AWARD-WINNING restaurateur Asma Khan says her business has been left “bloody but unbowed” by the coronavirus pandemic that has ravaged the hospitality industry.
During the early phase of the global health crisis, she announced she would not reopen her Soho restaurant Darjeeling Express when the UK’s first lockdown was lifted on July 4.
Instead, she revealed plans to relaunch the acclaimed eatery on larger premises in Covent Garden and use it to “incubate” female culinary talent. However, as GG2 Power List went to press, the relaunch had been put on hold following the announcement of a second national lockdown.
Darjeeling Express was originally launched in 2012 as a supper club at Khan’s Kensington home. Catering to friends and acquaintances, it was so successful she relocated to premises in Soho, serving food reflecting her “royal Mughlai ancestry and the busy streets of Kolkata” where she grew up.
The restaurant was an instant success and Khan’s reputation for culinary excellence has continued to grow. Last year she became the first British chef to feature on the popular Netflix documentary series Chef’s Table. She also brought out her first cookbook, Asma’s Indian Kitchen, which has become a top seller.
Meanwhile, Darjeeling Express, which is run by an all-female staff and donates a portion of its profits to Khan’s second daughter’s charity, was voted 93 on the Top 100 UK Restaurants List.
Explaining the decision to relocate the business, Khan said: “Doing 200 covers a night in a very small (50 seat) restaurant came with incredible pressure. We could not meet demand at all.”
Khan says that a takeaway business called Deli by Darjeeling Express would open as planned.
Khan’s keen interest in charity work was sparked by her experience of being a secondborn girl child – often regarded as a financial burden in