“You could never master India,” says Cyrus Todiwala, as daylight from Café Spice Namasté’s huge windows illuminates his face. “Not in a thousand years could I learn enough to say that I’m a master of Indian food – an expert perhaps, but not a master.” This is a modest statement from a man synonymous with elevating standards of Indian cuisine in the UK with his daringly authentic, Parsee-influenced cooking.
Awarded an MBE for his services to education and training, plus an OBE for his contribution to hospitality, Todiwala runs – alongside Café Spice Namasté in the City, where he’s cooked for nineteen years – The Park Café in Victoria Park and Mr Todiwala’s Kitchen at the Hilton in Heathrow Terminal 5. Last year, he wrote two cookbooks: Mr Todiwala’s Bombay (Hardie Grant) and The Incredible Spice Men (BBC Books). When we meet, he has just – with his wife and business partner Pervin – opened a new Goan-Portuguese restaurant in Waterloo, called Assado.
“Assado means ‘roast’ in Portuguese, but is also a classic pork dish both there and in Goa. Because of the Portuguese influence, we are trying to marry both of these cuisines in a way we haven’t seen done in this country before. There will be lots of rare-breed British pork, fantastic charcuterie and amazing Portuguese breads.”
Introducing new versions of familiar foods is nothing new to Todiwala, who arrived in London in the nineties to find his national cuisine being bastardised. His food takes in the cooking styles of the Parsee (Irani) Indians of Bombay, as well as Southern India and the West Coast flavours of his home city and Goa – regional nuances that were previously unheard of in London’s ‘curry houses’.