Minesh Agnihotri gave up a career in prosthetics to open his own restaurant, Indian Summer, in Brighton, which is now celebrating its 15th anniversary. He talks to Katie Pathiaki about the early days of Indian Summer, the recipes that have been passed down through generations and how they will be celebrating at the restaurant
When I was growing up my mum would make fantastic regional Indian food. I remember going to a high street curry house with my friends, who all told me I would love it. I was saddened to see what they thought Indian food was.
I went home and told my mum that our food was being misrepresented. She dreamed of opening her own restaurant, but each member of our family fell into their own careers, so I decided it was time for me to fulfil my mother's dream.
It's said that Indian Summer was the first Indian restaurant in Brighton - is that true?
Our claim to this was because we were from a genuine Indian background. We opened with the desire to serve authentic and regional Indian food with dishes originating from family recipes our chefs had grown up with.
We took a fresh approach to presentation and called upon European influences. We want our customers to experience two or three courses instead of just ordering a naan and a curry; and we present our customers with an appetiser and a palate cleanser between courses - all of these elements make us stand out from the high street curry house.
You're now approaching your 15th anniversary - how are you feeling about this achievement?
It seems a lifetime ago that we first opened the doors. I still remember calling all our friends and family to help finish the restaurant, my mum and wife scrubbing the floors, friends adding the finishing touches to the paint - it was chaos.
Like any business we have had our ups and downs and seen many changes in Brighton, but I feel grateful that we have made it to this milestone. I've grown a few grey hairs in the process, but our loyal customer base keeps building, which is what is important.
Will you be celebrating?
Yes, of course! We are planning to resurrect some of our favourite dishes from the past 15 years. We will also be picking a different table each night to be the lucky table number 15, where each person at the table will receive their whole meal for £15 per head.
How do you ensure your dishes are kept up to date and fresh but also retain original flavours?
We constantly look at our menus and tweak our favourites. I remember having a discussion with my mum about what should go in a thali [a Guajarati vegetarian platter] and she objected to a certain ingredient, saying: "I've never seen that in a thali before". I told her that was good, because we want to be innovative and unique.
Our ethos is that we like to stick to tradition but also mix it up and introduce our guests to new ideas, combinations and tastes. A great example would be a pistachio-spiced lamb rack with pea purée and potato tikki - Indian flavours, but married with a European presentation and style.
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