Mahaan shows its might Indian restaurants are aplenty in West Sussex’s seaside town of Worthing, but the mighty Mahaan stands out.
The attractive blue name board, doors and window frames immediately catches the eye of any passer-by, who can be assured of ‘authentic Bangladeshi and Indian’ food. Mahaan, as the name suggests, is a great place for lunch and dinner, with family, friends or colleagues with a seating capacity for around 150. It has a bar and waiting area, where you can be seated comfortably or grab a drink before you place your order.
The claims of being ‘Worthing’s Premier Indian Restaurant’ is somewhat true as their history dates back to 1983, when Mahaan was launched and is touted as one of the oldest restaurants in town. The menu too stands out with some exceptional dishes such as Murgh Bhazzan, Lamb Mashriki and Basha Prawns and their own version of Murgh Sylhety, Naga Chicken, Bangladesh Fish Curry and Fish Shatkora.
In a candid chat, owner Askor Ali reveals how the restaurant got that name. “Amitabh Bachchan-starer Bollywood movie Mahaan had released and it did very well at the box office in 1983. So that’s one of the reasons why the restaurant’s name got considered. Moreover, mahaan means great and it appealed to all the partners back then,” Ali recollects.
The Montague Street restaurant certainly lives up to its name, having won the hearts of many customers with its spectacular service and quality dishes. Many a times, customers already know what they want even before they settle in as they visit frequently and are aware of the choices and dishes. Customers can expect a friendly welcome and quality food, with an extensive menu to choose from, both for eating in and takeaway. “We have been serving in Worthing for more than 35 years now and we value every customer and try our best to deliver quality food with the best service,” he confirms.
The Mahaan started with the conversion of a single shop into a small restaurant and bar. It was then further extended into the next shop on the east side and followed by the third which now adds up to the space of three shops. The business does not mind further expansion at the same property, should the opportunity arise.
On acquiring and launching more restaurants, Askor says, “At the moment, I am just focusing on this restaurant. We do have other restaurants in the family – one in Bognur Regis, Swanage in Dorset. My focus is on our ratings – we have constantly maintained our 5-star rating and follow all health and safety regulations. Our menu has special page related to allergens and precautions.”
Though business is brisk during summer months, Askor’s restaurant is more popular among locals. “We do have a fair number of local customers, who visit frequently. Many people travel during summers, so that almost balances out locals and tourists visiting the restaurant,” he analyses.
A major problem most restaurants are facing these days is shortage of staff. However, Ali feels he’s been lucky on this front. “I have my close family and relatives helping me in my business. My sons – one is at university and another is pursuing a career in accountancy – work with me over the weekends as that’s the time when the restaurant is most busy,” adds Ali, stating he is supported by his nephew Mujibur Rahman and niece’s husband Shalim Ahmed in his Worthing business.
“There has been no pressure from my side on them to pursue restaurant business ever – I’ll always support them in whatever profession they choose – doctor, engineer or restaurateur. As long as they are interested in what they are doing and good at it,” he says.
Recollecting his early days in UK, Askor says his experience with different restaurants helped me master the trick of the trade. “I came to England with my mother when I was 11 years old as my father was already living and working here in a restaurant in Bognor Regis. We lived there for a few years until 2005, until I took charge of Mahaan in this town,” adds Ali, who managed restaurants in Swanage, Shoreham and Brighton before.
“I am very familiar with all these areas and I like living in this part of England,” says Ali, which explains his affinity towards seaside towns. The sea is at a stone’s throw, and after a pleasant stroll, a perfect meal is what one looks forward to.
Competition from neighbouring restaurants is no threat. “Worthing has plenty of Indian restaurants, but all aren’t doing well. In fact, many have already closed down. Every customer who dines out looks for good quality and excellent service. If you are confident about these two factors, your business will definitely thrive,” he states.
“Another important point I like to make – you have to know your trade in and out. I can work as a chef, a waiter, a kitchen porter or a delivery driver. That is the key to success in this industry,” he adds.
What role does he consider best? “If I had to choose from the multiple roles, I’d mainly be in the kitchen, as a head chef. My cousin is the main chef here but when they get really busy, I go in – give him a hand, he feels more comfortable as well and less stressed,” he says with confidence. Askor enjoys other cuisines such as Turkish, Persian and Mediterranean. When not in his restaurant, he likes watching TV and sometimes gardening.
The restaurant has bagged a number of awards and recognition and featured in local newspapers and magazines. “It is very motivating when your efforts are recognised. It’s good for the restaurants reputation,” Ali says, adding, “Apart from Curry Life Awards, we have won British Curry Awards, Asian Curry Awards, and have regularly participated in cooking competitions and workshops.”
Mahaan is open every day, 12pm to 2pm and 5.30pm to 11.30pm, extending to midnight on Friday and Saturday.
177-181 Montague Street
Worthing, BN11 3DA
Contact No. 01903 205449 / 01903 207299