Vegetarian with a difference

Posted on Front of House Dec 2011 - by Tandoori Editor
Vegetarian with a difference

No ordinary vegetarian restaurant, Shayona, in north-west London, offers Sattvic cooking. Its manager Dipa Patel talks to Tandoori.

The impressive and imposing structure of the Hindu Swaminarayan Temple, in north-west London’s Neasden area, is a sight to behold.
What surprises you even more is that next to the Temple’s car park is a real culinary find in the guise of not just a cash-and-carry style grocer’s, an appealing Indian sweetmeat shop, filled with an array of colourful and sugary goodies, but also a modern and quite plush looking Indian vegetarian restaurant that probably wouldn’t look out of place in London’s west end.
All three entities fall under the Shayona banner with the restaurant being the centrepiece of the development. Its large dining room is eye-catching to say the least – lots of rich, deep colours jostling for space amid the browns and the creams, not to mention the wall paintings and chandeliers.
Perhaps what’s even more interesting is that the cooking here is based on the principles of Sattvic food, which is seen as ‘pure’, even organic, though not necessarily so it is light, easy to digest and doesn’t use ingredients such as onions and garlic which are considered pungent. 
Instead, fruits such as mango, pomegranate and peaches are considered quite acceptable as part of a well-rounded Sattvic diet. Grains such as rice, nuts and seeds that haven’t been overly roasted, legumes such as mung and yellow lentils, dairy including yoghurt, cooling vegetables and of course, no meat. Shayona follows these principles as much as possible through being a commercial outlet – it also ensures that there is a crowd pleasing element to it too.
“Our restaurant is very fortunate to be based so close to the temple,” says Shayona’s manager Dipa Patel. “It immediately gives the establishment an air of significance and it helps too that there is a big element of Sattvic goodness in the food. It’s very apt.”
A glance at the menu suggests that there is a cornucopia of influences that gel together: from Gejerati-style dishes to north and south Indian, by way of Africa. Considering the range of clientele the restaurant attracts throughout the day, it makes sense to have items which can please everyone.
“During the lunchtime period,” sates Patel, “we get tourists who are visiting the temple and also local office workers. They find our buffet offer to be very affordable and filling. In the evening, the customer base is more about people who see Shayona as a destination restaurant and they bring their family and friends with them, which makes for a very good atmosphere.”
From the starters list, adds Patel, what’s selling fast are all the chaats, the chilli paneer,, the paneer sizzler and the bhindi kur kure. Moving quickly from the mains selection are the paneer tikka masala, paneer masala, the methi chaman, the soya mince curry and the stuffed aubergine.
“All of these items,” states Patel, “have been selling very well for over a year now and they are still going strong. Normally, what we will do is to keep track every week of what are the fast–selling dishes and the slow moving ones, and then replace the latter ones with new ones. 
“What’s also working well for us is the ‘weekend special’, which is our set thali that comes with a complimentary soft drink. It’s a cheap and very enjoyable way for our customers to sample our various dishes.”
Sample Menu 
Aloo papdi chaat
Bhindi kur kure
Bateta wada
Chili paneer
Achari aloo
Malai kofta curry
Paneer masala
Methi corn
Gajar halwa & ice cream
Shayona sharing dessert
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