Given the diversity of cuisines available in London today, it’s difficult to imagine a time when the distinctive flavours of India’s regional dishes simply weren’t on the menu. But, back in 1982, when Camellia Panjabi opened Bombay Brasserie in South Kensington, a restaurant famed for its authentic approach to the eclectic flavours of the food of Bombay, “there was no regional Indian cuisine in Britain, none at all,” reveals Panjabi. Readdressing this balance has become Panjabi’s life passion and, along with her sister Namita and brother-in-law Ranjit Mathrani, as directors of MW Eat the trio have become authorities on the rich and diverse cuisines of India.
The seed for her culinary journey may have been planted in Panjabi’s mind as a student at Cambridge in the 1960s. Reading economics at Newnham College surrounded by a collection of what Panjabi calls “strong-minded women; I think you had to have strength to get yourself there,” she found herself craving the flavours of home. “I thought coming to the UK would be an easy transition because I came from a big city, which was Bombay, and we had the same kind of post boxes, the same red double-decker buses and I spoke English. But you know, it was such a shock that I didn’t speak for three days,” she says. “I was so short of food with spices,” she has also claimed in the past.
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