Beverage Baron Bharat Bharania makes it big

Running a success full business has been a dream come true for Leicester-based British-Indian Bharat Bharania. He speaks to Curry Life Editor in Chief Syed Nahas Pasha about  his enthralling journey and shares all it takes to scale new heights.

A strong believer of ‘there’s no shortcut to success’, Leicester-based British-Indian Bharat Bharania has made it big in the UK with this winning formula. Starting off with less than four hundred pounds, Bharat has propelled his business to greatness, almost from nothing. He left behind his family property and assets in Uganda, before he arrived in UK with his mother, brother and four sisters in 1972. He began school and part time work in Leicester, a year before he touched teenage.

“My first job was at a  chips shop, where I used to carry sacks of potatoes, put them into the peeler and then the chopping,” he recollects. “It wasn’t one of the most friendly times – bullying and racism was rampant back then. Now when I look back, I think it just makes you stronger. Because of everything you have gone through, you become more street wise, smart and bold.”

A confident Bharat then went on to pursue an apprenticeship (in Heavy Goods Vehicle) for 4 years. After a few years and some experience in retail business, Bharat moved to Greece for two years. “As a trader, I sold rice, grains pulses to those based in the shipping industry – most of the workers in the shipping industry were from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Philippines and as these items form their staple diet, business was brisk. Greece, during those times was No. 1 in the shipping industry, so we were supplying in bulk to ship chandlers &  super markets,” he explains.

“In 1996 we incorporated Inter-Trading Leicester Limited. Prior to that, we were functioning as Inter-Trading Sole Trader. In 1998, I moved back to Leicester from Greece and took up Mythos Beer agency. My focus, by then was, primarily getting into wholesale of beer, wine and spirits, to on-trade businesses,” he says, adding, “We have been distributing nationally to wholesalers and deal in direct retail business-to-business. We also export to other countries.

When asked if a fresh start in Uganda, in terms of business, was on the cards, since he was born there and spent a significant part of his childhood there, he elucidates, “There are plenty of opportunities, but the major problem is that the currency fluctuates tremendously and there’s strong foreign exchange control in those countries. Previously, I used to export to Uganda. In fact, I speak Swahili, Gujarati and Hindi.” This did not come as a surprise. With grandparents, parents & wife from Gujarat, there’s not one but many reasons for Bharat to keep going back to India.

Bharat’s current business ventures include Inter Trading Limited (in UK) and Volta Investments, which is involved in commercial farming in West Africa. But his largest investment so far has been in the warehouse (the second one) he bought about 17 years ago. Spanning about 28000 square feet altogether, with 10 full-time employees.

“At any particular time, We have warehouse full of beers, wines, liquors, beverages, alcoholic and non alcoholic,” says Bharat, whose brother and nephew (brother’s son) are his support system in his businesses.

Like other industries, the market has changed massively for the beverage industry. The purchasing power has escalated and so has the demand for a mix of different brands and multiple choices. “When we first started, we were dealing with less than 100 SKUs.  With growth, the focus changes. Once you stock a product, you are expected to sell all other similar kinds of products. For example, if you go to buy tea, you expect them to stock milk and sugar. You don’t go to four different places. Similarly, when you’ve got a bigger range, one product helps sell the others.”

Asked about his favourite brand, Bharania says, “We have all the big brands, however, the best is from Britvic. As a supplier they understand our business therefore with each others support  we try and stock every brand of theirs.” For him, craft beers is just a fad like RTDs (Ready to Drink) and he believes in stocking  as many brands as possible. “RTDs were big once upon a time but now flavoured ciders has taken over the market. Similarly, craft beers sell mostly within the M25 area.”

The 57-year-old businessman believes in having a healthy competition. “Competition is good. It keeps you on your toes. You’ve got be smarter than smart to make money and be successful.”

Expanding his business is next on Bharania’s agenda. “We are always looking to grow the business. If there are any opportunities, we definitely give it a good thought,” he reveals, adding, “We have a wide range of beverages, probably about a thousand different ones or maybe over. Hence, the expansion is going to be within the drinks industry as you’ve got to stick with your trade. The idea now would be to buy somebody out – smaller companies, perhaps, so you get the instant results.”

The country is left in a lurch with pro and anti-Brexit talks but Bharania remains unruffled. “It is very hard to predict how good or bad Brexit is going to be for the country. Businesswise, if one door is shut, other doors can open. Maybe if UK starts doing trade deals with Commonwealth Countries – there are 53 nations – so that can mean a lot of business and many more opportunities. In short term, it’ll be hard, but in the long term, it will work. Whoever is the smartest will get the opportunity.”

He shares similar views about recession too. “There’s no recession. For me, it is as if opportunities are like one huge cake – all this time the just few nations had most of the cake but now every nation is biting at the same cake, so people are crying recession.” Nevertheless, he acknowledges all the opportunities he got here. “Certainly, UK has given me the right opportunities at the right time. Hard work and patience always pays of,” he says, concluding with another piece of advice – “Follow the leads, make choice by listening to your heart and start with organic growth instead of trying to become rich using short quick methods. You’ve got to stick with it, work hard and enjoy the journey.”

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Life During Lockdown for Indian Restaurants

For Indian restaurateurs up and down the country, the news that their business could finally re-open after first lockdown ended on July 4th July. It was welcomed with open hands. After months of boarded-up doors, empty kitchens and mounting economic struggle, those in the hospitality industry would finally be able to jump back into doing what they love best.

But what is this new reality really like for restaurants? After safely re-opening, did many find that they were faced with demanding customers, a shortage in tips and technological nightmares? Was the challenge in implementing the government’s Covid-secure measures not worth the attempt at re-opening?

Now, we have the new national lockdown was declared and came into effect from Thursday, 5 November 2020

For Abdul Milad, owner of Indian Moments, the past few months have been “completely upside down” for business: “It’s a complete disaster for the curry industry. We just have to rely on takeaways and delivery business to survive, despite investing a lot to make our place Covid safe.

Obviously, it’s not like before – business has completely calmed down. We are told to keep ourselves safe, but I don’t know, we are thinking about it all the time – what’s going to happen next, are we going to be ok – so yes, it’s really stressful at the moment.”

The whole of August included a government-funded initiative, Eat Out to Help Out, which saw slashed bills in half for all restaurants, bars and cafes involved in the scheme. Abdul claims the scheme was “good for us, we did really well, even though the weekends were very quiet”, though he admits, however, that it hasn’t always been plain sailing for trade: “When we started it was bad, then August was very good, but after the scheme expired it became very quiet. We are still running offers on our side, for September we were doing £10 pp discount every Sunday-Tuesday, and because of the curfew we are opening earlier, so at lunch we offer 50% off until 6pm, and then from 6pm onwards it’s 30% off.”

Discounts have certainly helped maintain bookings, but how much longer can restaurants slash prices to appease anxious customers? Abdul admits he isn’t too sure: “It’s helped business, and it’s been busy. But the problem is that we don’t know. We are hearing there’s going to be another lockdown, so it’s not like before. It’s not like last year. We have a long way to go until we achieve what we were doing this time last year.”

Implementing the government’s Covid-19 safety measures has undoubtedly made it harder for restaurants to run as smoothly as before, says Abdul: “maintaining the safety measures in the beginning was hard, but now we are used to it. We know how to keep ourselves safe and take all the precautions: wearing masks, gloves, hand sanitising, washing hands, sanitising everything top to bottom before we open. The problem is when we are serving food to customers at tables, we are not able to serve at a 1-metre distance from them, we are almost neck to neck. That’s what scares us. Customers are sitting 1-metre away from each other, but we are not. It’s tough. But we are complying with the measures and every day we are looking into how we can improve and make it easier for us and the customers.”

With economic uncertainty continuing to ripple through each stage of the pandemic, restaurants are also witnessing a shortage of customer tips. Shahid Rahman, the owner of The Rajdoot in London, has personally witnessed a shortfall: “So many have lost their jobs or are on furlough, they face uncertain futures, so of course they’re going to be stingier with money,” says Shahid.

With so many changes necessary for restaurants to operate, Abdul Milad has witnessed a range in customer’s compliance with the measures: “When the customer comes in, we ask them to sanitize and scan the NHS QR code. Some customers do, and some don’t. Everyone sanitises that’s for sure – some even go to the toilet directly and wash their hands properly before they sit down – but you can’t get everybody to do the same, some don’t care.”

Abdul also mentions how the introduction of measures have arrived with a hike in prices:

“Covid-19 has put the expense up high for us: QR codes, hand sanitising, gloves, masks – there’s a lot of things to purchase and we’re spending a good amount each month on them. It’s definitely affected our profit margins and as a result we are suffering from not doing the same business as we used to do.”

The safety and confidence of staff are paramount to running a sustainable business, with Abdul admitting the past few months have seen a rise and fall in staff’s confidence: “At the beginning of lockdown, we closed completely for four weeks because my staff were very scared and so was I. After that, some of my staff felt more confident, so we opened for takeaway. Over the summer, the fear was still there but the rate was down, but now, because it’s increasing again and it sounds scary in the news, my staffs are getting scared to come to work. They are more worried now than they were in the beginning; they don’t know the future or whether they should continue to work. The way it’s going now, the Coronavirus is going to create a huge amount of problems with staff and running the restaurant, because if you don’t have staff, how are you going to run it? Furlough is stopping from next month, and if staff stay home, can you continue to pay their salary, or give them redundancy?”

This uncertainty has unfortunately already led to Abdul letting staff go: “I let two people go in May. I couldn’t keep them; the amount of furlough pay was not enough so they moved on. My fear is the furlough will stop and if Coronavirus spreads the way it’s spreading now – in the wrong direction – staff will want to stay home, to keep themselves and their families safe, which is very respectable and I respect that, but then again how am I going to run my business? Where am I going to have to find new staff? It’s a challenging time ahead for the curry industry.”

Aside from the financial problems that the industry faces, emotions are running high for those attempting to keep businesses afloat: “People are confused and scared, everyone is, but I need to go to work. The fear is there, I’m scared every day when I go to work. It’s an invisible enemy and we don’t know who is carrying it – those who come to eat at the restaurant may have it. It’s a difficult situation,” says Abdul.

The latest attempt from the Government to curb the second spike was the blanket 10pm curfew for all bars and restaurants, which has left the hospitality industry with even more logistical struggles, says Shahid: “I personally think banning household mixing would have been a much better idea than the curfew.”

Abdul is similarly disheartened by the curfew: “I was obviously very sad, and I don’t know how the 10pm closing will help fight Covid-19. Everyone is coming between 7-8pm and the kitchen is backed up. I definitely think it should stay for bars, pubs and clubs because young people go late at night and don’t maintain social distancing, but I don’t think the curfew for restaurants make any sense. I think the government are failing policy in this country. They are disorganised. They had enough time in the summer and they kept talking about the second wave in the autumn. The government are failing to do all of this and they are confused and confusing the public.”

Abdul acknowledges that his mental health has been seriously affected by what’s happened in the past six months: “I’m very concerned about my health, as well as my staff and my family’s. I go to work every day – I need to because it’s my bread and butter – but I’m worried and scared and it’s scary for me and my staff.”

With restaurants having no choice but to revert to delivery should a local or national lockdown occur, the upcoming weeks and months have never looked more tentative. “It’s very hard to tell, but something I always tell my family, and I tell my staff, is that we have a very challenging time coming ahead,” says Abdul. “I think coronavirus will remain after winter, and business-wise as a whole, not only curry industry but everyone will be affected, people will lose jobs, and it’ll have a big impact on every single business in the country. People will only survive who have the manpower and a very high reputation and people who run family businesses, they will be able to survive. Those who rely on employees are going to be tough for them. It’s going to be a challenge and we will definitely suffer. I just wish everyone all the best and wish everyone to be safe.”

As we collectively face uncertain futures, with the prospect of a difficult winter to come, restaurants are undoubtedly nervous about what lies ahead, with Shahid claiming winter will be “the hardest month yet” with fragile business conditions.

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Fat-free Indian Cooking

For Life Style

Fat-free Indian Cooking

-By Mridula Baljekar

Could you ever imagine cooking Indian food without a drop of oil? Well, now there is a way!  My revolutionary cooking method will give you the chance to enjoy delicious Indian meals, packed with taste, flavour, health and vitality, but without any added fat! 

I am not suggesting that you exclude fat altogether from your diet.  Indeed, some fat is essential to the body.  Fat enhances the flavour of any food, not just Indian.  Fat is also an important nutrient and a high source of energy.  It is also a carrier of fat-soluble vitamins.  Fats and oils help enhance the characteristic aroma, taste and texture of most food. 

It is knowing which type of fat to include and which to avoid, or consume in small quantities that is the first and most important step in following a healthy diet.

There are three crucial types of fats that affect our diet. These are:

Saturates (present in animal fats and cooking oils such as palm);

Mono-unsaturates (found in cooking oils such as sunflower, rapeseed and olive) and

Poly-unsaturates (found in oily fish such as mackerel, sardines, salmon and herrings).

According to guidelines set out by the Health Education Authority, saturated fat is not really needed in our diet.  High intake of this fat can create high blood cholesterol which can lead to coronary and heart diseases.  Reducing saturates in our diet is essential to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

By reducing or avoiding saturates, we automatically reduce the energy supply to our body. This gap can be closed by using more of the two beneficial types of fats: Mono-unsaturates and poly-unsaturates (omega-3 fatty acids), which are believed to be beneficial to the heart. Although you will certainly benefit from an oil-free diet, I do not claim that the recipes in my book ‘Fat-free Indian cooking’ are the answer to a slimmer’s dream.  By ensuring that no added fat is used in the recipes, you have taken the first and foremost step to following a healthy diet. Neither is my book a manual for healthy eating, but you can safely use it as a guide. 

My aim is to give you the chance to enjoy Indian food without added fat.  Sensible control on calories is essential to keep well.  Fat contains more calories per gram than any other groups of food.  Cutting down on fat, therefore, must top the list of priorities in formulating a healthy eating routine.  If fat,  which is naturally present in food is enough to enhance the flavours of spices, why add more?

Remember, risk follows fat. My book offers you no fat, no risk and great taste!

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Beat Type 2 Diabetes with this special remedy: Spicy Curry

A lot of us cannot help but indulge in all the sweetness that is on offer nowadays, although some may be in the form of unhealthy foods. Linked to poor diet and lack of exercise, diabetes is one of the most prevalent lifestyle diseases, affecting around 3.7 million people in the UK. Over-indulgence on cakes and other sweet treats over the festive period can raise blood sugar levels.

During winter, Type 2 diabetes symptoms can worsen but a simple dietary change can do wonders. “Curry is a great meal choice for diabetes patients to avoid blood sugar spikes,” reveals Dr Sarah Brewer, CuraLin nutritionist in a report.

“Home-made curry makes a great winter warmer, and curry spices such as cinnamon, fenugreek, chilli and turmeric have beneficial effects on glucose control,” said Dr Brewer. Dr Brewer further explains how stews full of low glycaemic-index vegetables and beans can be very good for the body during such excruciating weather. Adding this to one’s weekly meal plan can avoid blood sugar spikes.

To team up the curry, she also recommends brown or wild rice rather than white rice as the latter shoots up blood sugar levels and it contains less amount of fibre which does not aid in good bowel movement. She also advices to opt for granary-style seeded and brown wholemeal loaves, if one prefers having bread.

Elaborating on spices, Dr Brewer added, “Cinnamon contains the antioxidant polyphenols, which improves insulin sensitivity in diabetes patients, while turmeric improves the release of insulin.”

High blood sugar can be controlled by consumption of more low glycaemic index vegetables, which includes most fruits and vegetables, milk, and some wholegrain cereals and bread.

In a report, the NHS recommends eating at least five portions of fruits and vegetables every day. Diabetes patients are more at risk of some deadly complications – including heart disease and stroke – so managing their blood sugar levels is crucial.

While most people over the age of 40 fall the under the risk of becoming diabetic, other common symptoms that can be noted are unexplained weight loss, passing more urine than every day, or having cuts or wounds that take longer to heal than normal.

Data shows South Asian children more likely to be obese In a drive to fight severe obesity, which has reached an all-time high amongst 10

and 11-year-olds, Change4Life has started a campaign “Make a swap when you next shop” to create awareness and encourage parents to halve their children’s sugar intake from some everyday food and drinks.

Data shows Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Indian children aged 10 and 11 years old were the most likely to be overweight or obese. According to Public Health England (PHE), children have already exceeded the maximum recommended sugar intake for an 18-year old by the time they reach their tenth birthday,

The campaign, which was launched to support South Asian families to cut back on sugar and to help tackle growing rates of childhood obesity, is urging parents to buy products such as yoghurts, drinks and breakfast cereals by half – while giving them healthier alternatives of the foods and drinks they enjoy.

Adopting these dietary changes every day could remove around 2,500 sugar cubes per year from a child’s daily intake, but swapping chocolate, puddings, sweets, cakes and pastries with healthier options such as malt loaf, sugar-free jellies, lower-sugar custards and rice puddings would reduce risks further. 

Orla Hugueniot, Campaigns Nutritionist at PHE, said, “Children are consuming too much sugar, but parents can take action now to prevent this building up over the years.”

“Overweight or obese children are more likely to be overweight or obese as adults, increasing their risk of heart disease and some cancers, while more people than ever are developing Type 2 diabetes. Overweight or obese children are more likely to be bullied and have low self-esteem. Excess sugar can also lead to painful tooth decay,” added Orla.

Nutritionist Azmina Govindji, said, “It’s important we as a community understand the sugar content in popular cultural foods and make changes to address the problem of childhood obesity. With busy lives and families to support, Change4Life is offering a straightforward solution – by making simple swaps each day, children can have healthier versions of everyday foods and drinks, while significantly reducing their sugar intake.”

“Grandparents can play a significant role in their grandchildren’s diet, and we recognise that change has to come from the whole family and not just parents. That’s why the Change4Life campaign will be taking this message to the heart of the community, including places of worship, to encourage everyone to support healthier choices.”

Chef and author Anjula Devi who is passionate about creating balanced and nutritious Indian meals and is supporting the campaign said: “Most South Asian households will have a blend of western and cultural foods in their homes which can lead to a high consumption of sugary products.”

“When I cook, I try to reduce the amount of sugar and salt content in my cooking and make swaps using low fat/sugar products where I can so we can enjoy the best of both worlds,” added Anjula.

Families are encouraged to look for the Change4Life ‘Good Choice’ badge in shops, download the free Food Scanner app or search Change4Life to help them find lower sugar options.


•          A sugary juice drink for a no-added sugar juice drink, to cut back from 2 cubes to half a cube

•          A higher-sugar breakfast cereal (e.g. a frosted or chocolate cereal) for a lower sugar cereal, to cut back from 3 cubes to half a cube per bowl

•          A higher-sugar yoghurt (e.g. split-pot) for a lower sugar one, to halve their sugar intake from 6 cubes of sugar to 3

Nutritionists believe ‘healthy’ food at supermarkets misleading

Looking for healthy food options in supermarkets? Watch out. While supermarkets pledge their commitment towards “promoting healthy eating”, findings from nutritionists and researchers suggest something else.

According to a BBC Channel 5 investigation, products available in leading supermarkets labelled as ‘healthy’ food, contain saturated fats and high salt level, which can be detrimental to health. The report quoted the British Dietetic Association saying stores including Tesco, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s were being “unhelpful” and “confusing” customers.

Researchers also found that despite being labelled “ready to eat” or “washed”, bags of cut leaves are a breeding ground for salmonella – and prepared salad is now the second-biggest cause of food poisoning in the UK.

Similarly, gluten-free breads are packed with a cocktail of additives and chemicals, including some used in the make-up and oil drilling industry, food campaigners claimed.

In another revelation, fruits available all year round, which look fine for consumption may have been harvested and taken for long-term storage into chilled warehouses filled with a mixture of gases to stop ripening.

The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) called for an independent supermarket regulator. “Supermarkets should be transparent about how they classify foods, and provide clear information about products,” the RSPH reportedly said.

“There must be incentives and penalties for presenting clear and accurate information. Perhaps there is potential to have an independent supermarket regulator. It is important that the good work done so far on labelling is not undermined,” it added.

A British Dietetic Association (BDA) spokesperson said supermarkets had a “duty of care” to their customers. “It is unhelpful and confusing to the consumer, and supermarkets should avoid doing this,” they added.

“They should be promoting and educating people to buy foods that actually are healthy – not just marketed as being so.”

Eating more rice could help fight obesity

Eating rice could help prevent obesity, a Japanese study has found. According to a Bloomberg report, researchers from the Doshisha Women’s College of Liberal Arts in Kyoto said that people following a Japanese or Asian-style diet based on rice were “less likely to be obese” than those living in countries where the consumption of rice is low.

The researchers added that even a modest increase of 50 grams of rice per day could help to reduce the worldwide prevalence of obesity by one per cent — from 650 million adults to 643.5 million adults.

They noted that low-carbohydrate diets limiting rice are a popular weight-loss strategy in developed countries, but the effect of rice on obesity was unclear.

The study examined rice consumption — in terms of grams per day per person — and calorie intake in 136 countries, as well as data on body mass index (BMI).

In the U.K., people were found to consume just 19 grams of rice a day, below dozens of other countries including Canada, Spain and the U.S.

“The observed associations suggest that the obesity rate is low in countries that eat rice as a staple food,” said Professor Tomoko Imai, who led the study.

Giving possible reasons why rice can help, Prof Imai said rice was low in fat, adding: “It’s possible that the fibre, nutrients and plant compounds found in whole grains may increase feelings of fullness and prevent overeating.”

“Given the rising levels of obesity worldwide, eating more rice should be recommended to protect against obesity even in western countries,” Prof Imai was quoted as saying.

The authors of the study concluded: “The prevalence of obesity was significantly lower in the countries with higher rice supply even after controlling for lifestyle and socioeconomic indicators.”

Tam Fry, chairman of the U.K.’s National Obesity Forum, said: “We have known for centuries that Far Eastern populations tend to be slimmer than in the West because rice is a staple food, but few obesity specialists may have appreciated why. This novel research is the first to hypothesize that we could nail obesity by eating a modest amount more.” The study was presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Glasgow.

Cabbage helps cut risk of cancer

Eating vegetables like cabbage, broccoli and kale can help reduce the risk of bowel cancer, a new study has claimed.

Researchers from Francis Crick Institute found that anti-cancer chemicals helps reduce inflammation of the gut and colon, thereby decreasing chances of colon cancer.

The study, which was published in a medical journal Immunity, explained how cruciferous vegetables when consumed generate indole-3-carbinol (I3C), which has high health benefits. 

They studied mice who had a diet rich in green vegetables alongside mice that did not. The rodents that were fed a rich diet developed neither inflammation nor cancer whereas those without showed signs of gut cells dividing uncontrollably.

“Even when the mice started developing tumours and we switched them to the appropriate diet, it halted tumour progression,” Dr Gitta Stockinger, from the research team, told the BBC.

Dr Stockinger added, “We often think of colon cancer as a disease promoted by a Western diet rich in fat and poor in vegetable content, and our results suggest a mechanism behind this observation.”

“Many vegetables produce chemicals that keep AhR stimulated in the gut. We found that AhR-promoting chemicals in the diet can correct defects caused by insufficient AhR stimulation.

‘This can restore cell differentiation, offering resistance to intestinal infections and preventing colon cancer.”

Dr Stockinger also believes the findings have become a “cause for optimism” and adopting a diet with plenty of vegetables will mitigate the risk of cancer.

She told the BBC: “A lot of dietary advice we’re getting changes periodically – it is very confusing and not clear cut what the causes and consequences are. Just telling me it’s good for me without a reason will not make me eat it. With this study, we have the molecular mechanisms about how this system works.”

She also added a word of caution, saying, “Make sure they’re not overcooked, no soggy broccoli.”

It maybe noted that signs of bowel cancer include persistent blood in the stools, changes in bowel habits, such as going to the toilet more often and stomach pain, bloating or discomfort.

Prof Tim Key of Cancer Research UK said there were plenty of reasons to eat more vegetables. “This study in mice suggests that it’s not just the fibre contained in vegetables like broccoli and cabbage that help reduce the risk of bowel cancer, but also molecules found in these vegetables too.”

“Further studies will help find out whether the molecules in these vegetables have the same effect in people, but in the meantime there are already plenty of good reasons to eat more vegetables.”

Curry ingredients may provide the key to improving your memory

Curcurmin, which gives turmeric its vibrant yellow colour may have several health benefits, according to new medical research.

There have been suggestions that the chemical has anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and could also help improve memory.

Scientists at California University in Los Angeles have been studying the effects of curcurmin on people with age-related memory loss. The results of the research were published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

“Exactly how curcumin exerts its effects is not certain, but it may be due to its ability to reduce brain inflammation, which has been linked to both Alzheimer’s disease and major depression,” said Dr. Gary Small, study author and the director of geriatric psychiatry at UCLA’s Longevity Centre.

There are much lower rates of Alzheimer’s disease in India, where curcurmin – a key ingredient of turmeric – is consumed in large quantities. It was also found that cognitive performances in the elderly was better.

Those who carried out the study found that those in the test group who took curcumin noted an improvement in mood and memory.

The research showed that memory tests with participants who took curcumin improved by around 28 per cent over the course of the study. Their overall disposition also improved, according to scientists.

A second study is planned by the University of California to find out more about the curry ingredient’s properties, with a larger number of people taking part in the research.

A key area of exploration is whether curcumin works significantly better for different age groups, and particularly with those having a genetic risk of dementia, or as a possible treatment for people suffering with depression.

“These results suggest that taking this relatively safe form of curcumin could provide meaningful cognitive benefits over the years,” Dr Small said.

A study at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas researchers used a combination of curcumin and boswellia, better known as frankincense. These compounds have been used for centuries in Indian Ayurvedic medicine as an anti-inflammatory.

“We’ve known for a while that curcumin and boswellia are powerful anti-inflammatories and have potent anti-cancer properties,” says study author Ajay Goel, Director of Epigenetics, Cancer Prevention, and Geonomics at Baylor. “They are both powerful natural medicines, and both have the ability to reduce inflammation,” he told Newsmax Health.

Annual sales of curcumin have increased since 2012, due to an increase in its popularity as an alternative health remedy. It is present in skincare products that are marketed as containing natural ingredients or dyes, especially in Asia. The largest market is in North America, where sales exceeded US$20 million.

The US government has supported $150 million in research into curcumin through the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.

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Rahman brothers realise RAJDOOT dream

Not rattled about encountering day-to-day dealings, brothers Hamidur Rahman Sofu and Ataur Rahman Lyak, who own Rajdoot in Guildford, consider themselves successful restaurateurs, having overcome all hardships to achieve their goal.

Rajdoot translates to ambassador, bearing which in mind the duo envisioned creating a sophisticated, yet warm and friendly Indian cuisine restaurant, rich with flavours and quality.      

Guildford was a perfect pick for them as they had started off their chef’s career in this very town. Donning the chefs’ hat was not as exciting as running a place on their own terms. At the tender age of 19, along with his 21-year-old brother, Lyak started the restaurant as a family-owned business in 1992. “It was not a business we inherited, nor did we own lots of property… it is sheer skill and hard work that has brought us fame in the curry industry,” Lyak says. 

“At the time we started, things were not great. UK was recession-hit then, so there were challenges,“ he says, adding, “But now, business is brisk and we have carved a niche for ourselves.” 

When asked about the competition in the industry, the restaurateur quipped, “I am not at worried about competition, all I care about is meeting expectations.”

“People visit the restaurant for the love of food. We have always maintained high food quality and will always do, and that is ‘one area’ always keep a close watch on,” he says.  “It is good to have a healthy competition, but I don’t think we have a match at the moment,” Lyak laughs. 

Well, he did justice to his statement with a piping hot tray of their signature Tandoori Murgh Mushroom Dopyaza. The succulent chicken was seasoned with the right amount of spices and balanced with mushrooms, onions and capsicums. That was accompanied with special naan and a white and saffron pilao. The food was delectable and I couldn’t agree more with Lyak about them being above competition. Bhuna Lamb and Kadu Gosht (Lamb cooked with pumpkin chunks/cubes) served with steamed rice deserve a special mention too.

Their Sunday buffet is the bestseller and Lyak can never recall a single weekend that the restaurant wasn’t busy. “It is reasonably priced for a buffet – £10.95 for adults and children for £6.50 which include Starters/ 3 Main/ 2 Side/ Sundries. Unlike many other buffets, we maintain the quality of the food and have different items instead of the same menu every week.”

The 80-seater restaurant is packed almost every evening with diners and the queue for takeaways is no shorter either. Not only do they accept bookings for small events, parties, get-togethers, catering in other locations is also part of their business.

The décor of the restaurant brings back memories from an Indian holiday with pictures of the iconic Taj Mahal, The Gateway of India, Victoria Memorial and others, gracing the walls. The brightly lit bar looks inviting for a casual drink.

“What we have created here is difficult to find elsewhere. We maintain a family environment – cosy, comfortable and good food. We also work with the community regularly holding fund raising events, sponsoring local football teams, catering for small and medium sized parties, customising it for the occasion,” he confirmed.

Lyak is also an active member of the Bangladesh Caterers Association.

The former chef pays equal amount of attention to his staff. “Chefs and staff are the assets of our business. I’m lucky to have a great award-winning chef with us – Anwar Hussain. Understanding their needs, flexibility with shifts, cutting down work hours to manage stress levels is very important characteristic restaurant owners should have.” 

Adapting to changing times, Lyak has opted for modern equipments and embraced technology. “We have commercial size dough kneaders, onion choppers and dishwashers. It is time-saving and useful for the staff,” he adds. 

He also encourages his staff to participate in culinary workshops and training programmes.

When asked about how well does he deal with criticism, Lyak’s immediate response was: “I take it on the chin”. He adds, “Accepting and using criticism to better ourselves is something I’ve learned over the years. Reviews and comments are treated very seriously. I first understand the nature of the complaints – if the matter is serious in nature, we compensate or refund or replace.”

About growing and expanding in terms of number of restaurants his principles are quite clear. “I believe in investing time and effort in one place rather than having in many but not being able to attend to them personally.”

“For me family time and work-life balance is very important — sometimes business is priority, sometimes it’s family. There has to be a balance. I feel I have already achieved a lot and I am happy and thankful for everything. I am a successful restaurant owner, and a father to two lovely daughters — its all a blessing for me,” he signed off.  

Rajdoot Tandoori

220 London Road, Burpham, Guildford

Surrey GU4 7JS

Tel: 01483 451 278, 01483 576 219


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Sea Arch – The Non Alcoholic alternative gin

Inspired by the rugged coastline of Devon, Sea Arch: a sophisticated non-alcoholic gin-alternative has launched.

The premium spirit, blended and bottled in England, contains eleven carefully selected botanicals, twice-distilled in a traditional copper pot with spring water. The alcohol is then removed to leave behind pure, evocative flavour. This balanced sipper is best enjoyed on the rocks with a quality tonic and a slice of citrus.

Each sip offers juicy top notes of cardamom, blood orange and grapefruit, with a smooth long-lasting finish, drawing on samphire, cardamom and sea kelp, hand-harvested from the South Devon coast. Gin lovers will love the unmistakable base flavour of juniper. The launch is in line with the decline of alcohol consumption in the UK, which fell from 3.07 units per day in 2003, to 2.57 units per day in 2017.

Artisan Airwrap

Anishya Kumar, the Founder & CEO of Zinda Foods –  is the innovator of a disruptive, game changing innovative wrap base trademarked as the AirWrap® – a low carb, artisan, natural, carrier, free of palm oil, trans fats, industrial additives, lard & preservatives. The first six months of her company have seen impressive growth in sales in Tesco of her filled wraps. The second quarter in particular reflects the consumer interest in having an alternative to standard wraps with the rate of sales much higher than expected.

The AirWrap is the anti-thesis of mass-produced ultra-processed tortillas. On launching the filled range of chilled ready to eat wraps into Tesco in January 2019, Michelin starred chef Alfred Prasad was the first to validate & champion this ingredient while developing fillings for the range. He said “The wrap itself is so unique compared to the generic, commercial wrap bases available, which gave me a lot to play around with.

Introducing India’s First Craft Gin

When the world was going through a “Gin-aissance” back in 2015, two bar owners in Delhi, India who waited expectantly for the tsunami of Gin brands were left high and dry. The country which saw the invention of gin and tonic and where exotic gin botanicals are found, paradoxically most home kitchens was still in the dark ages when gin is concerned. If they wanted gin, they were going to have to make it themselves. They stepped out from behind the bar, got themselves a copper pot still and experimented with every spice, herb and fruit they could find. They found a lot, they distilled a lot, they tasted a lot and they fell down a lot.

It took them more than two years and a lot help from their mentor, Elizabeth Anne Brock, a board member of the Gin Guild, but they finally found a recipe they loved enough to not just want to serve at their own bar but to take to the rest of the country and the world. “Greater Than” or “>” is their London Dry Gin made in India using some of the best botanicals from India and around the world such as Juniper (Macedonia), Angelica Root (Germany), Orris Root (Italy), Orange Peel (Spain), Coriander Seeds, Fennel, Chamomile, Ginger, Lemongrass (India). Made in a 1,000-litre copper pot still source from Hungary, it is India’s first craft gin. As per its name, this gin looks for all things greater. We hope others do too. We hope others do too. For further information or stocking the Greater Than Gin, please contact: Hoshang Noria: +44 7734 537 840 or visit website:

Asparagus Gin Launch Puts the Tip into Tipple

Asparagus Gin is the latest creation to bring to life the Vale of Evesham’s venerable veg. Launched to celebrate this year’s British Asparagus Festival, which is full force in Worcestershire until the end of June, the distillers, Hussingtree Gin, are amongst the first to successfully use asparagus as a botanical. They’re certainly the first Worcestershire-based maker to use world famous Vale of Evesham asparagus.

Numerous distillers have attempted to incorporate asparagus into their gins, but with varied success. The team at Hussingtree Gin spent over six months experimenting with distilling processes and botanical blends to unlock the vegetable’s unique flavour.

Distilled using the one-shot method in a traditional alembic copper still, the result is an incredibly smooth, distinctive dry gin. Richard Meredith, distiller at Hussingtree Gin, explains: “Asparagus, when distilled, delivers an earthy, nutty-sweetness on the palate. Our blend of botanicals, enhanced by local Droitwich brine salt during the distillation process, complement its characteristics beautifully.”

One question everyone has been asking of Richard is whether asparagus gin has the same effect on the human body as the vegetable itself and the answer is apparently not. The process used to make it seems to knock back those chemicals responsible.

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Duck Biryani

RECIPE by Chef Yogesh Datta

Chef-Patron Yogesh Datta

Long regarded as one of finest Indian chefs of his generation, Yogesh Datta brings a strong sense of tradition to his cooking yet marries it with just the right sense of modernity and flourish. Born in Shimla, a hill station in northern India, Datta initially honed his expertise at New Delhi’s prestigious Taj Palace Hotel. This was followed by him working in a hotel in Geneva, Switzerland, where he learned the ropes for French cooking before embarking as an Executive Chef for the Indian section with the Sheraton hotel group in Dubai. From there, Datta arrived to work in London, heading up the kitchens of Tabla, a modern Indian in the Docklands. Thereafter, he went on to open the widely acclaimed fine dining Indian restaurant The Painted Heron in 2002 and subsequently, what is the City’s finest casual dining Indian, Bangalore Express.

Duck Biryani

with onion, tomato, cucumber relish

Serves 5-6 people


l Duck whole : cut into approximately 12 pieces on the bone

l Basmati rice – 1 kg

l Butter/ Ghee / oil – 200 gms

l Low fat yoghurt – 500ml

l Kashmiri chilli powder – 3 heaped tea spoons

l Turmeric – 2 heaped tea spoons

l   Ginger/ garlic paste – 3 table spoons

l   Onions 2 – chopped

l    Tomatoes 4 – chopped

l   Juice of 1 Lemon

l   Asafoetida – commercial variety, mixed with flour (optional) – 2 teaspoons

l    Special Garam masala powdered – black cardamom seeds, black cumin seeds (kala jeera), coriander seeds, Cumin seeds, mace flowers(javitri) and grated nutmeg. – 50 gms

l    Bouquette garni- cinnamon sticks, cloves, green cardamom, bay leaves

l    Saffron – 1 gm

l   Salt – to taste

l   Kewda water (optional) – 10ml

l  Milk – half a cup

l    Fresh mint – 1 bunch

l    Fresh coriander – 1 bunch.

l     Prunes pitted – 100gms

l     Fried cashewnuts – 150gms (optional)

l     Paneer grated (optional) – 100gms

l    Fried brown onions (optional) – 100gms

l    Onion /tomato/cucumber relish

l    Sliced red onions, tomato juliennes and cucumber juliennes

l     Greek yoghurt, cream, salt, pepper, chopped garlic and chopped coriander, salt to taste


Wash and soak rice in cold water and set aside. You may leave the skin on the bird or remove it is entirely. Wash the duck in running water as well. Chop onions and tomatoes.

Wash mint and coriander bunches, chop the leaves and stems and keep separately. Pat dry the meat and marinate in one table spoon of ginger/garlic paste, juice of one lemon, salt and set aside for half an hour.

Heat a non-stick pan, sprinkle a little oil and add the duck pieces to brown on high flame. Heat ghee/ butter/ oil in a deep heavy bottom pan add asafoetida, turmeric, followed immediately by the chopped onions. When the onions begin to colour, add rest of the ginger/ garlic paste and red chilli powder. Cook over low flame until the mixture begins to stick to the bottom of the pan. Add the chopped stems of coriander and mint followed by chopped tomatoes.

Add the duck along with yoghurt into the pan, cover and simmer over low flame, until duck is cooked.

In another pan add lots of water along with salt and bouquette garni- cinnamon sticks, cloves, green cardamom, bay leaves. Cook the rice until 3/4th cooked, throw away excess water and allow rice to cool to room temperature.

Soak saffron in warm milk in a small bowl In a deep heavy bottom deep pan, to layer the biryani, start with one fourth of the rice. Next add half of the cooked duck, half of coriander and mint, half of the special garam masala and half of the prunes and cashew nuts. Follow this with another layer of half of the remaining rice, followed by rest of the duck, garam masala, prunes, cashew nuts and half of the remaining mint and coriander. Top this up with all the remaining rice, mint, coriander, drizzle all the saffron milk around the pot along with the kewda water. Finish with fried onions and grated paneer. Cover the pot with a tight lid and cook again over low flame for 10 minutes. Serve hot with onion, tomato and cucumber relish.

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Mutton Rezala

Recipe by

Chef Utpal Kumar Mondal

Chef Utpal Mondal has gained international acclaim for his cooking but one of his proudest achievements was being named as one of three best chefs in Kolkata.

Bengalis love their cuisine as much as much as their art and the two become one in the hands of a maestro like Chef Mondal.

A glittering CV includes top positions at major hotel chains including the Taj Group and Radisson and he played a major role in the growth of Hotel Hindustan International, which now has a presence in five states on the Indian subcontinent.

His talent for Indian cuisine is matched by his knowledge of Italian dishes and he has cooked for people including Yasser Arafat, Sonia Gandhi and former British PM John Major.

One of his biggest gigs was cooking for the wedding of steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal’s daughter Vanisha to investment banker Amit Bhatia.

The wedding, which was attended by 1,000 guests, cost an estimated £30m and included six days of festivities in France.

Chef Mondal, who has won numerous awards including International Curry Chef at the Year Award. He describes himself as a ’24 hour chef’ who even dreams about food. Now if that isn’t dedication to food, we don’t know what is?

Bengalis love their food so being named one of the three best chefs in Kolkota when he was based there was one of the great accolades for Uptal Mondal.

Mondal is currently working as the Executive Chef at Radisson Kathmandu, Nepal.

We are delighted to offer one of his recipes in this issue of Curry Life for our readers. Few more of his recipes will be featured in future edition of Curry Life.

Profile Photo: Courtesy of Radisson Kathmandu



•              Mutton – 1 kg

•              Fresh green papaya skin juice – 20 ml

•              Ginger garlic paste – 50gms     

•              Green chili paste – 10 gms

•              Salt – to taste

•              Sugar – to taste

•              Clove/ Cinnamon stick /Green cardamom / Black cardamom / Bay leaf – for tempering

•              Ghee (clarified butter) – 100 gms

•              Curd – 200 gms

•              Poppy seed paste – 50 gms

•              Cashew nut paste – 50 gms

•              Sautéed onion paste – 100 gms

•              White pepper powder – a pinch

•              Sandal wood powder – a pinch

•              Mace powder- a pinch

•              Garam masala powder – a pinch

•              Sweet attar – few drops

•              Dry red chili whole – few pieces for garnish


1.            First marinate the mutton with salt, ginger garlic paste, curd, papaya paste, green chili paste and rest for 2 hours.

2.            Heat ghee in a pan, put whole garam masala (cloves, cinnamon sticks, cardamom, bay leaves), when crackles add ginger garlic paste. Cook for two minutes.  Sauté sliced onion in a different pan and make a paste, add and cook for another two minutes.

3.            Add marinated mutton. Once it comes to boil put the lid on and let it cook in a low flame till the mutton is cooked. Add cashew and poppy seed paste. Cook for another ten minutes. Finish with garam masala powder, white pepper powder, sandal wood powder, mace powder. Add sweet attar.

4.            Check the seasoning.  Heat ghee in another pan add fry red chili whole.

5.            Serve hot.

Photo: Courtesy of Radisson Kathmandu

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Street ahead is Grand trunk Road

It’s probably fitting that two groundbreaking pioneers of the Indian restaurant trade have named their new restaurant after one of the greatest pioneering projects ever attempted on the Indian sub-continent.

Rajesh Suri and Dayashankar Sharma were in the vanguard of attempts to have Indian food recognised by the Michelin guide in the early 2000s, when Rajesh was COO and Dayashankar head chef at the renowned Tamarind restaurant in Mayfair.

So when they decided to set up their own independent restaurant a few years ago, they typically thought big and called the eatery Grand Trunk Road – after the 1,700 mile northern Indian trade route dating back to 16th century and running through the famous Khyber Pass.

And with the characteristic attention to detail which marked their quest for quality at Tamarind, they decided to travel to the GTR in search of authentic ingredients and dishes for their new restaurant.

The result is a high-end West End quality restaurant in the Essex suburb of South Woodford where Rajesh lives.

Expanding on the philosophy behind Grand Trunk Road, he explains: “In this business, you have to innovate to stay ahead of the game.

We had to fight hard to get an Indian restaurant recognised by Michelin back in the day – and ultimately succeeded. We wanted to bring that same ambitious approach to quality to our own restaurant.

 “Knowing that this meant paying great attention to detail right from the outset, we used the year before opening in 2016 to travel across the Grand Trunk Road, so that we could get a first-hand feel for authentic ingredients and cooking styles.

 “We knew we had to do something special to create a thriving high-end West End style restaurant in the London suburbs.”

Proof of the duo’s success over the past three years has come by way of 12 awards and Dayashankar’s renewed rating with Michelin for his work at the restaurant

But equally satisfying has been the reaction of diners, with numbers increasing year-on-year at the 50-cover restaurant.

This became clear when we visited Grand Trunk Road on a normal Wednesday lunchtime, when rivals would be closed or empty, to find a busy bustling sitting.

What also became clear very quickly was that this was no ordinary local diner, with choices limited to variations of biryanis, bhunas and dopiazas.

Our appetiser comprised three separate samplings of Peshawari lamb chops, Lucknow Ka Malai chicken Tikka and Kolkota Ki Ajwani king prawns – each deliciously spiced and offset by a sweet Delhi Ki Chaat chickpea salad, blending sweet yoghurt, fresh mint and tamarin chutneys.

Even though this appetiser was a virtual meal in itself, we carried on purposefully to our mains, which were also beautifully spiced, cooked and presented.

The Tiger Prawns came in the shape of a Chingri Malai Curry, supplemented by coconut milk turmeric and ginger sauce.

The Punjabi Murgh Masala comprised tender chicken thighs, wrapped up in a tasty ginger, garlic, onion and spicy tomato masala.

And the Gosht Dum Lamb Biryani may have looked like an ordinary pie dish but, as with much else at Grand Trunk  Road, was nowhere near as normal as it seemed – with removal of the lid revealing the tenderest of lamb plus a soothing raita.

Add to all of this a series of sides incorporating everything from okra and beetroot to Indian cottage cheese and spinach – and our feast was complete…. oh apart from a selection of ‘chef’s special ice creams’ consisting of rose petal, avocado, coconut and pineapple versions, which we were assured would ‘just slide down’.

As with the rest of the meal, each dessert dish benefitted  from the use of fresh, home-made, authentic ingredients – and felt like it was a one-off, made just for us.

This was borne out by Dayashankar himself, who emerged from the kitchen to well-deserved plaudits.

He explained: “We have a rule that no flavour is repeated throughout the menu, giving each dish the authentic taste that was intended when created in towns and villages across northern India.

“Given the feedback we  receive from our customers – and our rate of growth over the past few years – I’d say we are succeeding in our attempt to build an innovative West End quality restaurant here in the London suburbs.”

Based on our experience, there’s no doubt that the Grand Trunk Road is certainly streets ahead of many of its rivals.

Grand Trunk Road

219 High Road

South Woodford,

London E18 2PB.

Tel: 020  8505 1965

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Sawbridgeworth a visit

There couldn’t be a more typically English setting than Sawbridgeworth.

Dating back to Saxon times, and mentioned in the eleventh century Domesday Book, you’ll find the picturesque town nestling in impressive countryside on the Herts-Essex border.

Yet it is here, in this olde-worlde setting, that some of the best Indian food in the area is being served to an ever-growing clientele – at the Chandini restaurant.

The restaurant is even based in a quaint early 18th century former pub – originally known as the Half Moon Inn – but there’s nothing at all staid or old fashioned about Chandini or the approach of its owner Abu Mojid.

“We are constantly changing and adapting to the needs of our customers,” he explains.

“That might mean ditching dishes that aren’t too popular, experimenting with new ones or increasing the number of tried and tested favourites.”

This philosophy is clearly reflected in Chandini’s excellently explained menu – which has separate sections for ‘traditional’ dishes, ‘customers’ favourites’ and chef’s ‘signature’ plates.

The former predictably includes varieties of vindaloos, bhunas and kormas – while clients’ choices incorporate all the various combinations of biryani, balti and butter dishes.

Among the restaurant’s signature choices are the exotically named Hyderabadi -small lamb meatballs in a rich tomato sauce, topped with a boiled egg – and the equally delicious sounding Aromatic Duck Naranghi, which blends tender meat with a range of spices, sauces and jeera seeds.

Attempting to get a taste of the menu’s main sections, we went for a signature dish intriguingly named 65 – which turned out to be a mouth watering combination of tandoori king prawns tossed with chargrilled onions and a range of spices, mango, garlic, chilli and fresh lime juice.

The Chicken Biryani from the ‘customer favourite’ sections was also beautifully cooked with melt in the mouth chicken supplemented by a lovely vegetable curry – while from ‘traditional’ section the creamy Lamb Korma also ticked all of the boxes.

All of this followed the Chandini Platter – an appetiser that combined chicken and lamb tikkas with kebabs and bhajis.

Taken as a whole our experience definitely satisfied owner Abu’s recipe for success – and all at the very reasonable price of around £20 a head for our virtual feast.

He sums up: “My approach is simple really.

“We want customers to leave the restaurant feeling they’ve had a great, value-for-money experience.

“That means providing quality food and service at a reasonable price. Once you’ve cracked those three elements, you’re on the right road.”

The road to Sawbridgeworth may well be paved with reminders of England in days gone by, but there’s nothing behind-the-times about Chandini’s approach and its offer to an ever growing band of devotees.

Chandini is in High Wych Road,

Sawbridgeworth, Hertfordshire

Tel: 01279 600062 –

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Kamrul Rules the Waves!

Sole owner of the Shampan Restaurant and Cocktail Lounge, Kamrul Hussain, tells Curry Life what it’s like to captain his ship single-handed.

Kamrul Hussain is no stranger to the hustle and bustle of the restaurant trade.

He started out working in a number of restaurants and takeaways mainly around London and Surrey, from an early age – before taking the plunge and opening up the Shampan Restaurant and Cocktail Lounge in North Tyneside in 2016.

‘Shampan’ means a class of a boat shaped like a swan, with a Chinese and Burmese influence, so the name nicely sums up the feel of the local area, close to the seafront as well as the picturesque town of Whitley Bay.

And if the Shampan can be likened to a vessel, there’s no doubt that Kamrul is very much the captain of the ship.

He has steered the restaurant through both choppy and calm waters, on a solo basis and without investment partners or help from family members.

How has he managed so well from the captain’s bridge? He has a simple philosophy.

He explains: “It was only through having the self-confidence, a bit of luck and trying to do the best you can.

“I treat my customers like my family – and honestly believe that’s the reason why the business has been successful.

“It’s simply because my 80 or so regular and loyal customers are happy to recommend us and through them I can regulalrly get 20 or so new customers, on the weekends… oh my god, I’m so busy with new customers.”

The family feeling really shines through on a busy sitting at the restaurant, with Kamrul visiting every table.

North Tynesiders love their curry and many people enjoy the Lamb Tok Jal Mishti, Shampan Handi and Fish Chilli Korai.

“Because  we are next to the town centre as well as the waterside,” adds Kamrul, “there’s lots of places to eat but you can’t beat a good curry”.

He works 24/7 to go the extra mile and the restaurant is open on public holidays and even Christmas day, when he takes huge takings – plus the customers are generous with tips, so his attitude is ‘why should I miss out on that!’

“ I work really hard, literally seven days a week – in the evenings from 5.30pm onwards and well into the night – often coming home about 4-5am; while during the daytime it’s all about shopping and going to meetings usually”.

With a new addition to his family, Kamrul is trying to limit his work schedule a little,. When he gets home his downtime is spent with his wife and baby or alone.

What drives him is his experience of twenty years in the trade during which he has learned so much. He loves to cook but as a self made man he says “ there are advantages and disadvantages to every situation in life, you have to keep on motivating yourself in new ways as it’s your own business, your own time and your own risk.

“The good thing about running your own business is that you don’t have anyone on your back telling you what to do, but sometimes it does get a bit much as I manage the business alone and don’t have any brothers, family or partners to fall back on, so that’s where I struggle sometimes.

“But saying that the girls who work here are such a great help and an asset to me. We do  a lot of the day to day tasks together, like a family, which helps me manage my time, and one of my chef’s has been working for me nearly seven years; in fact all of my staff are great.”

Even so, Kamrul tells me that getting enough good staff is still one of the biggest challenges facing the industry. He doesn’t enjoy dealing with issues like immigration laws, which have increasingly been tightened.

He always chooses experienced staff, but introduces them to his way of managing the business, while always leaving room for staff suggestions and feedback. Dealing with change and adapting to different situations seems like second nature to Kamrul.

He explains: “ It’s not always easy to deal with lots of changes and raise standards at the time, but it’s good to sometimes change around my prices, my menus and also the building to accommodate the needs of my clientele

“Now with the addition of Shampan’s Gin and Prosecco cocktail lounge, built in 2019, I like to show my customers that I am always thinking of them and not being stagnant in my business development.”

He also mentions that having a solid working relationship with his chef that is key to the business’s success.

“We grew up together and he is a good friend of mine. We used to play badminton together, but the way we manage the business has to be productive, it doesn’t matter if I have had a bad day or not, we all sit down and have regular meetings with the chef and the rest of the team to discuss previous incidents and future events”.

He always likes to prevent uncomfortable situations and make sure that the restaurant provides plenty of space for his customers.

“People hate cramped spaces and I don’t like to rush them,  so I sometimes have to turn custom away in order to prevent the place from becoming overcrowded and unmanageable.

“I don’t like to play boss with my staff either, as they know who they are answerable to at the end of the day. It’s about staying ahead of the competition, being your best and being unique.

“Inside the new cocktail lounge we show video promotions of the restaurant  -showcasing the staff, food and what’s to come in the future. The lounge has state- of-the-art technology and lavish contemporary interiors, whilst downstairs there’s a more traditional restaurant setting; the contrast works well together.

A friendly and sociable character, Kamrul loves to enjoy his work in a lively environment and another exciting feature of the cocktail bar and lounge is an entertainment area which hosts live bands – and coming soon will be Bollywood themed nights, complete with a DJ and live singer on Friday nights.

On the  cards for 2020 are other innovations, including opening another bar and club, so watch this space.

A worthy winner of  a Curry Life Editor’s Choice Award last year, Kamrul sums up: “winning this award made us very proud and gave us so much inspiration to achieve even better things in the future.

“We just want to improve – and push the boundaries of Indian cuisine, while also improving sustainability standards, and striving even further to be environmentally friendly in 2020.” 

Shampan Restaurant

185 Whitley Road, Whitley Bay

NE26 2DN

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Amnesty call for undocumented workers

A letter sent to UK Home Secretary Priti Patel has urged the Cabinet Minister to offer an “immediate amnesty” to undocumented workers. The letter has been sent by the Bangladesh Caterer’s Association and comes in the wake of COVID-19 and the chaos it’s brought to the UK hospitality industry.

The letter argues that undocumented workers could provide essential support to the industry which is already short-handed as a result of the virus. It states that such workers could have vital knowledge, and experience, which could be essential in keeping the industry on its feet, especially curry houses and restaurants serving Asian cuisine.

Since 2005 the UK food industry has been experiencing what’s known as the ‘Curry Crisis’. This represents a shortage of skilled cooks that has steadily increased over the years. Now with the added pressure of coronavirus, things are more dire than ever.

The letter warns that “extraordinary times, require extraordinary measures” – and that such undocumented workers already have no access to the NHS, so arguments that use that as a reason are flawed.

It also argued that “Prime Minister Johnson himself has advocated the idea of an amnesty for illegal migrants on numerous occasions and has been in favour of this idea for some time.”

So far, the Bangladesh Caterer’s Association has not received a response.

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