A bullseye in Kettering

Posted on Front of House Mar 2012 - by Tandoori Magazine
A bullseye in Kettering

Small towns, or for that matter even tiny villages across the UK will always have at least one Chinese or Indian restaurant in their midst. Generally speaking, the restaurants will offer a familiar, crowd-pleasing menu, but on the whole, due to the nature of their setting, will be a very subdued affair.

 
Clearly, not so with The Raj, in Kettering. This is a buzzing, heaving place that presents itself as living evidence that the British public’s love of Indian food is never-ending. And we are talking a packed house practically every night of the week, not just a Friday or a Saturday night – all thanks to its forward-thinking proprietor, Goyas Miah.
 
“I started out in the trade when I was just 21,” Miah says. “That was in 1991, with other members of the family. It was a very small restaurant compared to what it is today. The decor was also very old fashioned – flock wallpaper, carpeting and cooking which was less than progressive. Let’s just say that we were a very small fish in a very big ocean then!”
 
Kettering is a town that has seen its fair share of the country’s economic downturn, but little did Miah know at the time he launched that his restaurant would be such a success story.
 
“Realistically,” says Miah, “I wasn’t expecting this, but we quickly managed to build a good customer base and within the space of two to three years we had a lot of regulars. We wanted to move forward and expand, but the retail premises we wanted to take over next door weren’t available until 1999, which is when we did acquire it. That was very much the first phase of our expansion and we made sure that we fit out the restaurant with a modern and inviting look.”
 
Further expansion followed in 2001 after the purchase of another next-door retail unit, with the establishment becoming ever more popular. Finally, in 2010, Miah opened a piano bar upstairs.
“A live pianist plays there Thursday to Saturday nights, which is very entertaining for customers, but the bar serves a very practical purpose too,” admits Miah.
 
“We get so busy that we wouldn’t be able to cope with the crowd that builds up downstairs. So it gives the customers an opportunity to go upstairs before they dine and have some drinks as they relax in a pleasant environment.
 
Unfortunately, what a lot of busy restaurants will try and do is to cram in as many sittings as they can and rush customers to leave. That isn’t very nice. Customers come to your restaurant to have a night out, they don’t want to be rushed. They have come to your establishment to enjoy themselves.”
 
One definitely can’t accuse The Raj of being devoid of a personality. Aside from the piano bar and even a decked garden area for a bite of al fresco dining, there’s even a top of the range BMW motorbike to catch your eye in the downstairs bar area. 
 
“In the two decades or so that we have been open,” says Miah, “we’ve attracted a lot of well-known personalities and sports stars, particularly those from the world of motorbike championships. It’s been through those contacts and friendships that the bike got placed here. Just about everyone comments on it. It just adds to the ambience and gets everyone talking about our restaurant even more.”
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