Ambrette Kitchen in Ashford, Kent, which was launched in response to the lockdown during the pandemic, has been named as the UK’s Takeaway of the Year, at the Asian Curry Awards.
The achievement was acknowledged as truly remarkable, given that Ambrette’s owner-chef Dev Biswal had never prepared a takeaway meal in his illustrious career before the pandemic forced the prolonged closure of his fine dining venues in Canterbury, Margate and Rye.
Trying to create takeaway versions of his contemporary Anglo-Indian fusion creations, known for their exquisite presentation and delicate flavours was, “Soul destroying at first,” despite the investment in attractive packaging using as little plastic as possible.
Because Ambrette restaurants has extensive social media followings and had compiled a large database of loyal customers over the past decade, during lockdown they were quickly able to create a demand for contactless deliveries and takeaways. This grew with additional investment in targeted marketing.
In order to survive, Dev created pop-up kitchens in two pubs, one in Dover and another in Ashford, to extend his catchment area.
He designed whole new menus of dishes robust enough to travel. The volume of orders grew exponentially. To fulfil demand Biswal opened a permanent Ambrette Kitchen on an industrial estate on Ashford’s Ellingham Way, with a team of full-time drivers who deliver within a 40-mile radius.
Entirely new to the takeaway market, Biswal “embarked on a steep learning curve”, studied the menus of various other delivery businesses and set about creating his own versions – with a unique gastronomic twist.
These include his invention of the ‘nizza’, an Indian style pizza on a naan bread base. His exotic burger selection includes Soft Shelled Crab. The High Tea offering has proved particularly popular, with demand for the gourmet Sunday roasts, exceptionally strong.
The Ambrette was not the only upmarket Indian fine dining restaurant that turned to takeaways for the first-time during lockdown. London’s Michelin-starred Benares restaurant – also a winner on the night, scooping the Fine Dining Restaurant of the Year award – has created a million-pound business with its @Home delivery and finish-at-home meal kit options.
More than 800 VIP guests attended the Asian hospitality sector’s most prestigious event, the Asian Curry Awards in association with Just Eat. Held at the Grosvenor House in London’s Mayfair on Sunday 22nd November, the evening was hosted by the BBC’s Kate Silverton.
Commenting on the award, chairman of judges Pat Chapman, editor of the Good Curry Guide, said, “I have known Dev Biswal many years and remember him telling me how he could never offer a takeaway service – he has proved himself wrong with great aplomb.”
Asian Catering Federation chairman Yawar Khan spoke of the sector’s resilience and innovation in the face of such adversity, but predicted, “The days of the cheap Friday night curry are coming to end in the face of steeply rising costs and severe staff shortages – but there is no shortage of customers willing to pay for a superior product.”
Menu details at www.theambrette.co.uk