LYMINGTON’S Rivaaz set a new record by retaining the coveted title of South Coast Asian Restaurant of the Year at the prestigious Asian Curry Awards for the fourth year in a row.
The St Thomas Street restaurant is run by Shah Malek, who said his team were “delighted” to win the distinction of the most prestigious and anticipated event in the Asian hospitality industry.
A sparkling black tie ceremony took place at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London Mayfair, hosted by BBC journalist Kate Silverton and attended by 800 guests.
“We didn’t expect to win again because it has never been done before,” Shah told A&T. “This award does not recognize me in and of itself – it is for the whole team who have shown such dedication and passion during a very difficult year.
“We strive to provide customers with a dining experience like no other, from the point they enter the restaurant to the point they exit. We offer them the best possible service that they rightly expect from Rivaaz.
The winners were chosen based on the experiences of the mystery shoppers who, in addition to visiting the restaurant twice, also used the company’s take-out service.
Rivaaz is famous for the superior quality of its dishes, some of which are composed by Shah, who is also a chef, from recipes handed down by his ancestors.
“These awards are the highest level in the industry and really test how good you really are,” continued Shah, who started the company with his brother Shamim Malek in 2007. “Our food offering is of a such quality because we never compromise on the products we use.
“Even throughout the pandemic and with the rising costs of inflation and Brexit, we have never gone for a lower quality product and so we maintain the quality of our food. We also offer, in addition to the classics, dishes that are totally unique to us and that is what really sets us apart.
Shah said the past 18 months have been the toughest of the 14 years he has led Rivaaz.
He said: “Like other sites, we had a staffing crisis – at one point we had 30% less staff than we needed.
“So that really speaks to the quality of my team and their hard work. Everyone put in hours and it was a real challenge to go back and forth between meals on site and take out only during closings.
“We really had to adapt – and there has been a tremendous amount of planning that went into that – while maintaining that level of service and meeting the very high expectations people have when they come to Rivaaz. “
The rewards program recognizes the best in the industry, and the judging criteria are heavily focused on the quality of the food and cuisine, with additional points for ambiance, customer service, community involvement and l ‘hygiene.
Yawar Khan, president of the Asian Catering Federation which manages the awards, acknowledged the generosity of restaurants who had donated thousands of take-out meals to frontline NHS staff, key workers, the elderly and individuals vulnerable.
Rivaaz is one of them, and Shah was nominated in the Covid-Pandemic Business Hero category at last night’s New Forest Brilliance in Business Awards (Thursday) for his efforts to provide free meals to hospitals, to schools and care homes during the lockdown. In total, Rivaaz donated over 2,000 free meals to frontline staff.
The restaurant also provided free meals to school children when the government pulled the food stamps in mid-February.
Speaking at the awards ceremony, Khan also applauded the industry’s resilience and innovation in the face of adversity during the pandemic, but reassured guests that there was “no shortage of customers willing to pay for a superior product “.
“The days of cheap Friday night curry are drawing to a close,” he said.
Rivaaz has won a series of awards over the years and has even been included in TripAdvisor’s Hall of Fame for winning the coveted Certificate of Excellence for six consecutive years.
For more information or to reserve a table, visit www.rivaazdining.com