Friday September 10, 2010
It's funny how it could take a man originally from Bangladesh to help the British love their own national cuisine, but that is exactly what has happened with Iqbal Wahhab.
The 46-year-old opened his flagship Roast restaurant in fashionable foody-heaven Borough Market in 2003.
He also has a fast-food stand in there, selling British classics such as full English breakfast sandwiches and hot rolls with pork belly and crackling.
Roast has already proved to be a huge success and now Iqbal is eat roast bangladeshi cook has best of british grub bringing the concept of fine British food on the go to the shoppers of Westfield shopping centre where he opened a branch last month (August 28).
He remembers how he came up with the idea for Roast after first opening a successful Indian restaurant called the Cinnamon Club.
"A customer came up to me and said 'It's lucky Indian food is so popular because British food is so bad' and I remember thinking 'No it's not'," he said.
"It's too easy to knock anything British, such as Tim Henman, but I think we should be proud of our food. Why should we celebrate European food at the expense of what we have on our doorstep?
"It's a delicious irony that someone like me would be the one to do it, but it's no stranger than opening an Indian restaurant, despite feeling that I'm British."
He added: "I hope the shoppers of Westfield will like it because there are no other outlets currently selling hot meat sandwiches using quality ingredients.
"I wanted to see if my idea had legs and take it out of a 'foody' environment where people have already heard of us."
The Westfield operation could prove to be a blueprint for a British fast food empire, or at least a chain of restaurants, if it proves successful. Iqbal is not necessarily aiming to be the cheapest but he is certainly hoping to be the best and satisfy hungry shoppers.
"It's a great new test of the product and there is a lot riding on it, if it goes well," said Iqbal. "But it has to stand or fall on its own merits, rather than the reputation we already have at Borough Market."
If the Westfield experiment proves to be a success, Iqbal hopes to open more Roast outlets in Kensington, Hampstead and The City.
See www.roast-restaurant.com (opens new window).