Shimla - The Punjabi Way

Posted on In Focus Dec 2011 - by Tandoori Editor
Shimla - The Punjabi Way

Shimla is a new Punjabi-style restaurant, in north London, which is already proving to be a hit with customers. Its owner, Malik Sarwar, talks to Tandoori about his establishment.

 
What made you want to open a restaurant?
I have been a restaurateur for 25 years, owning mainly Italian restaurants overseas. Then my son applied to enter Cambridge University and I thought I might as well join him in the UK. Initially, the idea was to launch an Italian restaurant here too, but I changed my mind and opted to do something ‘desi’. At the same time, I was reluctant to use this all-encompassing generic term ‘Indian’ and preferred to focus on something more regional specific. So I decided to open a Paunjabi-style restaurant.
 
What made you want to open in Winchmore Hill?
I’d been looking for the right premises for two years. There were occasions during that time when I came very close to finalising a deal, but then it would fall through. When the site in Winchmore Hill came along, which just happen to be an Italian restaurant previously, it was too good an opportunity to give up. It was the right location with little in the way of competition.
 
Having toyed with the idea of opening an Italian restaurant, you decided to open a traditional Punjabi restaurant. Do you feel that you made the right decision?
Definitely. There are other Italian restaurants right near where we are and though competition is always healthy, it just wouldn’t have made sense to have opened another one on the street where we are based. We have already made a name for ourselves, so no, no regerets at all.
 
What was the initial investment you made to launch the restaurant?
In excess of £75,000.
 
How would you describe the cooking style at Shimla?
Punjabi through and through! It’s traditional, it already has a profile with the British public and more than anything, it’s delicious. You do of course have to bear in mind that you are offering customers dishes which are tried and tested, but at the same time, it’s important that you also have items that not many other restaurants are serving.
 
What is the cost per head of dining at Shimla?
It’s between £25 and £30 per head.
 
What are your best-selling dishes?
All the karahi dishes are very popular, which is great because these are the ones we specialise in. The other best-selling ones are the tandoori items, particularly the platters.
 
How many staff does Shimla employ?
Six.
 
What makes Shimla such a success?
The fact that we are sending out a very clear message that we are a Punjabi restaurant is something that works in our favour. We even have it written outside as part of our signage and it makes people quite intrigued about our cooking. All you then need to ensure is that you make sure that what you are offering to customers is of good quality.
 
What has been the one key business decision that you have taken?
I can’t stress enough, making our concept a Punjabi one.
 
What does the future hold for Shimla?
We are looking to introduce a new menu in January with some customer offers to go with it.
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