Londoners love their food and luckily the capital offers a huge choice of cuisines.
From fusion dishes to traditional meals, the capital has it all.
For award-winning cuisine, look no further than the heart of South East London where you’ll find authentic curry that’s loved by many, including soap stars, TV presenters and even chess grandmasters. .
Panas Gurkha, on Lee High Road in Lewisham, opened 11 years ago when owner Sujan Katuwal realized his dream of owning a Nepalese and Indian restaurant.
Sujan built the restaurant to become award winning and popular with famous faces, but he has remained committed to his roots – which is clear to see in what remains the most popular dish on the menu.
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The restaurateur was trained by star chef Atul Kochhar and TV chef Das Sreedharan, but most of all he learned from his mother.
Sujan said, âWe cook from the heart. When I grew up, I saw my grandmother cook, mom cook, even on my menu now I put âMum’s Curryâ.
âIt’s chicken curry, moderately hot. People love this one. “
If you’ve been to Panas Gurkha before and enjoyed mum’s curry and fancy trying something else, another highly recommended and popular dish is Jhane ko Mashu, which is a dry lamb dish.
Panas Gurkha won the Asian Curry Awards 2019 and has now been shortlisted in the âBest In London Suburbsâ category at the British Curry Awards which take place in November.
The proud owner of the business has welcomed celebrities to his restaurant, such as Absolutely Fabulous star Joanna Lumley, who is a big supporter of Gurkha veterans, former Coronation Street actress Sally Lindsay, the presenter of the BBC Clive Myrie and an international chess grandmaster.
Prior to welcoming celebrities and locals from Lewisham, Sujan lived in Nepal until arriving in the UK at the age of 24.
But what fueled the restaurateur’s determination to succeed was his father’s death from a heart attack.
Sujan said: âI was 18 or 19 years old. This is the time when you need your dad to be honest.
âIf you do something wrong, he’s there to guide you, but it changed me overnight.
âIt allowed me to concentrate. I had nothing in my life but to focus and make him proud in any way.
“I’ve lost over 30 years now [without him] and there isn’t even a day that I don’t remember him.
“But it gives me motivation, it gives me energy, it makes me want to go do something good to make him proud wherever he looks.”
The father of two studied hotel management and together with his wife Bandana, 42, they worked to save the money needed to start the business.
The 46-year-old said: “Coming from such a humble background, from such a small background, it’s not that you have money in a jar and you can just take it out, pay the deposit and just run the business.
âThe hard work is there. We saved our money and finally opened it and we are there today â.
The business owner remains humble in the face of his success and does not forget where he came from.
Sujan added: “[Growing up] Sometimes you wanted a nice pair of slippers or sneakers and you didn’t have that privilege.
âWhen I opened on day one I said to my staff, listen to guys, be yourself and treat people the way you want to be treated. Simple philosophy.
âHow I even see someone spending Â£ 1 or Â£ 1,000, there is no difference. He is a client “.
The business owner faced deep challenges during the pandemic and found himself thinking about quitting.
The Charlton resident said: âThere was one point I was trying to close and run away, to be very honest with you.
âI was ready to close, give the keys to the owner.
“There was no light at the end of the tunnel.”
The restaurateur decided to stay the course after his mother came up with the idea to help during the pandemic by donating 100,000 meals to the community, including key workers and the homeless.
With the help of his family and Panas Gurkha’s chef, Ram Paudal, they were able to succeed in their mission to feed those in need.
Sujan said: âLewisham Hospital made me stay.
âOnce my wife and I went to Lewisham Hospital to serve the food in March, the appreciation, the applause and the beeps from these ambulance drivers, it gave us a positive thought.
“We thought that even if we were to close, we will close later, for now will serve the community because they need us.”
He continued his charitable work which is a reflection of his own father’s work as a teacher.
Through many projects including working with St George’s Garrison Church in Woolwich to build a memorial garden for the Gurkhas, Sujan was touched by the people he met.
The Londoner said: âThe last time we had a reunion there was a 98 year old Jamaican veteran.
âMeeting these kinds of people is beyond words to be honest. It is something that money cannot buy â.
The father says he would like to do more, but despite the difficulties in running his restaurant, it is part of life.
Sujan said, âI always face challenges. If there are no challenges, there will be no life.
It’s part of life, you just need to balance and learn to live with it and work with it.
To his customers, the restaurateur says they often ask how they can support his business to which he replies: “If you like my food, keep coming back, keep supporting us”.
Have you visited Panas Gurkha? Do you have a favorite Nepali and Indian restaurant in London? Let us know in the comments section here.