Award-winning Birmingham restauranteur becomes owner of restaurant he worked in 26 years ago
He was only 21 when he worked at the restaurant - formerly called Shalimar - and is now an industry veteran
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A Birmingham restauranteur, who owns eateries across West Midlands, had an emotional return to an Indian restaurant where he worked 26 years ago. It was a moment of pride for him as he returned as a joint owner.
Baabzi Miah, whose family have worked in hospitality in Birmingham since 1976 when his grandfather opened a fish and chip shop in the city, opened the doors to his new Indian restaurant - Eleven Spices - in Leamington Spa with business partner Naseer Hussain this month (October 2022). He was only 21 when he worked at the restaurant - formerly called Shalimar - and is now an industry veteran.
“I worked at this exact site many years ago and kind of lived through a ‘baptism of fire’ type experience in a very challenging restaurant to say the least. It means a lot to redefine this location and offer up honest, flavour-packed dishes and plates for this wonderful Spa town,” said Baabzi.
Deep-rooted connections to Birmingham
Baabzi’s family has been a part of Birmingham’s hospitality sector for several decades. His grandfather, Mozamil Ali, opened a fish and chip shop in Birmingham in 1976.
His father, Mostab Ali, owned Albela restaurant in Bordesley Green and Lozells, Alveena restaurant in Bordesley Green and The Rose of India restaurant in Walsall around two to three decades ago. In the 80s, Mostab ran Bonani restaurant in Hay Mills.
Baazbi said: “My grandfather and father taught me all about food, flavour and cooking techniques. I used these to go onto opening numerous restaurants and takeaways over the last 20+ years. There’s no better education than that driven by family and honesty.
“My father was one of the original Bengali restaurateurs in the Midlands back in the early 70’s and benefitting directly from that mine of experience has contributed to what I have and understand today.”
Currently, he owns a takeaway called Indigo Express in Olton and has formerly owned Tikka Spice in Sutton Coldfield around 10 years ago.
Food runs in the blood for him and his family. His brother and nephew, Reed Miah and Maz Miah, respectively, run a successful restaurant in Shirley called The Divine, which opened around four years ago.
The Leamington Spa property is Baabzi’s sixth UK restaurant project since his first joint ownership aged just 17, with his father in The Lake District.
“We sold the restaurant in Cumbria because I had to come back to Birmingham to live with my family when my younger sister was very ill with lupus and sadly passed away. At that time the family needed my support mentally, emotionally and financially.
“It was then – in 1996 - that I joined Shalimar, so being back here today brings back lots of emotional memories flooding back, both good and bad,” he said.
Why is the new restaurant called Eleven Spices?
Baabzi explained that the number 11 is special to him for various reasons. Firstly, it was the birth date of his twins. It is also the number on the door and most importantly, they work with 11 central spices.
“Over the years we have blended and cured them to create one distinct flavour. This unique blend of spices will play a part in each and every dish adding just that something special. Fitting then we open on the 11 th of the month!” he said.
The restauranteer and his business partner hope to build on the culinary reputation they established for the past five years. Baabzi’s Indian Takeaway in Coten End, Warwick, has won Best Takeaway in The Good Food Awards 2021 and Best Local Takeaway in the 2021 British Curry Awards. In 2022, it was the Blue Ribbon Good Food Award.
What makes his new restaurant special?
The menu offers an authentic reflection of Bengali Cuisine, said Baabzi.
“I come from a family of chefs, importantly influenced directly by my grandfather and father. Food was used as a way of expressing love, togetherness and family. It wasn’t easy for that generation to verbally express how they felt, so I always noticed their love and gratitude through the food they prepared for me,” he added.
“Traditional Bengali Cuisine is a result of many influences mainly through India, Pakistan and South Asia. Bangladesh is a melting pot of culinary deposits and a vast array of flavours can be experienced wherever you find yourself in the country,” he said.
The restaurant, which also offers takeaway, is open every day 5.30-11pm (12am Fridays and Saturdays).
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