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.
220 London Road, Burpham, Guildford
Surrey GU4 7JS
Tel: 01483 451 278, 01483 576 219