The Khayber is a Glengormley institution that opened on Antrim Road 27 years ago and has since become a favorite with locals.
The restaurant was opened by Mr Khan, the owner of Northern Ireland’s first Indian restaurant, The Moghul, established on Great Victoria Street.
However, as violence escalated in this area of ââthe city center due to the unrest, the Moghul closed and after a move to Glengormley, the Khayber opened in 1994.
Now run by his son Nisar Khan, the restaurant has since flourished, with staff and customers getting to know each other almost like family during this time.
Having started working in the restaurant alongside his brother at the age of 14, after moving abroad for college and a stint in marketing, Nisar is happy to pilot the famous restaurant’s ship.
Speaking to Belfast Live, Nisar told us about the history of The Khayber and how they have become a part of the community over the years.
He said: âMy dad came here in the 1960s. He worked in Birmingham and then worked for the British Army in the canteen, I think he really saw an opportunity here.
âIndian food in England at that time was good and busy, but there was nothing like it here. He saw an opportunity to open an Indian restaurant in Belfast and when he did he went. flew off because a lot of people were working in places like London and then when they came back there weren’t any Indian restaurants here.
âMy father was the first person to open an Indian restaurant in Northern Ireland in the early 1980s on Great Victoria Street, it was called The Moghul. He closed it, sold it and we moved here in 1994.
âMy brother and I worked here from the age of 14, then I went to Stirling University to do marketing, and then we finally took over. We opened another restaurant, The Khayber in Galgorm , in 2010 which my brother now runs. “
Nisar, who is based in Dunadry, said the main thing that keeps customers coming back is that the chefs “keep it simple and do it right” with their authentic Indian cuisine.
He added that “consistency is the key” and this is something they are able to maintain as the staff have been with them almost from the start.
He added: “You have to take care of your staff. This is why we have been going there for so long because people know this week that they will have a chicken madras and when they get it next week it will be the same thing – C consistency is the key.
âWe have had our chef for 22 years, the assistant chef has been here for about 16 years. Our tandoori leader has been here for about 12 years, my manager has been with us for nine years and the former manager has been there for 13 years.
“Each chef has his own hand, so our chef would go into the store, close the door, and prepare the spices so no one can see. I guess our customers are used to his hand now.”
But one thing that sets The Khayber apart is his involvement in the community and the bond he has built with his clients over the years.
Starting to work in the restaurant as a teenager and becoming an owner means that Nisar has known some of his customers from the start.
He added: “It’s not even just the business now, it’s more like family. With specific clients, it’s like talking to family. Me growing up here at 14, now they come in and see pictures of my kids and tell me about them, and i’ve known their kids since they grew up.
âIt’s not like knowing people by their middle name – that’s the whole first name. There are clients that I’ve become good friends with and go out with – it’s part of the community now.
“Every year I give back to the community. I try to sponsor local football teams, this year it’s Ballyclare Comrades, Newtownabbey FC. If they give to us, I want to give back – it works both ways.”
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