Atul Kochhar has revealed he is preparing to open five new restaurants, including his first site at London's Heathrow Airport.
The chef told the Caterer four of the venues were scheduled to launch within the next five months, while the airport restaurant is still in development.
"I didn't plan to open all the restaurants together but because of Covid-19, Brexit and supply issues, everything has come together," said Kochhar.
One of the first to open will be Masalchi, a 120-cover casual dining restaurant in London's Wembley Park in mid to late October. The menu will be kept small and divided into grills and small plates, and Kochhar is considering adding a few curries or biryanis.
"There's a simple menu; a table of four could have the entire menu," said Kochhar. "I'm really excited about it. I've always done fine dining and thought of doing a playful street food restaurant and thought this would be the perfect place."
Two Riwaz restaurants are due to open in Beaconsfield in November and in Tunbridge Wells in January or February next year. Both are situated in listed buildings and the chef is waiting on planning permission to begin work.
The Riwaz brand will serve a menu inspired by Muslim influences on Indian food. "I like Indian history but often when we talk about Indian cuisine from recent times we focus on Mughlai food, but there were so many other subcultures that we haven't had a chance to celebrate," added Kochhar.
"I've hired people who love researching these cuisines, and they've come up with some amazing and old recipes. The menu will be very exciting. It's something I always wanted to do and never had the time, so this is my chance."
Fine dining restaurant Mathura in London's Westminster has no set opening date but is taking bookings from 1 November. The venue was originally due to open in the former Westminster Fire Station site in 2019 but was delayed due to issues with the building, and then the pandemic.
Mathura is inspired by the kingdom of Kanishka, the second century BC ruler of the Kushan dynasty. Kochhar added: "During [Kanishka's] time India had close ties with countries including Persia, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan, China, Thailand and Vietnam. I have curated a menu which is 60% pan-Indian and 40% inspired by these other countries. It's quite a funky menu."
Kochhar, who won Michelin stars at his former London restaurants Tamarind and Benares, would not be drawn on whether he was aiming for another star for Mathura.
He said: "I want to serve a cuisine well and do what's right for it, working with local ingredients. We'll do a very elevated food there and if we're worthy of the star I'm sure we'll get it. If we're not, then we'll keep working."
The final restaurant, Kanishka Kitchen, will open in the former Carluccio's site on the passenger side at Heathrow Terminal 5. It will seat 60-70 covers and serve casual dishes such as wraps, sandwiches and breakfast items.
There is no set opening date for the restaurant but Kochhar hopes it is "as soon as possible".
He added: "I think this is the first time an Indian restaurant is going into a British airport. We're very excited about it. Considering the UK has strong ties with India and so many flights that go from Terminal 5 to India we're looking to trade well there."
Since leaving Benares in 2018 Kochhar has opened Kanishka in London's Mayfair, Vaasu in Marlow, Sindhu at the Compleat Angler hotel also in Marlow, Hawkyns at the Crown Inn, Amersham, and Indian Essence in Petts Wood, Kent. He was worked with Tina English, former commercial director at the Cinnamon Club, on several openings.
Kochhar said: "I'm blessed with an amazing team around me and a great business partner in Tina who's helping me every step to get through this [and open all the restaurants], and I'm quite confident we will."
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