When Monica Haldar suggested to her mother, Anita Sawhney, that they open up their home as a pop-up restaurant in Manchester, they couldn’t have foreseen how popular it would become. It went from eight, to 16, to 32 seats within months.
The pop-up was called The Spice Club and they served some of the best, most authentic Indian cooking to be found anywhere in the UK. The Spice Club was such a hit with the diners of Manchester that within a matter of months they had to extend their kitchen and increase storage for cookware.
Fast-forward ten years, and cooking for people in their dining room at home has led them to open cooking schools in two different cities. They now have an online cooking school Shikshak, their own product range, and have launched a new cooking series on Fine Dining Lovers.
Initially, Monica’s mother Anita was apprehensive, but keeping their home address secret led to a special element of surprise, and word travelled fast around the city. Prep would begin days in advance of each Spice Club dinner, as the pair worked together on the time-consuming preparation of authentic Indian food, masalas, chapattis, chutneys and sauces, with the kitchen always full of pots and pressure cookers bubbling away, grinding and toasting spices.
Monica was able to draw on a vast knowledge of regional Indian cooking having travelled around the subcontinent every year while growing up. All of this fed into a genuine cuisine at Spice Club that made it such a draw for foodies in Manchester. With the Spice Club proving so popular, and with guests hungry for the recipes behind their cuisine, Monica was able to convince Anita to open up the kitchen as a cooking school.
The demand was huge, so eventually, the cooking school took over form the restaurant. Monica and Anita set about bringing the real food of India to the west - authentic recipes, the proper use of fresh spices, and the health benefits of different foods were all on the menu. And they still are.
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