By Vaida Tamkiene
Local Indian street food restaurant Cafe Diwali beat many other entries and was ‘highly commended for the casual dining restaurant of the year’ at the annual Gala Dinner and Asian Curry Awards 2016 on October 23.
Opened only in March, Cafe Diwali was also shortlisted for the ‘Asian newcomer of the year’ category. Curry loving public sent in their votes for the nationwide competition; the restaurants did not enter it themselves.
More than 1,000 guests attended the award ceremony, at the Grosvenor House Hotel, London, including the county’s leading restaurateurs, celebrities and politicians. Recognising the best in the industry, the awards by the Asian Catering Federation aim to encourage high standards, and inspire others to join the sector.
“As first and second places were so close, we were absolutely delighted and amazed to be short-listed and highly-commended, especially just seven months from opening. The award means so much to us – it lets us know people support our ideas,” said Muhammed Rasheed, chef and co-owner of Cafe Diwali.
The restaurant is simple, with no fuss and, as the award confirms, very casual. The customers love Cafe Diwali’s style of food and flavours, and the way it is served.
“Our rich menu of thali and dosa is so popular, and anyone who has been to India loves they can enjoy the authentic taste again,” Rasheed added.
Another important feature is the cosy atmosphere and the fact that customers banter with the restaurant staff.
According to Rasheed, the menu is put together from the whole of India, providing a great variety of dishes. Because it’s a small menu, the team changes it every three-to-four months, which means customer feedback is extremely important.
“People get used to something on the menu, but when it changes, they try new dishes. So far, the first change has been successful,” said Rasheed, who runs the restaurant with four chefs, a kitchen porter, three front of house staff, and three part-timers.
He added that it was tiring to get started, but the team is enjoying the experience, and it is more than what they had hoped for. Rasheed especially enjoyed creating the dishes and seeing customers like them.
Before coming to Salisbury, which has many food establishments, Cafe Diwali’s founders did a lot of market research and believe their restaurant is quite unique.
“Christmas is definitely a special time for all, so we hope to decorate the restaurant and create a festive feel. We also have a special Christmas menu, and already many bookings for Christmas, so it will be our first busy Christmas season,” Rasheed said.
He believes people like a change to the ‘normal’ festive food, and Indian cuisine is a popular choice.
The team at Café Diwali wish everyone a happy Christmas.
The restaurant on Crane Street, Salisbury, is open Monday to Saturday, 12 to 2.30pm, 6 to 10.30pm; Sunday, 12 to 3pm, 6 to 9:30pm. Visit cafediwali.com or phone 01722 329700.