As the UK government's Eat Out to Help Out Scheme formally kicks off this month, 'iGlobal' returns with its own series of yet another mouth-watering option to choose from.
Based in the heart of London's Belgravia, Michelin Star bar and grill Amaya offers a unique focus on the sophisticated grilled foods of India and prides itself for using only the finest traditional Indian flavours and grilling methods.
The high-end eatery is owned and operated by the founders of MW Eat - Ranjit Mathrani, wife Namita Panjabi and sister-in-law Camellia Panjabi, the author of best-selling cookbook '50 Great Curries of India' who joined the family business in 2001.
The group's restaurants also include Chutney Mary and Veeraswamy and several Masala Zones, all of which are dotted around central London.
Amaya opened its doors in 2004 and came into being as a result of Mathrani's “longstanding desire” to open a restaurant focusing on the grills and dry foods of India. The Chairman of MW Eat reflects on how Amaya was born out of that urge to celebrate a completely unique kind of Indian flavour.
Closing its doors under the government's lockdown guidelines as a safety measure during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, MW Eat said it took a consistent approach with all its restaurants across the UK capital.
As its restaurants closed doors on March 19, there was the initial process of getting staff onto the furlough scheme, taking on board its “structures, ramifications and how it applies”.
Mathrani said they remained in close contact and communicated constantly with staff members during that difficult phase.
“I personally went to all of the restaurants and addressed all the staff members and reassured them that we are going to come out of it together,” he said.
A member on the board of the UK's hospitality industry, Mathrani has also been involved with a number of policy proposals - devising and putting together a whole process structure with the government on the support structures required by the industry to emerge from the prolonged shutdown.
Keen to get diners accustomed to the new normal and back into the fine cuisine and dining experience at Amaya, the restaurant re-opened its doors as per the lockdown easing guidelines from July 4.
Its stringent safety measures involve guests having to sanitise their hands before entering the restaurant, with hand sanitizers placed prominently at the entrance and within the restaurant. Some of the other measures include disposable menus, structured to do away with any need for spoon sharing, and staff required to wear transparent visors.?
“We took a very simple view that we had to have a very high level of reassurance for our customers, that we are totally committed to their safety and of our staff too,” explains Mathrani.
While the group's Masala Zone restaurants offered delivery and take-away options through the lockdown, this was not an option for fine-dining Amaya.
“Under no circumstances would we have allowed this, as it is a dilution of the customer experience. People come to Amaya and pay the price they do, and that is because of the complex combination of food, design, style, and service - we were not prepared to dilute that experience.”
With much of the hospitality industry now re-opening its doors and gradually getting accustomed to the new normal, Mathrani believes that the impact of Covid-19 is unlikely to have any specific impact on the Indian food industry.
He explains: “I don't think there are unique features that make us better or worse off. It's more so the nature of the customer base, the demographics, the customer profile - such as business-people conducting their meetings and tourists - these are all functions of either your location and your price points.
“Most restaurants are really successful if they get a revenue stream from more than one source. Amaya, as with the rest of our restaurants, has a combination of high net worth of individuals, wealthy locals, and senior business-people to name a few. These restaurants are fundamentally about people engaging in sophisticated social interactions.
“The long-term issues rest on some major uncertainties, one of which is to what extent will offices return to the same form of working as they had before and when will this happen. And, will business travel reduce and will internal meetings diminish as these can now be conducted on Zoom.”
Whilst economists continue to make and share their predictions on human behaviour and its ramifications for industries such as hospitality, Mathrani hopes for recovery by early 2022.