Malaysian chef Norman Musa is looking to bring his Manchester-based Ning Restaurants business to London with an upcoming food stall in Soho being used as a forerunner for a potential permanent site in Islington.
The chef, who last week closed his restaurant in York, has just moved to London and is opening a Malaysian street food stall in Berwick Street early next month. He’s now actively looking for sites to open a second branch of Ning in the capital later this year.
“We’ll be looking at opening a permanent site towards the end of the year,” Musa told BigHospitality. “Now it’s all about creating the momentum and building up my profile and the street food stall will hopefully do that.
“It will be open from Tuesday to Saturday at lunchtime, offering just one or two dishes like fried noodles and rice with curry, with the menu changing every day.
“We’re looking for actual sites at the moment but it can take a long time to find a place and open. I particularly like Islington but it depends on the rent – we need something that’s affordable and will have good footfall.
“Our Manchester site is more fine-dining but this will be more canteen-style. I recently spent time in Barcelona and I like the ‘quick and easy’ tapas idea, so it would follow that ethos.”
Video: Ning Restaurants Showreel
After 20 months in York, Musa closed the second branch of Ning on 5 January, returning the premises to the lessee and former restaurant operator. It will re-open under a new name at the end of the month, still serving Malaysian food.
Explaining his decision to leave York and shift southwards, Musa said: “Business in York depends on the tourists - it gets busy in the summer but during the winter it’s really quiet.
“I was quite ill last year and it was just a bit too much for me – sometimes I was spending time in three cities in one day. I had to decide which was best for me – York or London.”
So would Musa want to make an eventual shift from chef to restaurateur with more sites under his belt? Probably not, as his love for the kitchen remains high.
“I’ve been offered to open restaurants in Dubai and Malaysia, but I want to be there cooking. Running a restaurant is very stressful and I don’t like it if people complain about the service or the food.
“The shift from chef to restaurateur can be very stressful and I’m known to be a bit of perfectionist which can be a problem. My main focus is to just raise the profile of Malaysian food here in the UK.”
Norman Musa's street food stall will open on Berwick Street in the first week of February.