Ekachai, the South East Asian restaurant group, is beginning a culinary and interior makeover of its original site in Liverpool Street before embarking on expansion plans to double its estate over the next five years. 

The business, which has another restaurant in Wandsworth and two within Selfridges department stores in Oxford Street and Birmingham, wants to open one or two more outlets a year until reaching eight venues in or around the capital by 2020.

Ning Restaurants co-owner and executive chef Norman Musa has been brought on board as a consultant to develop the new, ‘more unique’ menu at Ekachai’s Liverpool Street branch, which will be rolled out to the group’s other sites if it proves successful.

Growth strategy

Co-owner Thomas Tjong told M&C Report’s sistertitle BigHospitality: “We need a new look, something more rustic and authentic to match the food.

“We’re very busy at lunchtime but in the evenings we’ve often had people coming for just 30-40 minutes, as they do for lunch. We want Ekachai to be a longer-lasting experience – it will be a lot more relaxed to encourage diners to stay for longer.

Tjong founded Ekachai in 2000 with business partner Sidney Tsang. Speaking of the growth strategy for the pan-Asian concept, the restaurateur added: “This year is all about getting the branding right; consolidating, and refurbishing the existing estate. From next year we will begin expanding.

“I would like to open one or two sites every year and by 2020 I want to have seven or eight. They will probably all be in London but we’ve looked at areas like Oxford, just outside of the capital.”

Street food-style

The 140-cover Ekachai Liverpool Street restaurant will close for around a fortnight at the end of the month, before re-opening on 10 February. The two-tier site will be made ‘less modern’, with more natural materials such as reclaimed timber, bamboo and natural rope giving it a Far East feel.

The menu, which Malaysian chef Musa has helped develop, will be more seasonal and based on the local ingredients that are available, with diners given a more authentic, street food-style experience. Dishes will include ayam goreng (Indonesian spiced chicken) and prawn and crab siu mai.

“We were searching for someone very creative to help to take us to the next level and in Norman Musa we found the answer,” added Tjong. “All of our branches have been trading well but I think this re-development will make us more unique and differentiate us from our rivals.”