WINNING the title of Best Indian Restaurant on the South Coast for the second year in succession saw Lymington’s restaurant Rivaaz put through its paces.
As it had won the award in 2018, this time Rivaaz was ‘mystery shopped’ three times – on busy and slow nights, and by an anonymous customer ordering a take-away.
Owner Shah Malek told the A&T: “We had to prove ourselves in all three categories and we did. We had no idea who the shoppers were, or when they came.
“We had been nominated for the award by our customers but as we had previously won it this year we had to go through the mystery shopper process. To come top in all three is just absolutely amazing.”
Mr Malek also won the title Best Maître’d in an Asian Restaurant for the whole of the UK at the National Asian Curry Awards.
He said: “That was completely thrilling and a little bit surreal. I was trying to take it all in; I knew I had been shortlisted for the title but to actually win it when it covers the whole of the country is just mind-blowing.”
Rivaaz had to beat around 4,000 Asian restaurants, including Indian, Japanese and Chinese among others, in the south coast region to scoop the award.
The restaurant did not know whether it had won the title until a team from Rivaaz attended a glittering award ceremony held at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel on Sunday, which was attended by more than 1,000 guests including mayor of London Sadiq Khan.
Mr Malek established Rivaaz in St Thomas Street in 2007 since when it has received numerous awards including recently being rated as one of the best 25 Indian diners in the country by The Big Seven Travel Company.
Mr Malek, whose wife Shelima also works at Rivaaz, said: “It’s such an honour to simply be nominated among the thousands of restaurants that are entered into this competition, but to go and actually scoop the award is just mind-boggling.
“This is the second year we have picked up this award and it goes to show that the hard work and dedication put in by our entire team continues to make us the best on the south coast of England.
“This award wouldn’t be possible without the loyalty and dedication of our customers who have supported us for the past 12 years. Thank you from the bottoms of our hearts.”
National Asian Curry Award chairman Yawar Khan said: “There was stiff competition in the category of national award and it took a lot of deliberation but in the end there was a clear winner.
“Our industry is struggling find a new generation of restaurateurs and we hope that stars of the industry like Shah Malek inspire the young to seriously consider a career in Asian hospitality.”