FEEL good is at the heart of Azaro’s philosophy – whether it’s the health benefits of the food or the welcoming atmosphere of the Hove restaurant.
"We want our guests to feel like they have come to our home," says Az Raja, who opened the contemporary Indian restaurant with business development manager Kirti Patel earlier this year in the former Italian venue Fellini’s.
The partners hail from a small village outside Leeds. Patel's background is in travel and hospitality, with the likes of Marriott Hotels and American Express Travel, while Raja was in marketing for retail fashion for luxury brands including Christian Dior, Giorgio Armani and Estee Lauder.
“My dad had a restaurant,” recalls Raja. “I always remember as a kid listening to mum and dad talking about food and wondering why curry houses did things that way. Why didn’t they do it like we did at home?”
The Azaro experience is not your standard curry house – more of a 21st century take on the Indian dining experience.
The look is very contemporary, with a colour scheme of white, brown and orange and a fine dining feel. The kitchen cooks everything in its own sauce rather than using a mother sauce.
And rather than a sticky book packed with hundreds of options the menu focuses on ten key dishes. They range from classic UK takes on Indian cooking such as chicken tikka masala to signature dishes including vegetable kolapuri to Kashmiri style lamb shank.
“It’s a complete journey from Goa to Kerala,” says Raja.
“People have travelled more now, and a lot of people have been to India.
“If you have had a Goan prawn curry on holiday, we want to get that real taste in our Goan prawn curry.”
The ingredients come from local suppliers, including Fish Galore off Third Avenue, Hove, and RP Meats in Upper Hollingdean Road, Brighton.
But the preparation is very traditional – cooked in a charcoal oven by head chef Satvir Singh and sous chef Deepak Saini, with herbs and spices that not only offer great taste but medicinal properties too.
It’s easy to taste the difference through their unique takes on naan breads, the tandoori lamb chops and bite-size spinach and onion bhajis which have been used to tempt in passers-by.
“A lot of the ingredients are good for the body, mind and soul,” says Raja.
“Curry is our national dish, but it’s about taking ownership of it and moving with the times.
“You don’t need to travel to London for this quality – we wanted to create something on a national scale in Hove.”
For anyone unsure what to choose Azaro offers both a tapas menu, and a grand thali from Monday to Thursday featuring samples of four courses – including a choice of a meat or vegetable main course which changes every day – and five sides complete with a drink.
“It’s a snapshot of our menu,” says Raja.
“We want to give our guests that broader understanding of what we do.”
The restaurant has even received the thumbs up from foreign secretary William Hague, who was invited down for a meeting with local businesses by Hove MP Mike Weatherley last month.
Weatherley, whose office is nearby, has nominated Azaro for the national Tiffin Cup competition.
“Our restaurant manager Bobby managed to give Mr Hague some chicken tikka to try,”
“He said it was the best he had ever tasted.”
Sample the menu.
Spinach and onion bhaji £4.65.
Chilli paneer £5.95.
Tandoori lamb chops £8.65.
Crab and fish cake £7.
Chicken tikka masala £10.65.
Goan prawn curry £13.95.
Vegetable kolapuri £9.85.
Lamb shank, Kashmiri style £16.95.
Dhum biryanis - chicken, prawn or vegetable from £11.95.
Mixed mithai £3.85.
Azaro dessert platter £8.95.
Azaro: Church Road, Hove 01273 900007.
Open Sun to Thurs noon to 10.30pm, Fri/Sat noon to 11pm. Visit www.azaro.co.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org