomi's invigorating yoga classes at her studio but just as good on zoom or via her gorgeous book, Yoga: A Manual for Life
- The Marshes, the River Lea, the Canal - not a place per se, but definitely somewhere to find solace, to find inspiration, to do yoga, go for a run, build dens, have a picnic - it's been our saviour over both Lockdown 1 and 2 - if you go try and find the fallen tree, it's a gorgeous little alcove for a break after a long walk.
What is your job and what is the best part about it?
Since we started DabbaDrop two years ago, Anshu and I have had to learn many different business skills and wear a lot of different hats! What started as a concept involving food, logistics and sustainability very quickly needed brains in IT, accounting, social media, marketing, HR and kitchen design to name just a few so we have had to learn all of these things along the way.
Ultimately, our job is to make sure our lovely customers get the best possible experience when they use our services so that they can refer other friends and help us grow so that together, we can save more and more single-use plastic containers from being used.
What inspires you on a daily basis?
Other business owners, especially female ones inspire us, people who have a great idea and who take that frightening leap into the unknown. We love people who are not only creative, but who use their ingenuity to be clever about things too. We’re inspired by living simply and continue to aspire to a slower pace of life (even in this bustling metropolis!) Then off course mother nature herself is a huge inspiration for us to and we wouldn’t be doing what we do if we didn’t want to try and make the world a better place for the generations that come after us.
Any holiday hacks for decoration and cheer?
Ohh yeah! It’s our absolute favourite time of year and we just LOVE crafting things from what we find in nature to decorate the house and tree. We’ve just finished making some soy-dipped Autumn leaf mobiles to give to friends and we’re almost at the end of our sloe-gin storage period so it’s going to be ready to crack open soon and share with friends for gifts. We’ve got some orange slices in the oven drying out to make some tree decorations and every time we head out for a walk in the park/forest, we bring the wreath base we’ve been working on to add a few more bendy twigs each time so it’ll soon be ready for some foraged foliage! We’ve got lots of tips and hacks coming up so keep an eye on our Instagram account for more merry ideas!
Renee and Anshu have shared their House Dhal recipe with us. And we can vouch for it's tastiness! Here's the RECIPE.