Café Spice Namasté have reopened in one of London’s most picturesque spots, Royal Albert Wharf. Overlooking the River Thames with views of the Canary Wharf skyline, this vibe is modern and fresh. Along with long standing chef Manpreet Ahuja, the menu focuses on small plates designed to share.
We caught up with Cyrus and Pervin Todiwala to find out more.
How did it all start?
Café Spice Namasté at Royal Albert Wharf happened by default. The site was initially pointed out to us by a former member of staff who lived across the way; it seemed ideal for a new café but not necessarily a full-blown restaurant. However, the pandemic happened at the same time as we were being forced out of our former site in Prescot Street near the City as it had come under new owners who refused to extend our lease. Thus we urgently needed to find a brand new site for Café Spice Namasté on top of dealing with the financial catastrophe that was Covid. What we first thought of as the location for a nice café turned out to be our new home, here in the Docklands.
Tell us about your new small plates inspired menu at Café Spice Namasté
The new small plates inspired menu had been planned for some time, even before we moved. However, being in the City for twenty-five years, our regulars had come to expect the typical starter, main course, dessert style of service and we couldn’t do much to alter their expectations. Time was always an issue for our guests then, and they told us that sharing plates made no sense to them. Here in Royal Albert Wharf, the idea of sharing plates has taken off extremely well and every single customer is happy and content with our new style. They can if they choose to, still eat in the old style but most now do prefer to go the sharing route. They find it allows them to experience more tastes and flavours, making a visit to Café Spice Namasté all the more worthwhile.
Top tips for those people who want to open a restaurant?
Firstly, make sure that you have the finance to take you past the first few months. Then do consider making a good business plan even if it does not always apply or work; you need a mechanism to be in place to guide you. Select a decent site that offers the right opportunities for business to grow. Ensure that there is an adequate facility for cooking good food and offering brilliant service. Select the right people to take your mission and message forward. Always be prepared for small glitches; there will be some failures and you might be tempted to despair, but never lose your conviction to succeed.
Any future signature dishes you can tell us about?
The dish created for Her Majesty the Queen on Her Diamond Jubilee, The Country Captain, will feature among our specials where it will remain until the Platinum Jubilee celebrations are over. The others will keep coming as they have always done. Our list is simply endless as we have been doing specials for over thirty years. We often have to reintroduce specials by popular demand.
If you could award a Michelin star right now, who would it be to and why?
First to ourselves! But as much as I know we would not qualify, I know we have delivered first class food and service for over thirty years now. But what’s coming to mind right now is a recent meal we had in Wandsworth at London Stock. The meal was superb so I would award that Michelin star to head chef Sebastian Rast.
Top 3 restaurants in London?
We know you have many regular customers and long-standing staff. What is the secret to retaining both?
We have two of our oldest regular customers for the Khaadraas Supper Club – loosely translated as the Greedy Pigs Club. Dr Bhattacharya & Duncan McGill have both been coming to us since October 1991. They reminisce and sometimes ask for favourites. Dr Bhattacharya wants me to bring lambs kidneys and liver back on the menu. Duncan McGill complained that he has me to blame for his figure. He said something to Pervin that is quite key; he said that “It’s good to see that you have not let your old timers go.” That makes all the difference.
Now all the service staff know even before the guest is seated what their drinks order will be; the kitchen is informed that so and so has come in and they should get ready to make some X or Y for them. These are the small touches that make people feel as though they have walked into their own home, and someone is there to serve them and look after them.
So, what is the secret? Only that our customers come back for great food, and a trust that is nurtured over years through consistency, sustainability, our adherence to British high-end ingredients, high-welfare produce, and the quality and care of our cooking.
What are your top tips on making a curry at home?
The Very first Rule is KISS…..Keep It Simple, Stupid. I always tell people to stop letting recipes clutter your brain, de-clutter and then go for it. Use simple but good ingredients. Follow a recipe but make sure you bring YOU into the dish too. Do not get overwhelmed by a recipe. If that does happen, move on and try something simpler in order to get used to the style of cooking and then give it another go. Make sure your work area is clean and tidy. Keep everything you need to cook within reach and in the right order. You will soon find that you are actually pretty good.
What will the future of Indian dining look like in the UK?
Indian dining has started to take on the characteristics I had foreseen several years ago, going regional and taking the various cuisines of the sub-continent to new heights. This is happening and will only grow bigger and better, offering the British public something of a taste sensation from one establishment to another, and making Indian cuisine once again the nation’s utmost favourite.
What is next in the culinary journey for Café Spice Namasté?
The next stage of our journey is multi-faceted. First, realising our dream to be able to train more young people in Asian culinary arts. This has started and our competition, Zest Quest Asia, is the culinary competition of the future. Second, installing a fully functional kitchen with training facilities and apprentices. Third, growing our outdoor catering business, to establish a deli that will sell the wonderful produce of our brilliant farmers across Britain so we are offering our local community and beyond a taste of the Best of British. We would welcome any support or sponsorship.
To discover more, visit: cafespice.co.uk
All imagery courtesy of Café Spice Namasté.
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