I'm proud that we are able to represent the Nepalese community and showcase our hospitality with our fine dining approach...' -Bhandari
Pashupati Bhandari is a well known name among the successful Nepalese entrepreneurs in the UK and in the hospitality field. He established his first restaurant - Everest Inn, in Kent some eight years ago, followed by other several branches in other parts of the country. His restaurant was among the '50 Best Eats' in the UK in the list published by Independent newspaper. He shared his long experience in the field with NepaliSamajUK.com recently. Here are the excerpts:
Q: What inspired you to open Everest Inn?
A: When I was studying here some 22 years ago, I was also working part-time in restaurants and hotels. After gaining the hands-on experience in the hospitality industry, I opened Everest Inn to continue with my keen interest in this field.
After finishing my MBA, my ambition to create something important gradually grew strong. So, using my knowledge and due to a huge interest in promoting Nepal and the humble people of my home country, I decided to establish the best Nepalese restaurant in the UK – something I felt at the time this country was very much lacking. We opened the very first Everest Inn at Hythe, Kent in 2004.
Q: What are the signature dishes in your restaurant? What makes it special?
A: We at the Everest Inn provide dishes from the heart of Nepal. Our philosophy is simple and effective: "to provide quality food, exceptional service and outstanding value". And I can hereby proudly confirm that we deliver just that. We use very fine selected spices and some of those combinations are blended in the premises with our own formula. Some spices are direct from the Himalayas range which are among the many other traditional Nepalese recipe. We boast that we go that extra mile with everything we do, and that is what makes us special.
There are huge selections on the menu however some of the signature dishes are:
Everest Fish Parcel:
Marinated crusted monkfish, salmon, shrimps, grated onions and lime, wrap in pastry, served in bed of spiced Aubergine Puree, and lemoncello dressing! Wonderful combinations of ingredients, and superb garnish with Aubergine Puree together finishing with the lemoncello dressing. One of the most delicious combinations.....
Similarly, Gurkhali Chicken, MOMO, Asparagus and Wild mushrooms and Everest Lamb Shank are very popular too.
Q: Any particular reason why you choose to open in Blackheath and Kent? Why not elsewhere?
A: Prior to opening our very first restaurant in Kent, we had other business relationships and social interests with the Gurkha community and I frequently visited Kent and other places like Folkestone and Canterbury mainly. However, I knew a Nepalese restaurant in Hythe, a small coastal town which is calm and peaceful. I did my homework on the town and its community and gleaned outside opinions from good friends and family. Then with their support we knew we readied ourselves to face a rather bigger challenge, the hard work of which thankfully is paid off eventually!
Even though Hythe is a beautiful place, my connection with Greenwich and Blackheath made our movement feel like moving away from home. I always wanted to return to Blackheath, so we were constantly watching over-- keeping an eye for opportunities in this area too. But, we are always aspiring to expand our restaurant group and continue our cause to bring Nepalese cooking to greater recognition.
Q: What is your favorite dish at an Everest Inn restaurant?
A: It's certainly hard to single out a particular dish. However because of my never ending love for sea food, I will have to choose our Fish Grill. What a sensation it has I cannot describe in words! It is perfect selections of marinated Monkfish, Fillet of Salmon, Cod, and Jumbo King Prawn slowly cooked in clay oven and served with house special spiced tartar sauce.
Q: How does it feel being the owner of one of the very few fine-dining Nepalese restaurants in Kent area?
A: I'm proud to say that we are able to represent the Nepalese community and showcase our hospitality with our fine dining approach, promoting Nepal along the way. Fine dining always created a certain level of respect for the food, which for us, at the Everest Inn, is very important.
Q: All can't be that rosy! What is the biggest difficulty you've faced while keeping your business afloat?
A: At the Everest Inn, under any circumstances, we do not consider compromising the quality. Keeping that in mind, with today's competitive market and financially very critical juncture, we have to really watch our prices.
It's hard to manage a decent margin without scaring the customers away. But I am pleased to let you know that we have been listed under best 50 Eats in the UK for providing quality food with outstanding value- by The Independent recently.
Q: What motivates you?
A: My schedules are always hectic, however my passion and drive for my restaurants is far greater and always with me whether I want to have an easy and relaxing day or not.
I do know, though with my team behind me, I cannot fail-- the support and passion of the team members is truly all that is required for motivation.
Q: Can you name a few well known faces who have visited your restaurant?
A: Our great friend, Joanna Lumley OBE, is a regular diner at our place. We've also welcomed the Nepalese Ambassador, Dr Suresh Chandra Chalise on many occasions, and we also met with the great Bollywood director, Yesh Chopra, and the stars Shahrukah Khan and Katrina Kaif in 2012. We were delighted when the then Immigration Minister and Ashford MP, Damien Green, dropped by for some of our food. He also took an interest in the kitchen too and cooked up a recipe with our executive chef, Shanker Pandey. We had visits from No 10 Downing Street (advisor to Prime Minister) and really appreciated for our quality food and service.
Similarly, many other celebrities including the footballer, cricketers, and rugby players are also great fan of our food and service.
Q: Although being a successful restaurateur, you have recently made a move into the retail business (Everest Connection) too. Why such a surprise move?
A: Our move into the retail business is a response to the growing demand; our motherland truly has beauty and creativity to offer. We aim to promote Nepal by importing goods and trading traditional materials in the UK, with our vision to bring top quality Nepali products and services to the world. The main reason behind our decision to open Everest Connection is to promote Nepal by widening the opportunities to experience the country in new ways.
Q: Do you have further plans to expand your Everest Inn brand? Where do you see yourself in five years?
A: We are very keen to expand in the south east London. Maidstone and Canterbury are definitely on the list. We are also working towards the tourism destinations project in one of the Mountain in Pokhara, Nepal. And we have something in the drawing board at the moment and hopefully in five years' time it will also take some short of shape. So, really exciting times ahead!
Q: What do you love and yet miss most for being a busy entrepreneur?
A: The good thing is meeting with so many different people, from different field, buildup friendship, and sharing ideas opportunities-- that's great!
But on the other hand, the hours are unsociable and of course I miss my family. I am among the lucky ones as they have always understood me and supported me.
Q: What are the key factors which make a successful entrepreneur?
A: Commitment, hard work, good team work, motivated staff, and of course good communication skills. Knowing the job, business, doing plenty of homework's and calculations are other things one should possess.
Q: Any tips for aspiring Nepalese entrepreneurs who want to enter the catering business?
A: Don't be fooled! Many see the catering world as an escape route into an easy life. I'd advise: always do the homework and ensure your passion for the business remains impeccable. It's healthy to have great support however don't rely on this. And also, keep searching gaps in the market and/or location.