Thursday, 25 September 2014 00:00
The ambience at Arabian Knights which is tucked into a small alley on Galle Road, Colombo 3, is one of comfort and homeliness, reminiscent of a friend’s kitchen.
AK, as it is fondly known has quickly become the foremost name for authentic Middle Eastern cuisine in town.
It makes perfect sense when you meet the owners, Naqqash Jaleel who is an IT and Operations Director turned restaurateur and his wife Sarvat Baluch who is the new co-owner and an accidental but passionate chef. The daring duo met in Dubai eight years ago and always reminisced of starting this venture.
“Selling Shawarma wasn’t our plan though,” Naqqash quips in. Naqqash and Sarvat come from the airline, travel and IT sectors. “Moving to Sri Lanka has been life changing and opening the new AK has been an adventure,” Sarvat adds with wonderment. She admits the business has taken over their lives but emphasises that ultimate pay off is seeing and interacting with so many satisfied customers.
AK which was conceptualised in 2012 and later managed comprising a team of Syrian Crew. However, as the operations increased in complexity, the founders were forced to rethink strategy on the future of AK and wind-up the small and much sought after outlet on Marine Drive.
Scaling the business was only possible if the owners actually were part of daily operations and Sarvat moved in to Sri Lanka to work full time on AK. She is today, an integral part of running and managing the restaurant.
The couple’s risks paid off, translating into a host of loyal patrons who come back to the restaurant time and again. “We didn’t want people to patronise us just because of the friendly service; we wanted to make a real difference with quality food and great service with a family friendly atmosphere,” adds Sarvat, a self-taught chef who makes it a point to stop at every table to welcome customers as if they were guests. Upon entering the restaurant, diners are served with freshly baked flat breads and a helping of Harrisa, a fiery and aromatic North-African paste (a staple in Tunisia and Algeria served as a condiment with every meal).
From the get-go AK impresses diners with a crafted menu that brings to life handpicked dishes in Middle Eastern home cooking. Brilliantly executed classics like Syriana Shawarma, fabulous falafels, superb Sambousek, Hummous and the delectable desserts are a treat.
The couple started off with Shawarma simply because of its popularity and appeal. Today, their Syriana Shawarma is unrivalled across town and has patrons raving about it. “Arabian food is wholesome, healthy and flavourful,” adds Naqqash. “We stick to the fundamentals, which is infusing fresh, high-quality ingredients to generations old recipes to give that special appeal.”
Sarvat says that their unusual take on the cuisine works because customers are daring enough to try unfamiliar cuisines. AK which soft opened its flagship restaurant in late July is already a popular choice for diners, for it provides a unique combination of wholesome food in a rustic ambience that few restaurants have been able to perfect.
Unlike most restaurants where waiters cater to the customers, the duo believes that serving customers is more than just offering good food. Even on the busiest nights, the team makes it a point to welcome customers as though they are special guests and potential friends.
Naqqash is quick to note that their success would not be what it is without the help of talented and loyal employees as well as their loyal customers.
Arabian Knights is open daily from 12 noon to 11 p.m. For more information about the restaurant call 011 2301 032. To view their menu, check out www.arabianknights.lk. Follow the restaurant on Facebook at fb.com/arabianknightslk or @arabianfoodlk on Twitter for latest updates.
Pix by Daminda