For most people, running a single restaurant is more than enough work, whether it’s a stand-alone joint or, at a push, one of a number of branches. For Jabbar Khan though, variety is clearly the spice of life.
Jabbar opened Lasan in the Jewellery Quarter about 14 years ago and the restaurant has since gone on to win “Best Indian Restaurant in the UK”. Next came Raja Monkey in Hall Green, a no-frills roadside joint on Strafford Road aimed squarely at those in search of curry in a hurry. And following that, in search of inspiration outside the sub-continent – “I don’t feel there’s a boundary over what I can open; I’m not defined only by Indian food.” – he came up with the Argentinian steakhouse Fiesta del Asado on Hagley Road. His reasoning – “everyone loves good meat and steak the Argentinian way is unique” – has proved sound and the restaurant has gone on to become yet another Brummie dining favourite.
In itself, that’s an impressive collection of places to eat in Birmingham, but Jabbar isn’t one to rest on his laurels; in fact, it’s all about to get rather messy.
Nosh & Quaff, his latest concept, is set to open sometime next month in a former bank on Colmore Row, overlooking Victoria Square. Concentrating on the idea of eating with your hands and getting demonstrably grubby in the process – we’re talking lobster, ribs and giant hotdogs – the venue is set to take the eating out and staying out experience to a whole new level; four of them, in fact.
The action will centre around the ground and first floors, with the main restaurant and a small bar at street level and then a bigger bar, additional restaurant space and a stage for live music upstairs. A “no-expense-spared kitchen” will grace the top floor, while the basement gets wine stores and lobster tanks. That makes Nosh & Quaff a decent contender for an entire night out in Birmingham in just one venue.
Jabbar, who moved to Birmingham with his parents when he was 8, is a proud Brummie – “I love no other place” – and is clear that Birmingham is the most important city for him to do business in. While running his uncle’s restaurant, Jabbar met his future business partner, Aktar, who turned out to be running a restaurant for his father. Both of the view they could do it better, a partnership was born.
So what’s Jabbar like to work for, and how does he keep his staff happy? “The service industry as a whole suffers from the problem that people are quite regularly pursuing other dreams. It’s not often you see people choosing this industry as their profession. But good management always has the best chance of getting the most out of people.”
So great food, great venues and a great philosophy. No wonder his recipe leads to constant success.