The restaurant is the latest venture of restaurateurs Jamal Rahman and Kowsar Ali, who also own Indian restaurants in Bournemouth (Westbourne Tandoori), Reading (Bengal Beef) and West Drayton (Golden Curry).
“Simply Indian’s quite a bit different to our other three restaurants,” Rahman told BigHospitality. “We’ve got a lot of fish dishes on the menu, with the likes of squid, salmon and mustard fish. We actually discovered this site on our way to another restaurant and we got a bit lost here in Wadhurst.
“We realised it’s a really nice little village, with a lot of shops but not many restaurants at all. We just thought ‘where’s the Italian, or the Chinese’ – for the size of the village you expect a bit more.
“We stretched our budget a bit for this, it did cost quite a bit but we’ve been privately funded - you can’t get anything out of the banks, and it’s a really great site so I’m looking forward to it.”
Style, passion, service
Summing up the Simply Indian philosophy in three words, co-owner Ali said: “Style, passion and service.
“We’re not claiming to offer fusion cuisine or food from the sub-continent with a trendy contemporary twist,” he added. “Curry is the nation’s favourite - why change it? Our aim is a simple one - hence the name - and that’s to offer people’s favourite dishes, using top chefs and the best quality ingredients, sourced locally wherever possible."
Starters on the Simply Indian menu include simply Chula salmon, kaffna (mussels cooked in a Bengali-style medium sauce) and simply squid salad - each priced at £6.95. Signature dishes include Bengali mustard fish (skinless fangash fillet cooked with mustard, cumin and fennel seeds, priced at £12.95 and steamed sea bass garnished with mild to medium herbs and spices, priced at £17.95.
Ali and Rahman hope to spark an upturn in the use of fish and seafood in the British curry scene and are ‘mystified’ as to why Indian restaurants with largely Bengali heritage ignore using ingredients from the sea.
“Fish is lovely, it’s a more staple diet,” said Rahman. “Most of our sub-continent don’t realise it - the problem is that fish can have a lot of bones in, and that’s probably what sways a lot of restaurateurs here in the UK. But you can get just filets now which you can work from. We’re getting ours from a big wholesaler.
“We’re putting a lot back into the community here with this restaurant as well, which a lot of people don’t realise. This business isn’t lining my pockets, you’re only really earning a living in the catering industry, with all the costs of staff and the produce, it’s not easy at all.”
Speaking of the potential to expand the concept, or open more Indian restaurants in the South East, Rahman added: “I don’t want things to get out of hand. If there’s an opportunity that I can actually run with a good business partner, then I would do it, but I don’t want to stretch myself too much.
“It’s very difficult to run a number of restaurants to be honest; you have to make it a personal experience at each of the restaurants. So for now, Im just focusing on getting this restaurant up and running.”
Simply Indian is opening on the site of the former Wadhurst Grill on the East Sussex town’s high street later today (18 September).