The restaurant game is notoriously fickle so for any restaurant to celebrate 25 years or more in business is quite the achievement, especially under the same ownership throughout. Two Lancashire restaurants are celebrating anniversaries to shout about – The Moghul in St Annes (30 years in business) and Master McGraths in Scarisbrick (25 years). We caught up with owners Liaquat 'Danny' Ali and Jim Sines to find out how they did it and how things have changed:
What’s been the secret of your success?
Jim: We’ve got an eclectic menu with lots of choice and I think one of the best and most comprehensive early evening offerings around (£16.50 for two courses or £19.50 for three courses, served until 7pm from Monday to Saturday). We’re situated in the middle of a triangle that takes in Preston, Southport and Liverpool and we’ve become more of a destination restaurant rather than relying on passing trade.
Danny: Our menu is very different to other Indian restaurants as we feature lots of dishes you won’t find elsewhere. We try and adapt home-cooked Bengali, Pakistani and Indian dishes to the commercial kitchen and often the inspiration comes from dishes my wife and her friends prepare at home - for example, the Tropical Biryani and Mandakini Chicken. We give our customers small samples of new dishes we are planning to get their feedback. We also cook our lamb and chicken fresh-to-order whereas most places will pre-cook the meat but I think you lose a bit of the flavour that way.
How have things changed since you first opened?
Jim: People tend to dine a lot earlier than they used to and the trend is more towards casual dining than fine dining. There’s also much more demand for fish dishes these days as well as vegetarian and healthy food in general. Sharing platters are very popular now too. We’ve also had three refurbishments over the years and are always looking at ways of jazzing things up.
Danny: When we started out Indian restaurants used to serve chicken on the bone and if you wanted it off-the bone or the breast meat you had to ask for it specially and pay a small premium. Nowadays, everything is generally served off-the-bone, even our fish dishes. Personally, I think you lose a bit of the flavour but it is easier to eat. St Annes has changed a lot too with less hotel and corporate customers around than there were 25 years ago.
Are you doing anything special to celebrate your anniversary?
Jim: We’ve got our special 25th Anniversary menu – which we’re going to extend into our 26th year – and from January we will be offering fish & chips every Friday for the same price as it was 25 years ago, £6.95.
Danny: As a small ‘Thank You’ we are offering a free bottle of house wine (red/white/rose) for all who pre-book two main meals up until 31 December 2017 (excluding early bird and Sunday banquet).