A De Beauvoir Town Indian takeaway that became so popular its customers opted to sit on the floor so they could eat in, has reopened as a restaurant after a 16-month rebuild.
Spice Island on Englefield Road, which is one of around 100 commercial properties owned and looked after by the Benyon Estate, started out life as a takeaway early 2010.
Situated in the heart of the village, it became so popular that regular customers wanted to dine in-house so owner Kasru Miah laid out a few tables and chairs and, such was its popularity, diners decided to sit on the floor as well.
Mr Miah founded the business with his nephew who was also the chef until recently; neither expected their modest takeaway, which won the Masterchef of Hackney competition in 2013 and was nominated for a British Curry Award in 2015, to become a community hub.
Having established a loyal following in the community, Mr Miah approached Edward Benyon, Estates Director at the Benyon Estate to discuss the options of extending the space. And when Soul Jazz Records vacated the premises, the opportunity arose for its extensive refurbishment.
Mr Miah decided that closing up for a rebuild in order to provide a proper restaurant for his customers, would be worth the business taking a hit in the short term in order to futureproof it in the long term. Since April last year the business has been operating a delivery service only, via a kitchen the 46-year-old set up nearby.
The new 32-cover restaurant reopened on September 14, with a relaunch event officiated by Edward Benyon, who said landlord integrity is at the core of the Estate’s ethos and the restaurant’s reopening after such a lengthy refurb reflects their trusted landlord-tenant relationship.
“In the beginning, I put in a couple of seats out for people to sit on while they waited for their food and soon people wanted to sit in and eat, so I put out a couple of tables as well,” said Mr Miah. “And very quickly it became a local meeting place with quite a family atmosphere. After a while I started getting phone calls from people who had never been before but said they had heard good things from friends, and wanted to book tables for 10 or 20 people, so I had to tell them we didn’t have the room.
“My regular customers didn’t mind squeezing in, but it was time to expand and give them a proper restaurant!”
Mr Miah has lived in De Beauvoir Town for 18 years and worked as a distribution marketing manager for an international food company for 15 years, which required a daily commute to Essex and often involved visits to Europe.
He became the co-owner of Palki Indian Cuisine in Notting Hill in 2000, a popular restaurant which was paid a visit by Kate Moss and her posse soon after opening.
For 18-months Mr Miah worked reduced hours in his marketing manager role as well as managing Spice Island until focusing on his restaurant entirely. “I had spent many years making someone else’s company a success,” he added. “But I had the support of my wife and family to try and make my own business a success, so I went for it.”
Each year Mr Miah supports local homelessness charities and has been supporting Student Action for Refugees for past five years.
The part of the building which housed the business, which had room for around 15 diners “at a squeeze”, was demolished and rebuilt in keeping with the existing adjoining brick building and has been decked out in a contemporary style.
“It’s been a difficult year businesswise, and I’m really looking forward to getting my own place back,” continued Mr Miah. “The location is great, De Beauvoir Town is like a village but there is lots going on.”
Mr Miah, who is originally from Bangladesh but has lived in England since he was eight years old, said the restaurant does not have a signature dish and its appeal is in its intentionally selective menu making for a more refined choice.
“Everyone seems to like everything,” Mr Miah laughed. “Often people come in and I find I’m ordering for them as they want to try something different and take my recommendation!
“Mr Benyon has been extremely supportive and I would like to give a big hug to the community because I wouldn’t be here without them.”
Edward Benyon, added: “We are keen to help our commercial tenants fulfil their business ambitions and are happy to have been able to play a part in supporting Mr Miah’s hard work and provide an extension to a popular community restaurant.”