By Matthew Lynas
Glasgow Indian restaurant Koolba has been celebrating a year of success which culminated in the venue being named Customers’ Restaurant of the Year at the Curry Capital awards.
Koolba picked up the individual prize at the UK-wide awards, where the venue also represented Glasgow in conjunction with other local operators, including Mother India Group and Ashoka, in the Curry Capital competition; the city placed second behind Bradford.
Koolba’s latest award joins accolades from VisitScotland and TripAdvisor; and managing director Abdul Farrah told SLTN the time is right to “shout about” the restaurant.
“When you make someone happy with your work you can be very proud,” said Farrah.
Koolba has been trading in the Merchant City for a decade and Farrah reckons some of its success can be attributed to the venue’s interpretation of Indian food.
The Koolba offer is one which brings the flavours of the Indian sub-continent using locally-sourced ingredients and presented to diners with a descriptive language that “lets each dish tell a story”.
Koolba’s Chicken Tikka Chasni is described as a “stalwart of the west of Scotland” which “comes from the Indian obsession with Chinese food”, while the Royal Chicken Tikka Jalfrezi is said to have “all the base notes of a Punjabi curry with all the decadence of the Persians”.
The Persian twist on Punjabi cuisine is a theme which runs throughout the Koolba menu and is a style of cooking which Farrah thinks is an ideal representation of Indian cuisine.
“The history of Indian food goes back to the Persian Empire,” he said. “Naan bread came from the Persian Empire into Indian food.
“[We offer] Indian food with a Persian twist. Food that’s more refined, lighter versions of Indian curry with the best ingredients.”
But Farrah said the menu is just one of many aspects of the venue’s offer that keeps his customers satisfied.
The key to success, according to Farrah, is to not only create the right food, but the right atmosphere too.
For Koolba, that atmosphere breaks out of the menu and into the interior, which continues along the theme of cultural blending.
Underneath the building’s original beams, which are said to be close to two centuries old, Koolba’s design takes cues from the east while retaining the venue’s original features. Guests dine at tables made from Scottish oak while intricate Persian carpet artwork is on display throughout, set against a backdrop of Scottish stone.
Creating a welcoming environment is a priority for Farrah and, awards aside, the Koolba MD reckons the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games provided a great litmus test for the restaurant.
Farrah said the Games was “amazing in terms of bringing customers from around the world into Koolba”, but he highlighted diners from one nation in particular as proof that Koolba puts on a good show for Glasgow when tourists arrive.
“We’ve had French customers who mop their plates,” said Farrah.
“If you can keep French people happy you know you’re doing good.”