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If you’re from up North you will most definitely have been to, or at the very least, heard of Royal Nawaab; their new and highly anticipated second restaurant opened in London a few months ago and has had a fantastic response.
The Nawaab brand was formed in the mid-80s by Mehboob Hussein and partners. The three Nawaab pioneers came up with the name of the brand when they first bought their first restaurant property; having converted an old East-India bank to begin their restaurateur dreams, they came across old photographs of Mughal architecture and artefacts as well as pictures of the Nawaab people – it seemed apt to name the restaurant ‘Nawaab’ as they are a people who notoriously love their food. At first an a-la-carte restaurant in Bradford with a capacity of 40, the authentic tastes of the subcontinent and the memories evoked from taking a bite out of their gourmet curries and homemade breads increased popularity by a mammoth amount. A few years later, it was time for Mehboob et al to expand.
Following a trip to Chicago and gaining inspiration from a variety of eateries across the pond, it was decided that Royal Nawaab Mancester would be a buffet style restaurant what with the space being so large. Without exaggeration, Manchester’s most coveted Pakistani restaurant, the need to expand was inevitable. I sat down with Waqas, son of Mehboob Hussein who now runs Royal Nawaab alongside his father and brother-in-law to find out more about their story and their expansion to London.
Waqas tells me that the need for another branch had been at the forefront of the family’s mind for a long time – “with people travelling up to Manchester from London, Birmingham, Leicester etc. just to eat at our place, we HAD to create a new branch”; I am told that the second branch was originally planned for Birmingham but London proved to be a better fit. Royal Nawaab (as it is now known due to the imitations of competitors) in London is situated in the iconic art-deco Hoover Building – and as the property is a listed building the planning permission took 8-9 months to complete.
With such a huge following across the UK, Waqas is proud of the fact that they have not had to do any advertising whatsoever to get people through the door – even on opening day. In essence, Royal Nawaab diners do the advertising for the restaurant itself – search ‘Nawaab’ on facebook, instagram or twitter and you will be inundated with photos of people enjoying the 80 or so dishes on offer at Royal Nawaab at any one time.
This leads us onto the next topic of discussion – with 80 dishes, how are they all decided / checked for the high quality taste that is synonymous with the Nawaab brand? Waqas informs me that there is a rotational menu at Nawaab's – no drastic changes though as customers are very passionate about their favourites. Every single dish available at Nawaab's follows Mehboob Hussein’s own recipe and he – and his son – are very particular about the way things are cooked, what ingredients are used and how the food tastes. Once a week Waqas samples every single dish that has been cooked (and this is not an easy feat!), this is done at random so that the chef’s do not know when to expect a taste-test. Living and breathing Pakistani cuisine since he was born, Waqas takes a moment or two when I ask him what his favourite dish is, “paneer tikka” he smiles. I would have to disagree with him and say that their Butter Chicken, Tawa Chicken and Dum Aloo are more exceptional (if possible!) than the Paneer!
So what is it about Royal Nawaab that has people so excited? I’ve been three times now and each time the restaurant floor is packed and people’s plates are piled high. The staff are attentive and the decor very regal, but ultimately, what makes Royal Nawaab so great is the exceptional taste of the food. I have never tasted Saag or Curree that is as good as my Dadi’s until sampling both at Nawaab's.
Some say that the price per head is too expensive, but Waqas mentions the fact that following his market research, their prices are average, if not affordable, for London. In an environment where we pay up to £12 for a single pizza, “would you not rather pay a little bit more and have 80 high-quality dishes at your disposal?” Waqas asks me – he has a point.
Royal Nawaab is a brand that should not be underestimated; their food speaks for itself...and ask yourself this, in the highly digitalised day and age that we now live in, how important would you class effective advertising? The world and his wife have a need for it – not Nawaab.
Visit Royal Nawaab, London:
Hoover Building 7. Western Avenue Perivale Greenford UB6 8DW
Contact Phone: 020 8998 6151