As the UK government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme winds down, ‘iGlobal’ is transforming its own foodie series into The Big Bite – with the focus still very much on Indian cuisine in its various flavours and fusions.
Lasan, a fine dining hub in Birmingham, served several mouth-watering meals during the course of the popular discount scheme, which ran through the month of August giving diners up to 50 per cent off their bill. Since its launch in 2002, it has lured foodies and celebrities alike, from Take That’s Gary Burlow to Hollywood A-listers Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter.
True to India
Located at St. Pauls Square in the Jewellery Quarter of Birmingham, Lasan prides itself at offering a taste that is “unmistakably true” to India. Its rich dining culture combines the use of the finest ingredients with the skills, imagination and passion of its chef, winning it many prestigious awards since inception. Named among the Top 10 Indian restaurants in the UK over the years, Lasan was also listed in ‘The Sunday Times 100 Restaurants in Britain’ at No. 49 – the first Indian restaurant outside London to make the cut at the time.
It is founded by Jabbar Khan, whose journey into the hospitality industry began at the age of 15 as a means to earn pocket money.
He recalls: “When my initial experience started, I hated it all the way through until I was 21. It was more to do with my ignorance.”
But eventually encouraged by the feedback of guests and colleagues, he began to take things much more seriously.
Hailed as a role model for young and aspiring professionals, his achievements and contributions have been recognised and endorsed by the Institute of Directors (IoD) with a Young Director of the Year Award. Named among the Best Local Restaurant in Gordan Ramsay’s ‘The F Word’, Lasan also prides itself on the principle of true dining – bringing friends and families together to socialise, share good times, and make lasting memories.
On opening Lasan at the age of 25, he reminisces: “My aim wasn’t to create luxury food as some type of vanity exercise or for the sake of it. It was purely and simply because I felt the industry lacked quality and authenticity and ambition.
“They carried on offering the same old because it was easy, a lazy offering that was never true to India. So, we were doing a disservice to the cuisine. And people were not enjoying the wonderful delights that the subcontinent offers.”
Closed for business throughout the coronavirus lockdown in March until permitted to open, Khan says it was a decision taken due to his belief that it was not for the long term.
“Why risk team safety, especially if there was no change in our service,” he notes.
Although a takeaway service was not immediately an option, it is now in the works for diners to be able to enjoy Lasan flavours from the comfort of their homes.
Khan, who describes his 20 or so years in the hospitality industry as a blessing, reflects on the time when he had to close down with positivity.
“It was the first time I had spent so many weeks and time with my family. It was an opportunity for me to spend some time with my close ones.”
Khan used the time to plan well in advance to re-welcome guests in the ambience they are familiar with.
“Plans were put in place in terms of preparing the team as everyone had been out of practice. This meant getting the team back weeks in advance for training and getting back into a routine, including making sure all the safety measures were put in place, well in advance, in accordance to the government guidelines.
“It was an uncertain period, simply because there was no way for us to know how people would react to the re-opening, would they be more cautious than we anticipated. But thankfully it’s been great, and with the help of the government, which offered the scheme in August alongside the VAT reduction.”
Optimism in uncertainty
Besides Lasan, Khan is also the man behind Raja Monkey and Fiesta Del Asado, Birmingham’s first Argentine Asado restaurant.
“Businesses of all shapes, sizes, and sectors have been affected, as have people’s lives. With so much uncertainty, it may stop people from going out as often, and with the Covid-19 rules being changed daily, people cannot plan ahead,” he notes.
On a personal level, Khan feels it is his optimism that has seen him through these trying times.
“Whenever I negotiate, I keep in mind difficult times as well as the good. I have always made sure the different aspects and elements of setting up a business is always a fair deal, which makes the business a sustainable one – whether it’s with the landlords, suppliers, or team. So, it’s for the long run and that has helped us where there have been some difficulties.
“Thankfully, things went the way I hoped and thankfully the government has policies in place, from the scheme to deferring payments and VAT reductions. All of these things made it possible.”
by Preeti Bali
*‘iGlobal’ Eat Out to Help Out Series transforms into The Big Bite Series.