West London gay couple run LGBTQ + inclusive Indian restaurant they opened during IVF


A queer couple made their dream of opening their own restaurant come true, and that too as a tribute to their Indian culture and education.

Resh Sonchhatla and Heena Varambia’s restaurant, Chapati Club, is an inclusive LGBTQ + space that aims to welcome locals with open arms.

The couple started the business despite having no experience in catering, while undergoing the stress of IVF.

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Resh was an accountant by trade at the time – but always dreamed of opening his own food business.

She said, “Food has bothered me since I was a child. I watched my mom as she cooked and was fascinated.

“I went to college and trained as an accountant, over time it got more and more depressing, it was unsatisfying and I wanted to be more creative and be my own boss.

“I was in the early 40’s and decided to quit corporate life, I said if I don’t do it now I don’t want to think I should have.”

Resh and Heena shared a long-standing passion for food, instilled from childhood by their large families, and growing up in the nearby town of Hounslow, Heena was a fan of the diverse and creative Acton region.

The idea of ​​opening a “non-traditional” restaurant serving “the food we grew up on” quickly became a reality when a perfect location became available; they made an offer, which was accepted, and opened the Chapati Club on April 7, 2017.

“I still had my job at the time, we went to see the site which was a closed Chinese restaurant.

“There was a minimum premium on it, so it needed a renovation,” she said.

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At the time, the couple was undergoing IVF, but they thought the “baby thing wasn’t working”.

At this point, they put the idea on the back burner and decided to focus on opening the restaurant.

But, at the same time, just days after the lease was signed on April 17, with a few rounds of IVF still remaining because they had bought it in packs, Heena got pregnant.

Since then, the couple have also given birth to another child after Heena fell pregnant a second time just before Covid.

The busy duo currently open the restaurant four days a week to maintain a work-life balance.

Resh said the restaurant’s goal is to make sure everyone feels included and that she finds embracing others to be their strength as a restaurant.

Fresh chapatis on the menu!
Fresh chapatis on the menu!

Speaking about her own journey as a queer person in a South Asian family, she said, “I didn’t come out to my family until I met Heena 12 years ago.

“I was exploring gay marriages of convenience, thought I could never do that to my family, my parents are not strict but not modern either, we grew up around a beautiful Hindu community, all the world knew them.

“I was in my thirties and my parents pretended there was this guy every week, one day I told my mom that my sister helped me deal with the situation.

“I introduced them to Heena who is also Indian, it was awkward but getting away was a relief, time passed and we finally bought a house together.”

Eventually, they both started spending time with their respective families and things fell into place.

When they launched the restaurant, they never thought it was an outdoor, proud LGBTQ + space.

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However, while the business had been open for two months, Heena picked up an LGBTQ + flag at the Pride event and said they should put it in the restaurant window.

Resh said: “I said we couldn’t do that, she said why not, I couldn’t tell her why, but it was so bad, but then I thought actually, let’s just put it on. in the restaurant, so that people can see it.

“Over time we have become open about it – as an Indian owned gay restaurant.

“We now have a lot of gay couples and gay singles now, the news started to spread and for me, if I was in my 20s, if I knew there was an Indian gay restaurant, I would go! “

The restaurant is not only a representation of them, it is also the one that showcases their culture through the menu.

Resh and Heena turned to favorite recipes from their shared Indo-Kenyan heritage, many of which have been passed down from their families.

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“Chicken G Dad’s Way,” for example, is Heena’s dad’s recipe, a dish so popular with his family that every time it’s cooked it leads to a big impromptu gathering.

The ’61’ in ‘Chicken 61’ meanwhile refers to Resh’s aunt’s house number, where she would go if she wanted to eat chicken, which her vegetarian mother wouldn’t cook.

April 2022 marks the fifth anniversary of its launch – you can visit the Chapati Club at 117 The Vale, London W3 7RQ.

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