At ‘Manju’s’ in Brighton, 50 miles south of London, an 85-year-old’s love for cooking is the reason behind the platter of desi dishes served here.
The story goes back to 1936 when Manju, who was married in Uganda, returned to her mother’s house as she was pregnant with her first child.
Cooking had always been her love and in Uganda, she’d churn out 35 tiffins every day that would be relished by office workers.
In 1972, President Idi Amin took over Uganda. A dictator by nature, he passed a law wherein the family along with other Asians were expelled.
So, with very few options for a safe space, Manju arrived in the United Kingdom as they had a relative here who could help them.
With two young boys and only 12 pounds, the family knew tough times awaited them. Manju began working at a factory until she was 65.
Did her dream of having her own restaurant fade? “It did seem less and less likely,” she says. But in the year 1979, Naimesh says his mother bought a place of their own in London.
“She made our dreams come true. We now wanted to do the same for her,” he adds. “We wanted a space that saw a confluence of cultures.”
In 2017, the boys bought the space in Brighton where they would set up their mother’s restaurant. Manju was 80, but her dream of a lifetime had finally come true.
Today, the restaurant sees the duo greeting their guests and taking orders, while their mother and her two daughters-in-law, Dipali and Kitty, help out in the kitchen.
“People who travel here are likely to try out different cuisines. To add to this, Brighton is also the vegan capital of the UK, so Gujarati food is very well received.”
Operating from Thursday through Saturday, from 12 pm to 2 pm for lunch (on Saturdays only) and 6 pm to 10 pm for dinner, the restaurant sees a turnout of around 48 people a day.
On any given day, the menu will boast 12 dishes that change constantly, depending on the vegetables that are in season.