What makes Royal India the restaurant of choice for India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Indian cricket team, Olympians, and Fortune 500 CEOs?
Life is full of occasions, small and large and in most communities, food is the centre of these occasions. Be it a celebration or mourning, food is always there—always creating memories! Food is a part of one’s cultural identity as well, a matter of great pride and not something to be trifled with. It is believed that a culture can be defined by its food. The rituals, the recipes, and the social gathering connect people to their cultural experiences and childhood memories. When people talk about food, they learn about each other’s similarities and differences and stories of recipes handed down—some that are close-to-the -heart secrets. And in India, with the myriad states and cultures, there is a typical way of preparing a particular dish. I for one know that the sambar made in a Keralite’s home is quite different from that made in a Tamilian family.
Away from our home and from our roots, and time poor, most people these days resort to hosting functions in restaurants or get caterers to serve the guests. And these days there are so many restaurants to choose from that it is not very often that one goes back to the same restaurant more than a couple of times. So, to have created a niche for themselves and remained the most sought-after restaurant for many Indians in Sydney for nearly 30 years, Jacob and Shirley have shown that nothing can compensate good quality food and good quality hospitality. For visitors at the Royal India Restaurant in Strathfield, dining at the restaurant feels like eating at home. And that is the reason why they return time and time again for celebratory reasons or just a casual diner with family. Royal India Restaurant is under the helm of chef and owner Jacob Chacko.
Born in Kenya, Jacob moved to India and started his food journey in early 1977. With a degree in Hotel management, he later joined the prestigious ‘Oberoi School of Management’. Shirley who has done Hotel Management has been a vital part of Jacob’s culinary journey. She has also made her own mark in the field of vocational education. Jacob set up many restaurants in Sydney, Riverside Indian, Hello Madras and Curry Leaf to name a few, but Royal India remained his flagship restaurant. As the name suggests Royal India Restaurant is all about the tastes of India. It serves all kinds of Indian cuisine—be it the Mumbai street food or the regal Mughlai, or the quintessential Goan meal or an authentic Kerala spread. For nearly three decades Royal India has been the seat of creating awareness not only amongst Indians but Westerners too, about the diversity and exclusivity of Indian food. It is just not about a good curry!
As Royal India Restaurant celebrates 30 years of its gastronomic journey, Jacob and Shirley have decided to permanently close the doors of the restaurant in the heart of Strathfield. This restaurant has been more than a restaurant to large number of its patrons. It was the next best thing after home. The patrons harbour many memories that span from weddings to naming ceremonies and from birthdays to wedding receptions. Royal India Restaurant has also been the restaurant of choice for many visiting dignitaries including India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Australian Deputy PM Kim Beazley, the Indian cricket team, Olympians, composer AR Rahman and his band, singer Usha Uthup, the Fortune 500 CEOs and several Indian chief ministers. Jacob and Shirley also have the proud privilege of being the only outside Indian caterers to have catered for a function at The Sydney Town Hall. This is a huge testament to them and their professionalism.
To commemorate their long and successful journey Jacob and Shirley organised a food festival through June, where the palates of diners were taken on a journey along the various Indian states. The duo with their dedicated team changed the ambience of the restaurant to match the state or the region from where the cuisine originated. They created a ‘memory wall’ with various photographs which became the talking point with reminiscences of times gone by. During the entire duration of the festival the place was overflowing at its brims with regulars making the one last visit to recreate all the memories that the restaurant had been a part of for nearly 30 years. Stories of all sorts were shared at each table.Though the guests knew that Jacob will soon begin a second chapter elsewhere, they left with a heavy heart. They were a few dampened eyelids too!
The name ‘Royal India Restaurant’ has a following as Jacob and Shirley have been able to translate people’s childhood memories associated with food and have kept up with the changing trend without losing the authenticity and the ethnicity of the food being served.