Spices, the essence to Indian food

It is difficult to imagine Indian food without the fragrance and flavours of spices. The tantalizing aromas, vibrant colours, and of course the spicy, sweet and tangy flavours make all dishes stand out.

Often home cooks, who love experimenting with different cuisines and recipes, strike off Indian dishes from their list because of the number of spices used as ingredients. Though it can be a daunting to keep track of all the goes in, the end result can be most satisfying.

The key to successful Indian dishes is using the right spices in accurate amounts. Spices sometimes come in the form of seeds, coarse or fine powder, which is either roasted and ground. 

While some curries require strong spices, for others minimal and mild condiments accentuate the dish. There are few spices like jeera (cumin seeds) or dhania (coriander seeds) which have an earthy texture that balance well with the use of onions and tomatoes or sometimes yogurt. 

To stock up the right spices, it is essential to know what they are regionally popular as. Here, we put together a list of most used spices and condiments that are used in Indian meals.

•          Tulsi – Basil

•          Tej Patta – Bay leaf

•          Kali Mirch – Black pepper

•          Hing – Asafoetida

•          Kala Namak – Black salt

•          Elaichi – Cardamom

•          Ajwain – Caram seeds or Celery seeds

•          Dalchini – Cinnamon

•          Laung – Cloves

•          Dhania – Coriander

•          Kadi Patta – Curry leaves

•          Jeera – Cumin seeds

•          Amchoor – Dry mango powder

•          Saunf – Fennel

•          Adrak Powder – Ginger powder

•          Amla Powder – Gooseberry grass

•          Lahsun Powder – Garlic powder

•          Javitri – Mace

•          Rai or Sarson – Mustard seeds

•          Pudhina – Mint

•          Haldi – Turmeric

•          Imli – Tamarind

•          Chakri Fool – Star Anise

•          Til – Sesame seeds

•          Gulkand – Rose petal conserve

•          Sendha Namak – Rock salt

•          Anar dana – Pomegranate seeds

•          Kesar – Saffron

•          Sukhi lal mirch – Dried red chilli

•          Chinni – Sugar

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Indian takeaways second on popularity chart in Britain

Indian takeaways second on popularity chart in Britain

In a recent Channel 5 documentary on Britain’s favourite takeaway options, Chinese food was crowned the country’s favourite cuisine, followed by Indian food especially the curry, while fish and chips ranked third. Shockingly, the much-in-demand pizza bagged the fourth spot while the American-inspired burgers came fifth.

Earlier in March, Channel 5 created a stir when it revealed Britain’s Favourite Crisps announcing the top three — Walkers, Pringles and Doritos. Viewers were divided over the results, with many saying Monster Munch should have ranked higher than 11th place.

Following the same principle as the previous documentary, the show ‘Britain’s Favourite Takeaway’ ranked 20 of the country’s most beloved dishes.

Researching on the origins of the top favourites, the documentary revealed that the first ever Chinese restaurant in the UK opened its doors in 1908, and immigration from Hong Kong in the 1950s and 1960s made the food even more popular.

It also revealed that one of the most ordered Indian dishes is Tikka Masala, which can be traced back to both India and Bangladesh, though its origin is disputed to this day.

The UK’s beloved fish and chips came third, which might surprise some, as they have been a British staple for the past 150 years.  According to the documentary, the iconic dish was deemed so important to moral during the Second World War that they were never rationed.

Coming in at fourth was pizza, which originated from Naples where it was popularised as an affordable and quick dinner option.

Meanwhile burgers came in fifth position, with the most popular options seen to be McDonald’s and Burger King. McDonald’s came to the UK in 1974 and now serves a staggering 3.5 million people all over the country.

Full list of UK’s Top 20 takeaways

1.         Chinese

2.         Indian

3.         Fish and Chips

4.         Pizza

5.         Burger

6.         Chicken

7.         Kebab

8.         Sandwiches

9.         Thai

10.       Sausages

11.       Bagels

12.       Cheese chips

13.       Baked Potato

14.       Mexican

15.       Caribbean

16.       Sushi

17.       Pie

18.       Greek Food

19.       Tapas

20.       Parmo

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Star restaurateur, a shining example of success

Star restaurateur, a shining example of success

Arriving at Heathrow Airport in November 1962 after a long, exhausting flight from Dhaka is something Mr Abdul Malik will always remember. The flight to London was via what was known as West Pakistan and he was barely a little over 16 years of age. “It was cold and I vividly remember I took a black taxi and went straight to the address in Sussex Garden, given by my relative. After staying there for about five weeks, I took up a room in a flat share with some Spanish housemates in Kingston,” he recalls.

Malik, who is the owner of Star of India, one of the oldest Indian restaurants in South London’s Cheam village tells Curry Life about how life was back then, and the way things have changed in the years gone by. Though he’s partly retired, his restaurant is still a buzzing eatery run by his two sons, despite the challenges the restaurants are currently facing.

Mr Abdul Malik is a popular British-Bangladeshi businessman, known for his contribution to the catering industry in the UK and numerous businesses in Bangladesh. He is a kind hearted and generous gentleman, who is actively involved with Surrey Bangladesh Welfare Association as President, working for the local community and charity events. Back in Bangladesh, Mr Malik is the Chairman of Momtaz Diagnostic Hospital in Dhaka, Chairman of Progressive Life Insurance, Chairman of Malik and Sons Bakery, and Director of Sarina Gas Station.

In the UK, he got involved with the Bangladesh Caterers Association from as early as 1963, barely a year after he moved to this country. Since then he has been actively involved in the catering industry for nearly five decades. He held positions of senior vice president and treasurer of BCA for many years and has also been the President of BCA Surrey region for 12 years. In 2012, he was again elected as the chief treasurer of BCA. The Star of India has been the flagship venue for important business meetings throughout his tenure in BCA. Highlighting issues and addressing concerns faced by the catering industry was one of the primary areas he has kept his focus on. He also held the position of a Director for the UKBCCI, an organisation that aims to improve the trade ties between the UK and Bangladesh.

Early Life

For a 16-year-old then, the most obvious choice was study and work. Abdul enrolled in a polytechnic course but the three years there helped him decide he didn’t enjoy being in the “motor mechanics” field. However, he made some good friends there. “My friend and colleague from the course joined Ford as a General Manager, and then went on to becoming the Chief engineer. Before he passed away, he used to come here to see me every month,” he reminisces.

The initial days were tough, but his grit and hard work paid off. “I got a job to do washing up and cleaning in Kensington High Street, at a steakhouse, where I even tried a hand at cooking and grilling. I remember my salary then was £3.50 per week,” he recollects about his two-year stint.

Moving on to a different industry, Malik started working with Miah & Sons, importers and restaurant suppliers of raw freshwater king prawns and shrimps. He worked with them for a few years but his yearning to be in the food and hospitality industry, took him back to the restaurant in Kingston. After gaining experience in different restaurants, Malik decided it was time for him to have his own.

“In 1968, I started a restaurant in partnership in Manchester. After 18 months, my partner wanted to sell out, so I took over the complete business. The restaurant was successful, but I got a better offer and chance in Cheam, Surrey, so I moved here in 1971 along with my family,” he adds.

A new beginning

Moving to Cheam, has been one of the best decisions of Mr Malik’s life. The Star of India restaurant, which serves up authentic Bangladeshi and Indian food, was established in 1971. Taking over an Indian restaurant, which previously housed Café Rendevous, a bar and café, the prime location worked in his favour.

“We stuck to the name — The Star – the same as our previous restaurant in Manchester. And we did shine out. There were not many challenges as I was familiar and confident about the industry. It was a lucrative business, which we were running smoothly as there was not much competition, hence busy on all days, noon and night,” he says.

An experienced chef himself and a good manager, Malik focussed on his restaurant as well as the Bangladesh Catering Association, which he was actively involved with. The restaurant served as a venue for many of their meetings and became the hub to discuss ideas and campaigns for the community.

Then and now

Running the Star of India restaurant for 48 years under the same ownership is indeed commendable. However, things have not always been the same. The challenges these days are far more – right from deciding menus to employing staff.

“The menus were simple and easy – we didn’t have a booklet running into pages back then. Now it is difficult to even remember the variety and types of naan (bread) available, leave alone the kinds of curries,” he points out.

In addition, the struggles of competition between different restaurants and cuisines these days are plenty. “There are about 35 restaurants in the 3-mile radius. We are open only in the evenings as the industry is marred by staff problem. Property prices these days are sky high,” Mr Malik complains.

Looking forward

The business now lies in the able of his sons, who also run another restaurant named Blue Bengal in Carshalton. Jewel and Hellal were born in Manchester and brought up in Surrey and now live in Cheam with their families. After completing their education from Guildford College, it wasn’t easy to convince them into restaurant business, Mr Malik reveals.

“Initially they didn’t want to come to this industry. I really had to convince them to work for themselves and not for anyone and look at the positives,” he says, drawing from his own experience. “When I came to the UK, it was a difficult time and even more difficult to get a job,” he adds, recounting how he first went back to Bangladesh only after five years in 1967.

“I won’t say the future of restaurants is very great. Running the business has its own challenges but at least we have a good family life,” concludes the proud 74-year-old, who has five grandchildren.

Star of India, 39 Station Way, Sutton SM3 8SD

Phone: 020 8722 0533

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Father-son duo find success in Barton-le-Clay

Father-son duo find success in Barton-le-Clay

A recognised figure in the British Bangladeshi community, Shahanoor Khan is on a mission to get more youngsters involved in the curry industry and make it flourish once again. His latest venture, Café Goa in Barton-le-Clay, was undertaken in response to changing customer demands and revive a traditional curry house, using modern technology, light and décor.

Shahanoor Khan is a well-known figure in the British-Bangladeshi community, admired for his dedication and contribution to longstanding caterers’ associations, which work on challenges in the curry industry. He is the former Secretary General of the British Bangladeshi Caterers’ Association, a platform established in 2015 to unite the curry industry, stimulate creative thinking and confront issues of the day. 

Shahanoor’s children – sons Nawaz Sharif and Nibras Abid; and daughter Nafisa Tasnina were born and brought up in London. Nawaz, the eldest of them all, works in the same business as his father while Nibras is completing an apprenticeship. Nafisa will be graduating in Game Development from Kingston University this October.

As a child, Nawaz always aspired to be like his father Shahanoor Khan. At 28, he is elated to be working alongside, at their renowned restaurant Café Goa in Barton-le-Clay, a village in Bedfordshire. The father-son duo shares an incredible relationship learning from each other’s experience, knowledge and skills. “I am delighted to be working with my father. I learn something new from him every day and he’s always there to guide me,” says Naz, as he’s popularly known among friends and family.

The decision though to join his father’s restaurant business was not straightforward. It came after years of persuasion. After his schooling in Maida Vale, like his peers, Naz wanted to take the long hard road of going through job applications and interviews before he settled for what he really wanted to do. He started his career as a pharmacist and then moved on to the retail industry, working as a manager in House of Fraser, Central London. His next stint was as an account manager in a medical recruitment agency. Then, after all those jobs, he was eventually convinced by his dad to work for himself.

Café Goa was taken over in January 2016 as the previous owners faced difficulty in running the business. The 80-cover restaurant has recently undergone a massive refurbishment resulting in an exquisite, fine-dining space, giving it a modern contemporary look. With the new look, the ambience is pleasant and comfortable for family dinners or fun evenings with friends. The menu captures the essence of food in India with an innovative touch. All the food at Café Goa is freshly prepared using finest ingredients and quality produce.

The Chicken Irangani, a dish cooked with spiced ginger in a rich sauce and seasoned with natural honey, was absolutely delicious and highly recommended. Another popular dish, which is also a unique speciality is Naz Special, a lamb dish prepared in a homemade bhuna style. If you prefer a creamy sauce, Chicken/lamb Badami is the chef’s recommendation as it’s cooked with spices, nuts and is medium-mild in terms of heat. 

The credit for these special dishes goes to their award-winning head chef Saifuzzaman Khan, who’s been in the profession for 18 years now. “I am very keen to try different dishes, and experiment with new flavours and curries,” says Saifuzzaman, who is the creator of the unique dishes — Chicken/lamb Irangani, Badami, Naz Special and Murghi Massalam at Café Goa. “Kitchen job is difficult and highly stressful, but I love the challenge,” he adds.

Unlike other restaurateurs, Shahanoor’s experience has been slightly different after he moved to the UK in 1980s. Though he took up a part-time job as a waiter during his initial student days in London, on completion of his studies, he started a small firm to carry out documentation and paper work for visa purpose, filling forms and applications.

The next venture was a joint business with his brother, where they opened a restaurant in North London. He then went on to start his own restaurant, The Balti House in Tower Hill, running it successfully for 15 years from 1992 to 2007. It was during that time development work commenced around Southwark, and he sold the restaurant.

His next project again was a restaurant in Weymouth. The theme was very interesting and unique then – following more of a street food concept but due to shortage of staff the restaurant was in business only for three years (2007 – 2010). Around the same time, he opened a Takeaway in Dulwich – Spice Republic, which is still under his ownership.

When asked which one he prefers more amongst his current ventures, “It’s got to be Café Goa. The ambience here is great and the customers are very friendly. It’s a small village, so everyone seems to know one another,” says Shahanoor.

Elaborating further, he says, “Both Dulwich and Barton le Clay have different crowds and cater to different kinds of people. Spice Republic is more casual, whereas this has more of a fine dining Indian restaurant feel.”

As the restaurant is located in a village, amidst the sprawling countryside, what are the chances of it being busy?    “Oh yes, Wednesday to Saturday the restaurant is very busy and so is the demand for takeaways. Some of our dishes are unique, which makes it different from other Indian restaurants,” the restaurateur adds.

“I am thinking of organising Bollywood nights. People around here are friendly and love socialising, so it will be a good entertainment for them as well. We have plans of hosting charity dinner events too at the restaurant. We recently signed up for a charity dinner for Cancer Research,” he reveals.

It doesn’t end there. Shahanoor has also sponsored Barton le Clay football team. During Christmas, the restaurant contributes to the village lighting.

Shahanoor is also the founding president of the European Probashi Bangladeshi Association EPBA, which has members from 28 European countries. The organisation was established in April 2016, to cater the community and industry demands and challenges in member nations. It helps in networking, building contacts and connections.

About the curry industry, he says, “Only if we encourage more youngsters to come into this industry, will this industry survive. In order to save the dying traditional curry house, we must adopt modern means and ways to help it survive. A lot of these changes comes along with newer and fresher ideas as curry business can be very lucrative, if given a bit of a spin around.”

The ratings and reviews of the restaurant are excellent on all platforms – Google, TripAdvisor and Facebook. “When we took over, the restaurant was almost in shambles – businesswise. We invested a lot of money to renovate the look, quality and service,” the restaurateur says.

“As part of the hospitality industry, service is an integral part of the business. We promote and encourage the younger generation to come into the business. We also have women staff working with us during weekends,” he adds.

Shahanoor is himself extremely cautious about allergens as his daughter Nafisa too is allergic to nuts and dairy products. “We have allergen signs present on the menu and ensure out waiters check with customers about any special requests. People here are generally very aware hence it’s not been a problem so far.”

The 60-year-old restaurateur wants to focus completely on his current venture and how to make the restaurant stand out. So, the expansion plans will have to wait for now.

For Naz, being a part of Café Goa is special and he has no regrets. But if he could change one thing what would it be? “I wish I was lured into this much earlier. If the older generation had brought us into the industry earlier and put more responsibilities on us, things would have been different. But I’m not complaining. I am passionate about my work and wish to continue with the same momentum, just as my dad,” he concludes. 

Cafe Goa

2 Bedford Road, Barton-le-Clay,

Bedford MK45 4JU, UK

Tel: 01582 883934.

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By Laura Evans

Oli Khan is a lot of things to a multitude of people: devoted husband, father to a young son, acclaimed restaurateur, chef, philanthropist, property portfolio holder and teacher name just a handful. But they barely scratch the surface of what this businessman has achieved. From an award winning chef to successful entrepreneur and his passion driving to do more.

This successful multi-tasking entrepreneur said about his core philosophy to succeed in life is that: “always keep your passion at the forefront of your mind with everything that you do. Do not place unnecessary pressure on yourself to accomplish something that isn’t true to your passion.”

Oli Khan is campaigner and keynote speaker at industry events; he also recently held the position of Secretary General of the Bangladesh Caterers Association – UK (BCA). He is now the Senior Vice President of the organisation that was established to provide support to curry houses since 1960. Oli is on a mission – not only to provide for his family and to be a financial success, but also to give back to the wider community.

Rewind to the late 80s and Oli arrived to the UK from Bangladesh. “I came with my mother and siblings,” he says. “My father and uncle already had a chain of restaurants in Kent. I did some courses and then I started working at one of the curry house. A few months later my dad encouraged me to open my own place; he assisted me with funding and I started my own business.” He’s eternally grateful for the support he received.

Oli was just 17 when Tandoori Knight began welcoming customers. “My inspiration comes from my family,” he says. “My mum was a great cook; I used to love watching her. And since I’ve been married, my wife has been very helpful and supportive.”

Over the years Oli has noted with a keen eye the difference between home and commercial cooking – he tries to incorporate the former into the menus of his three eateries, alongside an inventive, fusion style. “I can twist any kind of food to have an fusion style, aromatic flavour,” he says.

Since opening his first establishment Oli’s had restaurant other parts of the UK, and has also dabbled in other fields. “I’ve got a diploma in IT, and advanced level hospitality related courses,” he says.

He used that valuable experience at his own sites, and in 2007 Surma in Luton achieved the coveted five stars from the revered Food Standards Agency. “It was the first takeaway in the UK to be awarded,” he says.

The following year, Surma in Stevenage mimicked that accomplishment, a rating it still holds to date.

Alongside those triumphs, Oli takes his role at the BCA very seriously, as well as the numerous other posts he holds. “I sit on policy-making meetings with the high influential government level peoples and also with the Federation of Small Businesses regularly,” he says.

And Oli works with Curry Life too. “They are part of my success,” he says. “They praise and promote a lot of chefs – that really boosts their profile and encourages them to stay in the arena and grow.

“With Curry Life’s British curry promotion, I have travelled to many part of the world and it did helped me enhanced my profile as a chef.”

But the current conditions have Oli concerned. “At the moment, it’s one of the worst times for the curry industry,” he says. “I’ve been in the UK for more than 30 years and I’ve never seen a crisis like this. I’ve witnessed three recessions, but this is one of the most severe. There are so many issues, ranging from staff shortages, to the pound devaluing, the price of goods going up, and profit margins falling.”

Despite the bleak situation, Oli remains charitable, and is keen to share his experiences. “I love my restaurants, but I’d like to do more teaching,” he says. “I go to a lot of colleges and instruct students, and I’ve held classes for five to nine-year olds in a school, where I showed them how to make some very lightly spiced curry dishes. They really enjoyed it, and wanted to take some home for their parents.” Building on that is a goal for the future.

This strong desire to impart his knowledge extends to the community as a whole. “I work with a lot of organisations, giving them advice, and explaining things in Bengali,” says Oli. “I want to give back – not just to Bangladeshi’s, but to the wider public.”

With what seems to be never-ending array of skills, Oli’s extend to catering skills as well. “The last job I did was for a scientist,” he says. And he tackles veganism head on too. “That’s not a problem,”

Given his wealth of expertise, what are Oli’s top tips as a chef? “I pick the best spices, otherwise you don’t get the right result,” he says. “I roast them and then I grind them. That’s the way I cook and why it’s different from others. I also use shatkora, which is from the lemon family. Just a touch gives a lot of flavour – it’s so aromatic and tasty.”

And what’s next for the esteemed man? He have been featured in over 10 documentaries, and have another one coming out in 2020 by the BBC,” says Oli Khan.

But ultimately, it’s all about guiding and assisting others. “When I learn something, I want to pass on my knowledge and share with others. That’s what I like most – helping others.” With his passion as a foodie, chef, entrepreneur and community activist he has shown the world what a masterful juggler he is, keeping the work-life balance and still leading the way for Curry Industry.

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Taste of Nawab definitely worth a visit

It goes without saying that there  are a lot of factors that go into making a successful restaurant. A great chef, a diverse menu, good service and savvy marketing. But when someone tastes your food and finds themselves filling up not only with an amazing meal but with an inexplicable sense of happiness – that’s when you know you’ve really succeeded.

A quick internet search of North-London based restaurant, Taste of Nawab, tells you that it markets itself as an Indian-Bengali restaurant that serves authentic, exquisite cuisine fit for royalty. But there’s something about the relatively small business nestled between rows of shops on Colney Hatch Lane, in Muswell Hill, that makes it special.

There is a sense of warmth, a cloud of familiarity ,that greets anyone who walks through the doors of the restaurant managed by Abdul Rahman (Mujib). He waits at the door and greets me as I approach him- and he does this with every single person who follows me- and that’s the first indication that the restaurant is so much more than just a business to Abdul.

Mild-mannered, engaging and the slightest bit silly, the 46-year-old manager has been in the business for as long as I have been alive- and his journey to where he now stands at Taste of Nawab is as inspiring as any tales of a Prince and his brave conquering.

He starts with a story from his childhood, as he recalls his first job doing paper rounds as a young boy in Islington, Angel. From that 11-year-old paper boy, he went on to work various jobs – at a sweet shop, a mini-market and even a McDonalds – from where he picked up different sets of skills,  he finally found his calling. He says, “ After working for six months at Mcdonalds, I moved to a three-star hotel for another six months. Then I moved into an Indian restaurant called Wimbledon Tandoori, in Wimbledon Village where I worked for six years from 1990 to 1996 – and that’s where I learned my trade.”

Endlessly professional– as he shortly excuses himself later in the evening to check in with every single customer – Abdul explains that he has always been clear about what he wanted from his life and that he has been fortunate enough to surround himself with the right people who saw the spark in him.

Abdul strongly believes what you give to someone is what you’ll get back, and this aspect of his work ethic explains why he was promoted to manager within his first month of working at Wimbledon Tandoori. Treating the restaurant like his own, he mentions that customers often enquired if it was his own endeavour, encouraging him to take a step into the restaurant world himself.

So after six years in Wimbledon, receiving praise from everyone who witnessed his impeccable quality of service and his respectful interaction with customers, he moved on to the next chapter of his life – a business to call his own. Explaining how it all began, he says, “ I came to Muswell Hill on September 5th, 1996 and I instantly knew it was for me, but I knew it wouldn’t be easy.”

And easy – it was not.  Having to start from scratch, taking over as manager of a restaurant struggling to keep afloat, Abdul had his work cut out for him. He explains,” Before I took over, they wouldn’t get a single customer all night and business was quite bad. When I came in people were sceptical- that I was just one of the people passing through as another manager- but I told people that I could make things better for them with their own support – I wanted feedback from customers on what they wanted from me and where I could improve.”

Soon enough business began picking up, and Abdul credits this to his own skills, to the God looking over him and to the customers themselves. He repeats over and over, throughout our nearly 2-hour conversation, that his customers, and their comfort is his – and his team’s – priority. Gushing about his customers, he says, “In restaurants usually people are trying to rush customers or oversell their products, but what we want is for them to feel comfortable and relaxed. We want the atmosphere to be like their own home, because we look after them like they are our own family.”

As humble as he is and as much as he makes it a point to credit his incredible team at the restaurant, Abdul also knows that he worked hard to get where he is, and he is proud of it. Delving into the canvasing he did to increase the popularity of the restaurant in the early days, he says, “ I did a lot of my charity work to get the local community involved. The first fundraiser was a full house.

“Soon enough I began taking my community work to schools, shops, pubs – where I’d give out leaflets and samples of onion baji, mint sauce and our restaurant’s speciality Nawab sauce. To everyone who loved the food, I’d hand out a takeout menu and ask them to drop in. By the year 2000, people from all over were visiting!  ”

With the popularity of the restaurant in mind and the topic of sauces and samples on the table , we talk about the dishes on offer at the restaurant. Abdul explains that while the menu – creative yet clear, simple yet classy- doesn’t offer many dishes there is a range of choices available – whether vegan, vegetarian or non-veg.

Marked clearly with allergen information, the typography on the menu is more than enough to get any food lover salivating. He mentions that while most dishes sell well, karahi was the most popular dish – so the opportunity to order it couldn’t be missed. 

As we explore the plethora options, Abdul deftly picks and recommends what he thinks he is best suited to my meat-loving tastes, while also catering to my mum’s vegetarian restrictions. And as the dishes comes out one after another – quick, hot and flavourful – it’s instantly clear that none of Abdul’s claims were overselling the brilliant decadence of the food on offer.

First comes a crispy entree of fried prawns and a cluster of tangy king prawns laid on a sizzling batura. Dancing across your taste buds, the food is filling yet light. And the biryani, naan,  chicken karahi, lamb aubergine and chickpea  curries that follow, tease you with tinges of spice and sourness, while never overpowering your senses.

Portions large yet manageable, and the food as fresh as they could – it’s the kind of food I left behind when I moved from India three years ago – and the kind of food anyone who loves authentic Indian cooking would love. The biryani and the chickpea curry were definitely highlights amalgamating everything I miss about my hometown with powerful flavours I never knew existed.

Tasting the previously mentioned Nawab sauce was also an unforgettable experience as the unique recipe balances spots of sweetness with tangy touches and spicy flares in perfect harmony – making it the perfect accompaniment to every dish that would need an accompaniment, but admittedly licking it up by the handful is just as satisfying.

Speaking of satisfaction, we discuss what made Abdul choose this career as his path to contentment. He reveals that instead of an efficient restaurant manager he could have ended up a postman- he didn’t pass the exam by just one point – or even a hairdresser. Throwing out another unexpected fact about being a semi-professional barber, he says “ When I was in school in Year 3 or 4 I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up – I said a waiter, a manager and then have my own business. But while I was in Wimbledon there was a time when  I wanted to be a hairdresser and I went into a salon to ask if they had an unpaid vacancy so that I learn but they told me people wouldn’t like me at all because of my skin colour-  and that’s when I decided I would be successful in my own right.”

He says, “ I worked hard to get to a point where no one can criticise me, or act like they are above me. But I’m not a magician, it’s the team who support me and the customers who have made us everything we are.”

Incredibly loved and respected by those around him, Abdul who recognises every customer by their face and name has become synonymous with the Taste of Nawab- a fact made clear by the sweet story he proceeds to narrate. He says, “ When I used to go to schools, I would do fundraising for them, donating part of my profits to them. And it was the children who used to say to their parents ‘we want to go to Abdul’s restaurant.’

“Yesterday there was a young girl who’s only nine years old and when her parents asked where she’d like to celebrate her birthday she said there’s only one place – Abdul’s restaurant. It’s these kinds of things that make the whole journey memorable.”

Abdul doesn’t want much more – he is content. But he does hope to expand his restaurant, and explains, “ I want to expand but only here not anywhere else. I’ve seen it many times before, people open three or four restaurants and then one of them collapses. Why? Because one person cannot run four shows.”

He is humble – hoping to run what he already has to the best of his abilities, to learn and grow just as he has been for the past 23 years, and more than anything else to leave behind a legacy that remembers him as someone who did his job well. 

Open seven days a week, with a seating capacity of 34, and a BYO alcohol policy, Taste of Nawab is definitely worth a visit if you want great food – but it’s a must-visit landmark in London if you’re looking a second home, where the familiar face  and warm handshake of Abdul will greet you– treating you like the special person that you are-  every single time you walk through the doors of the royal utopia in Muswell Hill.

Taste of Nawab

97 Colney Hatch Lane, London N10 1LR

Telephone: 020 8883 6429

By Malvika Padin

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After weeks of tension, chefs across the country can finally breathe a sigh of relief – or disappointment. The Michelin guide for 2020 has been announced, and 29 restaurants across Great Britain and Ireland have been awarded shiny new stars. One hundred and eighty-seven Michelin-Starred Restaurants are featured for 2020, including one new Three Star, four new Two Stars and 23 new One Stars.

Three restaurants have been promoted from One to Two Stars: La Dame de Pic in the City of London (Anne-Sophie Pic); The Dining Room at Whatley Manor in Malmesbury (Niall Keating); and The Greenhouse in Dublin (Mikael Viljanen).

Meanwhile, Aimsir in Celbridge – where Jordan Bailey focuses on foraged and preserved produce – enters the guide for the first time with Two Michelin Stars.

The Lake District is a big winner, with three restaurants gaining One Star: the sweet, intimate Old Stamp House at Ambleside; Allium at Askham Hall in Askham, which makes great use of produce from its gardens and estate; and hidden gem The Cottage in the Wood in Braithwaite.

One Star is awarded to Interlude in the Leonardslee Gardens in Lower Beeding and to Pensons in Tenbury Wells, which both focus on local and garden produce; meanwhile, Nottingham’s new One Michelin Star alchemilla really brings plant-based ingredients to the fore.

London has a good geographical spread of new One Stars, with intimate Mãos in Shoreditch; Da Terra in the restored Town Hall Hotel in Bethnal Green; Dysart Petersham, set in a charming early1900s house in Richmond; and Japanese Endo at The Rotunda in the old BBC Building in Shepherd’s Bush.

Other city establishments include sophisticated Indian restaurant Opheem in Birmingham and stylish Mana in Manchester, which receives the city’s first Michelin Star in over 40 years.

The Republic of Ireland also has much to celebrate, with intimate wine-bar-cum-bistro Bastion in Kinsale being promoted from a Bib Gourmand, and funky modern Variety Jones in Dublin and grand hotel dining room The Oak Room in Adare both receiving One Michelin Star.

“This is an amazing year for the Republic of Ireland, with five new Michelin Stars being awarded – two of them at Two Star level. This brings the total number of Starred restaurants in Ireland up to 18 and is just reward for the determination of young chefs who are keen to make their mark on the Irish dining scene,” says Rebecca Burr, Director of the Michelin Guide Great Britain & Ireland.

Remarkable Achievement of Aktar Islam

Aston-born chef-owner Aktar Islam is probably the first British Bangladeshi Chef in the UK to be awarded a Michelin Star.

Birmingham based chef Aktar Islam won Gordon Ramsay’s F-Word back in 2009. Akhtar Islam now won first Michelin star for his Birmingham’s Summer Row restaurant Opheem, which was announced early October 2019.

In a heartfelt message on Facebook, Aktar wrote: “Gordon Ramsay, ten years ago you gave me my big break and yesterday Opheem was awarded its first Michelin star.

“Thank you, chef, for setting me up for this incredible journey.”

Restaurant fined after avoiding safety warnings from council

The Sagar Indian restaurant in Seaham, County Durham, has been fined almost £7,000 after Durham County Council food safety officers carried out tests and confirmed that the curry was misleading and sold as nut-free to one of the officers, who clarified specifically that she had a peanut allergy in November 2018, and requested a curry to be made without any peanuts.

The Newton Aycliffe Magistrates Court heard that, despite the reassuring from the staff that the curry provided would be nut-free, it was confirmed after analytic tests that small amounts of peanut protein was still present in the curry, which made it dangerous enough to induce an allergic reaction also known as an anaphylactic shock.

The food safety officers returned to the premises in January 2019, to do a safety check and where the issue of cross-contamination had been discovered. This was from the result of uncovered nut powder that was stored next to other spices and very close to the stove where the cooking takes place.

This wasn’t the first time the restaurant had been under investigation, back in 2015, The Sagar, had already received a warning from the council, which again confirmed through a test, that traces of peanuts were still visible in a confirmed nut-free dish. Upon confirming this news previously, the restaurant was invited to attend free training and support on the topic of food safety and allergens, but this was ignored and nobody decided to take the issue seriously. 

Joanne Waller, The head of community protection, said: “Recent high-profile deaths resulting from allergic reaction to food illustrate the importance of this case. The risk to members of the public who may be exposed to allergens either due to poor practices during food preparation or through undeclared ingredients can be severe.

“Customers who suffer from allergies expect food businesses to take their needs seriously. We hope the sentence imposed by the magistrates serves as a warning to food businesses that fail to control the risks posed by allergens.”

None of the staff or representatives from the restaurant attended any of the court hearings, which resulted in the company being fined £5,500, costs of £1,293.95 and victim surcharges of £170.

As a result, the company’s solicitor stated that the restaurant has now made attempts to implement some major changes, including a strict staff -training scheme, which educates on allergies, however still, the restaurant still is unable to guarantee an allergen-free meal.  

High Profile allergy related death cases are becoming a huge safety issue within the food industry and this leads us onto some of the serious issues that need to be addressed from this story being the storage of ingredients, how to handle a customer who has a reaction on the premises and how to implement good risk control measures.

Cobra Collective initiative launched in London

Cobra Beer, founded by British Indian entrepreneur Lord Karan Bilimoria, has launched an initiative designed to support the UK restaurant industry in early September, The evening brought together a panel of highly successful chefs, restaurateurs and restaurant industry entrepreneurs to form the collective circle and presented a number of issues facing the Hospitality sector and every member’s personal journey of getting into the sector over a wonderful three-course meal and a taster session of the latest version of The Famous Gluten- Free Cobra beer. The Collective group intends to roll out a programme of inspiring business master-classes, interactive workshops and ‘how to’ videos, developed to support start-up hospitality entrepreneurs and existing restaurant owners at what is a turbulent time for the hospitality sector.

The Panel members consisted of chef, entrepreneur and Master-Chef host Monica Galetti, Michelin-starred chef Andrew Wong, restaurateur Nisha Katona MBE, Podcast presenter and content creator Alexandra Dudley, Beer Sommelier Ed Hughes alongside Cobra Beer founder and CEO Lord Karan Bilimoria. Each member of The Cobra Collective will work with the Cobra brand to develop a range of exclusive and informative content and events based on their individual areas of expertise within the restaurant sector.

The agenda for the Autumn will cover interesting topics on; How to Create Cultural Harmony in the Workplace, The Highs and Lows of Business Podcast, How to Create and Grow a Brand within Hospitality Q&A, Brewed Smooth for all Food; Beer & Food Pairing Masterclass in an Increasingly Digital Landscape, How to Leverage Social Media in the Culinary World, Getting Ahead as a Female in the Hospitality Industry

Lord Karan Bilimoria comments, “Current economic forces and shifting consumer trends mean that running a restaurant business has never been harder, or more beset by external challenges.  As a brand largely stocked and consumed in pan Asian and ethnic restaurants across the UK, Cobra wants to bring a set of inspirational hospitality leaders together to support this hugely important sector of the restaurant industry. We are committed as a business to support entrepreneurs and independent restaurateurs and see the Cobra Collective as an ongoing and growing initiative; we’re delighted to announce our key members at this time and look forward to working with them over the coming months.”

A sad goodbye to the legendary Gaylord Restaurant

The exquisite Indian restaurant the Gaylord based in Central London’s Fitzrovia has closed down after 53 years in the capital. It is no longer listed in book a table or open table.

Gaylord will make way for Banjarah, the London debut for New Delhi’s Azure Hospitality. The Azure Hospitality, which is based in Delhi, runs several successful restaurants across India.

According to planning documents, the new restaurant Banjarah will occupy the basement and ground floors of 79-81 Mortimer Street and details to be worked out.

The Gaylord first opened its doors in 1966 and was famous for Indian Mughlai Cuisine.

Despite its popularity, in 2017 the Gaylord got into trouble because of serious breach of food hygiene standards. The Westminster City Council served the Emergency Hygiene Prohibition Notice and it was forced to close to make necessary improvement was carried out.

After reopen, it never really recovered to gain its reputation back and had continuous bad reviews.

Anyway, finally the site has been taken over by Azure Hospitality from India.

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Chef Salim Javed of Mint Caterers

Mint Caterers – 21Sep19

Interview by Tahira Khan

I had the wonderful opportunity to speak to The Founder and Creator of The Mint Catering Group over a coffee and speak to him about his passion for the food industry, how he got there and the highs and lows of his business journey. I also got to find out about how he got married in between all the restaurant ventures, the trips back and forth to Bangladesh and how his foodie time abroad has helped him achieve and master his final vision.

Tell me about your relationship with food as a child?

Well as a child I saw my mum cooking and heard good things about her cooking from back home in Bangladesh and I tried to get involved at home with her cooking, if she was cooking something I was on the side watching her and giving her ideas and then we would end up making something completely different altogether.

Growing up during the college years and my twenties

It started when I was at college studying for Business Studies as everyone did at the time and one of my uncles took me to his restaurants for some part-time work in Crawley (Brighton) in the early nineties when I was just twenty years old. It was the long holiday period when I started there six days a week. There was many other staff there chefs, caterers from the older generation and they pushed me into a higher position, so I started at front of house for a good few months, and then after three months my uncle said he was going to get married and I had to run the restaurant, so I was literally thrown into the deep end. I was put under a lot of pressure but I took charge of the running of the kitchen and front of house but I was enjoying it at the same time. I loved seeing the food come to life and was very involved with food giving different ideas to the chefs, like why don’t you add this or that and I ended up changing the recipe every time (laughs).  

So what was your first Business Venture?

I took some time out to work out what I really wanted to do, and all I knew was that I enjoyed working with food but still not sure exactly what. But I needed to do something for myself to stand up on my own feet as my family was suggesting and also putting on the pressure to get married. But I went in a complete different direction from the catering sector and at the time in the mid 90’s there was a growing popularity in becoming a driving instructor and owning a driving school you know like BSM, I had to get serious about things now. So my first venture was completely off track, I managed to get a few friends and business partners together and invested in the business of owning a driving school, even though I wasn’t a qualified driving instructor. By four months we had about thirty cars, it was doing really well, I felt that the business was well established and on its feet so that’s when I left my partners in charge of the business and travelled to Bangladesh to finally go and find a wife.

Beginning married life

When I was in Bangladesh I stayed there for quite a few months to decide who I wanted to get married to, it was a long process of checking out potential brides and I didn’t like some of the aspects of the traditions. My mother on the other hand was quite good who gave me plenty of time to choose as I wished, and then I knew I had to stay a long time to make a decision and choose the right person but I wasn’t happy with the choices given to me, Then through a friend I met a girl who I eventually liked. My mother got fed up after six months and said “right I think we have had enough time now, have you made a decision otherwise we are heading back to the UK”. It was at that point I said I had someone in mind, from thereon it was a very fast process of checking out the family background, arranging the marriage date through my family, it took about six months altogether.

After my return

When I arrived back to the UK and after seeing a decline in the driving school over a few months, it didn’t work out due to many reasons and I ended up becoming in debt and had to sell all the cars. I tried to save the business but it was better to close it down. I needed to do something and the only thing I knew was catering. But the thing I hated was alcohol and I wanted to avoid that, even though my uncle’s offered me a decent percentage of the profits, but deep down it wasn’t right for me. Then I was offered another restaurant management project after staying there for a week I decided that it needed a complete restructure to get it back upto standard again, that’s what I have been doing for the last 8-9 years. During that period I started going back into the kitchen again and began changing the menu again by chopping and changing things around like I did with my mum just a bit of innocent experimenting here and there. I then discovered that no one in the food industry has traditional home-cooked menus, instead they all had a gravy base. There wasn’t anything like home-cooked fusion dishes.  One dish was chicken with tarragon that I created. Then there is a traditional Bengali lemon called the ‘Shatkora’ that originates from Sylhet, I created specialty based curries from that fruit and it had such an amazing response from the customers.

Managing Joint Ventures

A couple of my friends had a restaurant and catering company and I was called in there to help restore the restaurant after the success of the last project.

I looked into that project and the first thing I said was taking out the alcohol bar and shorten the menu with just a few authentic dishes not twenty. We also looked into the wedding sector and introduced the waiter service, crockery and cutlery into the Asian catering industry rather than the plastic disposables used in local community centres at the time and over time we became the local Bengali household name in the community for Asian wedding catering. There was even someone who came from Bristol who wanted to print our name in the invitation in recognition of the reputation and prestige we had. I always wanted to do something big, so during that time

I made a business plan to create a banqueting hall. I took ownership of The Leyton Town Hall, which I planned to call ‘Entourage X’ a multi functional wedding banqueting hall, restaurant and on site catering. It was closed for ten years. It was a great listed building and had lots of potential but in 2011 I lost out big time due to the issues from the conservation officers which were really delaying the opening and it was resulting in huge debts of rents mounting up and I had to sell assets back home to pay everything off. It was the worst time loss for me in many things. It was better to let it go, it was a really tough time, I was lost, but after that I headed to Bangladesh again for a long break and disconnected from everything and everyone.

The Turning Point

By 2009 I had left the partners to leave to go on a long foodie trip to India, North Bangladesh, The Middle East, Goa and Calcutta again. I tried all sorts of food, from street food to fine dining and taster sessions with the best 4-5 Star Chefs. I started getting involved again with the ideas and recipes and still loved it. Then I finally came back with a light bulb moment and `I knew that catering and cooking was my passion every single time.

One of my good acquaintances was trying to track me down with a banqueting hall project in Tunbridge Wells. When they finally got hold of me they asked me to join there venture and I agreed to manage the project for a while to help them out but I knew it was temporary and I was still going to have another sustainable business that’s when I finally started up  “Mint Caterers” with my business partners who I want to thank for there help, they are; Safiul Alam, Abu Taher, Shahedur Rahman, and Jahangir Hasan Mintu, who all collaborated the new business concept based upon the aroma and taste of the mint leaf that is used in food and beverages. They have all been amazing and thank God we are doing very well. We have put our business heads together and achieved to gain the credibility of many of the top 5 Star Hotels such as The Hilton, Chigwell Marquees, Radisson Group, Fennes Estate and many more by providing a bespoke catering service for all occasions and all people not just the Asian community and it has worked out really well, thanks to God. My future plan is to keep doing this and expanding within the hotel sector for another few years and then I plan to retire and relax finally inshallah.

Mint Caterers

13 A Rigg Approach, Leyton, London E10 7QN

Phone: 020 3302 7870

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Ask Tofozzul Miah for the secret of his success in more than 30 years in the restaurant business and he’ll tell you that the answer is simple.

“You have to keep ahead of the game and constantly reinvent yourself – or you won’t maintain your advantage over the competition,” he tells me at his Bayleaf restaurant in the bustling north London suburb Whetstone.

As if to emphasis his point, a few yards away from our table his staff are taking part in a demonstration of some state-of-the-art, computerised  kitchen equipment.

“Our approach is simple,” he adds proudly. “We look to combine the freshest natural ingredients with the latest man-made technology, so that we can serve our customers a menu that is both imaginative and of a consistently high standard. This includes using all of the latest equipment at our disposal.”

Hence there are traditional dishes such as Grandma’s Dum-Biriyani (‘just like it’s cooked in rural Indian villages’) to the fusion duck-based dish Battakh, where the subtle combination of ingredients and spices lives up to the label ‘where east meets west.’

Trying to get the full Bayleaf experience, we sampled a blend of chicken, meat, fish and vegetable dishes and found each one a cut above your average Indian restaurant fare.

That went for the mixed starters all the way through to the tasty fish and lamb mains. All were all expertly flavoured, clearly demonstrating the restaurant’s penchant for fresh ingredients and home made spices.

With anything up to 100 covers on a busy night – it’s clear that Bayleaf’s loyal customer base are more than happy to spend in the region of £30-£35 a head for a quality meal in high quality surroundings.

The restaurant’s success is a testament to hard work and overcoming any obstacles that my come your way, says Mr Miah.

“It has to be a passion not just a job,” he adds, “If I’d given up in my early days, when I started a restaurant in south London that was simply in the wrong location, I wouldn’t have had the success I’m experiencing today.”

That success is not just demonstrated by the quality of the food and service on offer at the Bayleaf – but also by Mr Miah’s standing in the restaurant community, where he has held prominent positions in the British Bangladeshi Catering Association.

He is also a founding trustee of the local Bangladeshi Welfare Society of Barnet – while, more recently, taking on the “completely new yet enjoyable experience” of presenting the Channel S live Restaurant Talent Show.

Just shows that constantly striving for improvement – turning over a new leaf whenever you can and keeping up with the latest developments – definitely pays dividends.

­Bayleaf Restaurant is at 1282 High Road, Whetstone, London N20 9HH Tel: 020 8446 8671 –

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“My secret is in the spice.” And for multi award winning County Durham chef, Syed Zohorul Islam, that magic mix won him another spectacular accolade as he was recently traveling to Kolkata (formerly known as Calcutta) India, as part of the Taste of Britain Curry Festival team.

That accolade came for the Executive Chef at the Capital restaurant in Durham while he was flying the flag for the British Curry from the North East of England at the Raaj Kutir Hotel, Kolkata, India, where he and three other curry chefs showcased their Best of British popular high street favourite dishes in the city where the curry trail of Great Britain originally started from.

Syed, 56, at this prestigious food festival served up a variety of dishes – his speciality lamb, chicken, duck and fish dishes. Of course the classics favourites such as Chicken Tikka masala, Zalfrezi and Balti dishes were also on the menu.

With a string of prestigious awards under his belt, his passion for cooking, inventiveness and creativity has taken him to British curry promotion from London to Ljubljana, Manchester to Madrid and Durham to Dhaka.

From his grandmother’s humble home in Sylhet, Bangladesh, where he first discovered his love of cooking. Syed has steadily climbed the ladder of success since coming to England at the age of 16, learning his trade at his uncle’s restaurant in Sunderland – the city which is home to him, his wife and family of five.

But he says of his latest trip to Kolkata, India, where he was a part of the Taste of Britain Curry Festival team was “a real challenge.”

That’s because as he explained: “Kolkata was once the proud capital of the British Raj in India and it also has a big Anglo-Indian community and of course this is a city which was home for Nobel Laureate Mother Theresa.

“We gave our diners the best of British. The diners of the city of Kolkata are not unfamiliar with British tradition and culture, so we all had to do our very best and something different.

“We had a great team to India this time. I have really enjoyed working with Michelin Star chef Mark Poynton from Cambridge, who was part of the delegation. It is always a pleasure to work with a chef from the mainstream of British food scene. I have already started to experiment with some of chef Mark’s recipes from the Cambridgeshire Cookbook he presented to me.”

Syed is immensely proud of his achievements as a chef. His restaurant the Capital is based in the Claypath of Durham, stone through away from the University of Durham and Durham Cathedral.

As this is a top university city many of his Restaurant customers are students and visitors to this great historic city.

Syed has an enthusiastic team to ensure all his diners are treated with best food and services.

Syed says, “to run a good restaurant you need a top team. And if you have a top team then you have a top restaurant “Because of the great team effort for past 18 years, the Capital Restaurant has gained a dedicated following of customers who travel regularly from Newcastle, Middlesbrough, Sunderland, Washington even from Stockton on Tees.”

The most popular dish at the Capital is Zalfrezi because it’s not too hot and not too mild yet with a little kick. However, from every September like new in takes at the University, new dishes are added on the menu and a selection of main courses rotated with the seasons, giving customers fresh delights to tickle their taste buds.

The Capital Restaurant is very much a family business with his nephew and business partner Shibir Miah, managing Front House and overall business.

Syed Islam and Shibir Miah have together replicated success of the Capital Restaurant a mere stone’s throw away in the city’s Market Place where they are also running The Spice Lounge restaurant.

Both restaurants serve up the same award winning formula which Syed knows their customers love – the traditional flavours of Bangladesh combined with modern Indian fusion dishes, his exclusive, speciality dishes of aromatically spiced spring lamb, duck cooked in tamarind and honey sauce, his delicately flavoured Chicken Korma and mouth-watering salmon and King Prawn fusions.

The hallmark of this innovative chef’s success is all down to the fact that he is always “thinking and experimenting.” And that has also won him an enviable reputation as a first class wedding cook, catering for hundreds of people at a time throughout the North East of England.

Shibir Miah, says: “He is very passionate about what he does and he loves coming up with new dishes and he is very consistent in his cooking as well.”

Such success is all down to his skilful cooking, impressive creativity and of course that secret spice mix, of which Syed says: “It’s a secret I can’t tell.”

The Capital Restaurant, 69 Claypath, Durham DH1 1QT Tel: 0191 386 8803

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Shozna of Chef Jamal Uddin

Offers eye-watering tandoor lamb chops

Traffic hurtles past the busy throughfare that is the Maidstone Road. If motorists knew that a culinary delight was located here, they might slow down. Maybe even take a pit stop and sample some of the glorious food on offer here.

The historic town of Rochester draws in many visitors from overseas, with a roaring tourist trade. Unlike many holiday hotspots, the cuisine of Rochester has not suffered. Usually, tourist fare is a quick, tasteless and bland affair. Nothing could be further from the truth about Shozna, a veteran of some eleven years in the county of Kent.

This Indian eaterie does not have an easy task. Their challenge is to appeal to loyal locals as well as the tourist trade, who are often just after a quick bite to eat before jetting off on trains, planes or automobiles.

Chef Jamal Uddin Ahmed and his brother pride themselves on pushing the boundaries of Indian cuisine. Sure, they cater to the chicken tikka masala crowd, but also to those with a discerning palate. As a seasoned eater in the best restaurants that the UK capital has to offer, I have to say that Shozna’s lamb chop, ample and tender, puts to shame some of the more famous London restaurants, with their steaming, eye-watering tandoor lamb chops, piled high on large metal salvers.

Here, the lamb shank chettinad was a generous portion of meat, and the animal it came from must have been born from a herd of giants. It sat plump and inviting, surrounded by a glistening sauce which hits you with a Marmite-like tang. The meat is tenderised to perfection by grating raw papaya skin, which is made into a paste and then added to the marinade.

The upstairs restaurant is for fine dining, booked by couples, family or friends wanting a special night out. Recently decorated, three sparkling, huge glass chandeliers glitter spectacularly from the ceiling, giving off a nightclub vibe enhanced by the subtle pink under lighting of the bar. The décor is lifted by the addition of well-chosen Indian antiques.

Mirrors with wooden frames which were once part of grand palaces and temples now grace the walls. Figures of female deities strike graceful dancing poses from niches set above well-upholstered banquettes and tables. Only the timber frames attached to the ceiling remind us that we are in an olde-worlde part of England, in the former King’s Arms pubs.

For me, the starters are the stars of the menu. The nimbuwali jhinga is not to be missed. The huge king prawns marinated in lemon juice, lemon zest, lemon grass, yoghurt, honey and garlic, brings out the marine taste of the seafood rather than overpowers it. Particularly pleasant were the shells, burnt black to give a charcoal crunch. A bite of mango offers a juicy palate cleanser.

Best presentation goes to the murgh tiranga, a triumphant trio of chicken tikka – two of breast meat – one of thigh. The latter was a meaty pleasure, with a powerful earthy flavour. A treat to the eye with its reddish-pink curls of onion adorning the chicken.

The coriander fish is a light, engaging dish, made with green chillies, garam masala, coconut milk – and no surprise here – coriander. Excellent accompaniments are phaldhari naan, packed with fruit and nut, so adding a crunchy sweet contrast to the tender fish. Specially created is the Shozna naan, a good choice for pizza lovers as it has a lavish layer of sun-dried tomato and basil. Many of the dishes are mild, so you won’t get a curry so hot it blows your head off, unless you specifically ask for it.

You can feel the passion, excitement and dedication that the brothers bring to the table. I would say it’s one of Kent’s best-kept dining secret, but it’s not. People come from miles away to eat here. If you want to sample these wonderful dishes, do book a table early.


153 Maidstone Road,

Rochester ME1 1RR,

Kent Tel: 01634 847847

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Nahid Hassan launches first cookbook

Restaurateur and chef Nahid Hassan, who owns Shanti group of restaurants in Stockholm, launched his first cookbook in the Swedish capital in October. “Vego Curry” in Swedish, which translates into “Veg Curry” comprises of ‘Indian and Bengali recipes’ prepared from scratch, just as they are prepared in India and Bangladesh.

“The vast majority of Indian restaurants in Sweden actually make Bengal food, and it’s now time for the Bengali food to be properly introduced in the Swedish home cooking,” said Nahid Hassan. “Among the 60 selected recipes are classics like korma, tikka and daal, and many other great dishes – from breakfast to bread and sweet dishes,” he added.

Through the book, one can learn how to make their own blends of spices, prepare vegetables and relish some freshly-made home-cooked food. “You get an insight into how the true family meal works and what you need at home to quickly cook up a tasty meal,” he said.

The 160-page cookbook can be bought from his restaurants or directly through the retailer. The content covers an area that has so far been sparse among Swedish cookbooks. With side dishes such as bhajji, different kinds of sauces, chutneys and raitas, Nahid Hassan introduces the world to a completely different experience of Bengal food culture.

Hassan opened his first Indian and Bengali restaurant – Shanti Classic in Stockholm in 2000. Following its success, he now runs five others – Shanti Soft Corner, Shanti Touch of Bengal, Shanti Gossip, Shanti Ultimate and Shanti Culture Club. The latest Shanti Culture Club can be called a “meat-free” restaurant as it serves only vegetarian, fish and seafood-based dishes.

Nahid has won several international awards for his restaurants and entrepreneurship and believes in understanding the importance of food and culture and how they are related. “Some people don’t know what they are serving in their restaurants. Food helps in connecting different kinds of people and various cultures and being in this industry, it is the biggest advantage.” He also won the Best in Europe Category/Best in Bengali Vegetarian Restaurant Category for Shanti Culture Club, Stockholm at the Curry Life Magazine Annual Awards 2018.

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