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Indian restaurant Rivaaz in Lymington makes history winning fourth consecutive Asian Restaurant of the Year South Coast title at Asian Curry Awards



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LYMINGTON’S Rivaaz has set a new record by retaining the coveted Asian Restaurant of the Year South Coast title in the prestigious Asian Curry Awards for the fourth consecutive year.

The St Thomas Street eatery is run by Shah Malek who said his team were “elated” to take home the accolade from the Asian hospitality sector’s most prestigious and hotly anticipated event.

A glittering black tie ceremony was held at London Mayfair’s Grosvenor House Hotel, hosted by BBC journalist Kate Silverton and attended by 800 guests.

Shah Malek and his brother and business partner Shamim Malek
Shah Malek and his brother and business partner Shamim Malek

“We were not expecting to win again because it has never been done before,” Shah told the A&T. “This award is not one that recognises me per se – it is for the entire team who have shown such dedication and passion during what has been a very tough year.

“We are very focused on providing customers with a second-to-none dining experience, from the point they enter the restaurant to the point they leave. We give them the best possible service that they have rightly come to expect from Rivaaz.”

The winners were decided based on the experiences of mystery shoppers who as well as visiting the restaurant twice also used the business’s takeaway service.

Rivaaz shone through for the superior quality of its dishes, some of which Shah, who is also head chef, has put together using recipes handed down by his ancestors.

“These awards are the top level in the industry and truly test how good you really are,” continued Shah, who set up the business with his brother Shamim Malek in 2007. “Our food offering is such high quality because we never compromise on the products we use.

Shah and his wife Shelima who also works at the restaurant
Shah and his wife Shelima who also works at the restaurant

“Even throughout the pandemic and with rising costs of inflation and Brexit, we have never opted for a lesser product and so we maintain the quality of our food. We also offer, as well as the classics, dishes that are completely unique to us and those are what make us really stand out.”

Shah said the last 18 months had been the toughest in the 14 years he had been running Rivaaz.

He said: “Like other venues we have suffered a staffing crisis – at one point we had 30% fewer staff than we needed.

“So this really is testament to how great my team is and how hard they have worked. Everybody has put in the hours and it has been a real challenge going back and fourth between in-house dining and takeaway only over the lockdowns.

“We really have had to adapt – and there was an enormous amount of planning that went into that – while also maintaining that level of service and meeting those very high expectations people have when they come to Rivaaz.”

The awards scheme recognises the best in the industry, and the judging criteria is heavily weighted towards the quality of the food and cooking, with additional points for ambience, customer service, community involvement and hygiene.

Yawar Khan, chair of the Asian Catering Federation which runs the awards, acknowledged the generosity of eateries that had donated thousands of takeaways to frontline NHS staff, key workers, the elderly and the vulnerable.

Rivaaz on St Thomas Street
Rivaaz on St Thomas Street

Rivaaz is one of them, and Shah was nominated in the Covid-Pandemic Business Hero category in last night’s (Thursday) New Forest Brilliance in Business Awards for his efforts in providing hospitals, schools and care homes with free meals during lockdown. In total, Rivaaz donated more than 2,000 free meals to frontline staff.

The restaurant also provided school children with free meals when the government withdrew food vouchers in February half-term.

Speaking at the awards ceremony, Mr Khan also applauded the sector’s resilience and innovation in the face of adversity during the pandemic, but reassured guests there was “no shortage of customers willing to pay for a superior product”.

“The days of the cheap Friday night curry are coming to end,” he said.

Rivaaz has won a string of awards over the years, and was even included in the TripAdvisor Hall of Fame for winning the coveted Certificate of Excellence for six years in a row.

For information or to book a table, go to www.rivaazdining.com



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