25th November 2021
Ambrette Kitchen in Ashford, Kent, which was launched in response to the lockdown during the pandemic, was named as the UK’s Takeaway of the Year, at the Asian Curry Awards.
The achievement was acknowledged as truly remarkable, given that Ambrette’s owner-chef Dev Biswal had never prepared a takeaway meal in his illustrious career before the pandemic forced the prolonged closure of his fine dining venues in Canterbury, Margate and Rye.
Trying to create takeaway versions of his contemporary Anglo-Indian fusion creations, known for their exquisite presentation and delicate flavours was, “Soul destroying at first,” despite the investment in attractive packaging using as little plastic as possible.
Because Ambrette restaurants has extensive social media followings and had compiled a large database of loyal customers over the past decade, during lockdown they were quickly able to create a demand for contactless deliveries and takeaways. This grew with additional investment in targeted marketing.
In order to survive, Dev created pop-up kitchens in two pubs, one in Dover and another in Ashford, to extend his catchment area.
He designed whole new menus of dishes robust enough to travel. The volume of orders grew exponentially. To fulfil demand Biswal opened a permanent Ambrette Kitchen on an industrial estate on Ashford’s Ellingham Way, with a team of full-time drivers who deliver within a 40-mile radius.
Entirely new to the takeaway market, Biswal “embarked on a steep learning curve”, studied the menus of various other delivery businesses and set about creating his own versions – with a unique gastronomic twist.
These include his invention of the ‘nizza’, an Indian style pizza on a naan bread base. His exotic burger selection includes Soft Shelled Crab. The High Tea offering has proved particularly popular, with demand for the gourmet Sunday roasts, exceptionally strong.
The Ambrette was not the only upmarket Indian fine dining restaurant that turned to takeaways for the first-time during lockdown. London’s Michelin-starred Benares restaurant – also a winner on the night, scooping the Fine Dining Restaurant of the Year award – has created a million-pound business with its @Home delivery and finish-at-home meal kit options.
Commenting on the award, chairman of judges Pat Chapman, editor of the Good Curry Guide, said, “I have known Dev Biswal many years and remember him telling me how he could never offer a takeaway service – he has proved himself wrong with great aplomb.”
Dev Biswal grew up in Orissa, was educated in Calcutta and trained at the Dubai Sheraton, before moving to London, aged 26 in 2003 for spells at Mangoes and Eriki. He became a partner in The Indian Princess in Margate in December 2006, becoming patron and rebranding it as The Ambrette in 2010. His second restaurant, in Rye, opened in November 2011. His restaurants have been recommended by all the country’s top restaurant guides, including Michelin, AA, Good Food and Harden’s.
Dev was the resident chef on Channel 4 TV’s ‘Superscrimpers’, showing how to prepare gourmet meals on a budget. Other awards received by The Ambrette have included. ‘Best Restaurant’ at the coveted Taste of Kent Awards; ‘Best Indian Restaurant’ by Morrisons magazine; ‘Best Restaurant in the South East’ by the Cobra Good Curry Guide. He was named Asian Chef of the Year at the Asian Restaurant Awards in 2019.
Ashford Kitchen, 85 Ellingham Industrial Estate, Ellingham Way, Ashford, Kent TN23 6JZ T: 01233 528282