A RESTAURANT owner has launched her first range of chutneys... at the age of 84.

Manjula Patel opened Gujarati restaurant Manju’s in Trafalgar Street in Brighton in 2016.

While the award-winning family-run business has remained closed during lockdown, the passionate cook has been keeping busy creating a range of chutneys and pickles for the retail market, which will be sold in independent food stores across the city, online and from the restaurant itself, once it reopens.

Handmade in the Manju’s kitchen, the chutneys come in 130g jars, with Manjula herself featuring on the labels.

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Manjula, known as Manju, said: “Opening a restaurant at 80 years of age was my dream come true.

“I am just as delighted and proud of our first retail range of chutneys and pickles.”

Manju’s son Jaymin Patel, who works across various parts of the business, said there has been a demand for the chutneys served in the restaurant virtually since it opened, almost five years ago.

He said: “Within the space of a month of opening we had a client come in to eat with us who was a big distributor and interested in the chutneys, and six months later we had another approach us about doing a chutney line under their banner.

“Manju’s was rocketing at the time and we were just too busy with the restaurant.

The Argus: The team at Manju'sThe team at Manju's

“Customers also started to approach us in the restaurant to ask if we sold the pickles separately, and we started doing a few jars to sell at the bar.

“But when lockdown happened, that’s when we started to put together this knock out range.”

The first two chutneys to launch are two kinds of mango chutney – the Sweet Bataku Gujarati Mango Chutney, which Jaymin says is a traditional Gujarati chutney, and the Aromatic Mango Chutney, which is more spicy and made with cardamom.

These are currently on sale at Brighton grocery stores including Infinity Foods, Hisbe and Kindly, and four more chutneys will available in the next few weeks.

Jaymin said: “Coming soon we will have our lemon pickle, which takes about eight weeks to make.

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“We also have our Hot Mango Chutney, which is the really fiery one – you can add it to sauces or curries.

“There’s also our Sweet Chilli Mango Chutney, made with onion seeds, and a Date and Tamarind Chutney, which goes well with dosas and Indian street food dishes like bhel puri.

“We want to support the community and its independent shops.

“We’ve not done a proper launch yet but so far it is going really well.”

Manju’s, which specialises in Gujarati vegetarian cooking in a homely setting, has become a firm favourite with food lovers in Brighton, and Jaymin said many people have been contacting the restaurant during lockdown.

He said: “You would be surprised how many people are getting in touch to say how much they miss our food.

“We know a lot of our customers on first-name terms.

“Our recipes have all been passed down through generations, but my mum will put her own twist on it. It’s a traditional way of cooking and everything is done from scratch.”

The Argus: Manju Patel, centre, with sous chefs Dee and Kitri PatelManju Patel, centre, with sous chefs Dee and Kitri Patel

Born in Gujarat, Manju learned to cook from the age of 14, helping her mother to make ends meet from their home in Uganda, where the family had settled.

She would make up to 35 containers of food a day filled with rice, curries and chapattis for hungry customers living in the Indian community in Uganda.

Manju arrived in London in 1972 with just £12 and two young boys and worked in a factory for decades until her retirement, when she was able to make her dream of opening a restaurant a reality.

Her incredible story is featured on the labels on the new chutneys.

Jaymin said: “She’s been inside for most of the past year but even when she goes out for walks people recognise her.

“Brighton is very special to us as everyone is on board with what we do.

“We’re hoping to reopen in June – so long as it is safe.”

To find out more about Manju’s or order any of the new chutneys, visit www.manjus.co.uk.