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REVIEW


Chutney a taste of Bengal


away in an inconspicuous I parade of shops and pubs, there


is a restaurant which offers the unmistakable taste of Bangladesh. Not the watery, pre-cooked, gloopy curry sauce variety found in some “Indian” establishments, but honest and simple food with the real earthy, tasty, buttery and homely flavours of Bengal, because as the restaurant’s co-owner, Mothiur Rahman (Shahin) points out: “Even Indian people admit that nobody can cook like the Bangladeshis.” When fellow entrepreneur, Abdul Kadir contacted Shahin with the idea of recreating the authentic flavours of their homeland in the UK, Shahin was very happy to jump on board. With co-owner Unu Miah also at the helm, Chutney was launched in 2010, proudly proclaiming its culinary heritage with a line-up of the city’s best known residents (including the Lord Mayor) firmly in tow. Although there were several excellent Indian restaurants nearby, Chutney swiftly carved its own niche in Sheffield’s culinary scene. Fortunately, the location is on the route of Sheffield’s well used tram line. Around 40% of the customers are local but others may travel easily from the other side of the city and even from as far as Barnsley and Huddersfield via the Penistone line. The door-to-door service is obviously a boon for those who like to enjoy the odd alcoholic beverage or two and the 50-seat restaurant is usually busy at weekends. At Chutney, the welcome is warm and the atmosphere cosy. The owners say they were aiming for a look of smart but casual and have been successful in that objective. Autumnal hued décor lends a glow, offset by pictures of sepia sunsets, with red down-lighting. The restaurant feels snug and convivial on a chilly day. Mr Abdul Kadir heads up the kitchen whilst the genial Mr Unu Miah and Shahin run front of house. The small team, made up of five full timers and one-part timer are all originally from Bangladesh. In a busy restaurant they have their work cut out but attend to customers with a friendly and professional service. If the inspiration for the restaurant belongs to head chef, Mr Kadir, the content of the menu is down to the whole team. Shahin explains: “Every now and then we sit down


54


n Sheffield’s Gleadles s area, hidden


together and decide between us what dishes we could introduce to the restaurant that would appeal to our customers.” Shahin is quietly spoken, a true gentleman who is well known in the area, in fact he says he has been given several names in various restaurants, by customers who stumbled over the pronunciation of his own. He started his career in catering at the age of 13 in his cousin’s curry house where, because he was tall, customers thought he was a lot older. He soon found his milieu at front of house, as a good communicator, developing a good rapport with guests and staff alike. At the age of 15 his career was given a kick start when his father lost his job in the British Steel industry. Although a promising student at school, Shahin decided without hesitation to support his father by seeking a full time job in the catering business. “That was how my journey started,” he smiles, “From there I worked in Chelmsford, Essex, Watford, Nottingham – anywhere where I could get new experience, always at front of house.” By 1998, he was finally in a position to open his own business and went on to run a takeaway in the area. Now, with over 30 years in the profession, Shahin says he has seen a huge change in attitudes. The late night, lager swilling crowd of the seventies and eighties who were more inclined to start a scrap or do a runner, have morphed into the rather more discerning audience of today. Going to the local Indian restaurant is now universally enjoyed and has become an event for the whole family. “Most people nowadays are more interested in the flavour of the dish, not just the heat - they want something tasty,” Shahin explains. “They’re also interested in how it is created, where it came from, the history and provenance.” Customers need only go to Chutney’s facebook page to understand the complexities involved with cooking Indian food. There, demonstrations can be found on how to cook some of the dishes at the restaurant. However, Shahin admits they don’t give all the secrets away, especially not those involving the chef ’s special spice mix which he prepares fresh every night. True to the cooking of Bangladesh, traditional offerings include Kalia and Achari chicken, with a range of Karai cooked meat and fish options. Dishes come sprinkled with aromatic oils and seeds such as Nigella and Jeera. The


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