Dev Biswal, chef patron of The Ambrette which has restaurants in Margate and Rye, has revealed plans to expand across the South East, with two new sites opening in the coming few months.
The chef, who champions a ‘curry-free menu’ across his duo of Indian restaurants, told our sister title Restaurant magazine that he has secured two former pubs in Canterbury and Birchington-on-Sea, the latter of which will fall under a new concept, specialising in seafood.
He went on to reveal plans to open an additional two restaurants in Kent and East Sussex - with sites in Tunbridge Wells and Sevenoaks currently being explored - before eventually making his first foray into London.
“We have one in Canterbury that will hopefully open next month and one in Birchington-on-Sea near the original restaurant in Margate, which we hope to have ready a couple of months afterwards,” Biswal told Restaurant. “They’re both in former pubs which suits us down to the ground: good availability, lots of space and of course the business rates are lower.
“The site in Canterbury is large with room for 100 or so covers and will be branded Ambrette, although it will be different from the restaurants in Margate and Rye. We plan to explore all-day dining with an Indian accent and offer breakfast and afternoon teas.
“The Birchington-on-Sea restaurant will be something a little different and we’ve yet to come up with a name. It’s going to specialise in seafood but we’re also going to go to great lengths to cater for people with special dietary requirements including vegetarians, coeliacs and those with allergies.”
Biswal trained at the Dubai Sheraton, before moving to London in 2003, aged 26, for spells at Mangoes and Eriki. With fine-dining restaurants rarely working as scalable concepts, the chef is fully aware that others have tried to expand and failed, but he believes his concept doesn’t fall comfortably under the term ‘fine-dining’.
“I dislike that term immensely, but yes people do call it fine-dining,” he said. “My restaurants are mid-market and charge mid-market prices, although we do offer a tasting menu (£44.95 for eight courses).
“My cooking is very delicate. We work with specialist ingredients such as pigeon, venison and soft-shell crab which are not common in other Indian restaurants and use traditional Indian techniques to flavour them.
“You have to get a huge number of variables right to succeed. They don’t have set systems like Subway or McDonald’s that can be replicated relatively easily.
“A centralised production kitchen for marinades and sauces will make the food consistent, as will centralised purchasing and heavy investment in training.”
Most of The Ambrette’s growth so far has been self-funded but Biswal has benefitted from the South East’s Regional Growth Fund, which match-funds businesses that benefit the local economy and provides employment for local people.