Shah Ahmed tells Miranda Jessop why every night is curry night at Taste of Raj on the Green
I was working as a fashion designer in Canary Wharf when my brother persuaded me to come and help him at his restaurant, Taste of Raj. I started off working just a few days a week but it soon became difficult to combine both jobs and I needed to choose between the two. I decided to move to Taste of Raj full-time and I took over the running of the business from my brother nine years ago.
After fashion, food is my next passion. I grew up in a Bangladeshi family that loves eating. We have at least three or four curries for lunch and also for dinner.
We can seat fifty diners in the restaurant at one sitting. Our special banquet nights on Thursday are very popular and the weekends are always busy with both takeaways and dinner reservations. Between 7 pm and 9 pm is our rush hour and, even when we are busier than expected, our regular clients still insist on ordering a takeaway; they understand it may take a little longer than usual but they know the food will be excellent and it will be well worth the wait. Our lunch buffet between 12 pm and 4 pm on Sunday is another highlight of the week.
Rugby days are just crazy; we usually get over a hundred bookings as well as passing trade. I sit down with my team at the beginning of the day and we work out a plan of action.
The biggest challenge I have is juggling reservations when we are fully booked. I have to try to predict when a table is going to become available and sometimes it is really hard to make the right decision.
If I was to recommend one dish to diners, it would be Nana Special. A delicious hot curry cooked with garlic, onion and naga chilli sauce, it is a recipe my chef learned from his grandfather.
I love spicy food so my personal favourite dish is Spicy Lamb cooked with our chef’s special hot sauce with onions, tomatoes, peppers, coriander and red chilli.
I couldn’t do my job without my fantastic staff members. I don’t really like to think of myself as their boss; I believe we are all teammates working alongside each other and that’s why the restaurant runs so well.
We always go the extra mile for our customers. Just last night, myself and my three colleagues were all crawling around on the floor, desperately searching for a customer’s lost mobile phone. And then she heard it ringing in her bag!
It is very hard for me to take time off from the restaurant. When I do, I enjoy spending time with my wife and three year old daughter and I love to play cricket. I also like to reward my staff with days out together; we quite often go to see an Indian film at the cinema and we recently went go-karting.
I feel very proud with the way the business has grown over the years. I love getting to know my customers and, when they come into the restaurant, I treat them as my guests. Although I live in central London, I now consider Twickenham to be my second home.
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