To celebrate their success reaching the final on the biggest British Asian TV talent show “The Catering Circle”, Jools and Syed hosted a huge launch event for the dish which got them there – “Mackerel Three Ways”.
It was a formal affair with all the big names from Bangladesh Catering Association, Channel S, the Lord Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire Julie Spence, Mayor Mark Ashton, and a string of local restaurant owners offering their support.
This was more than just a party however, with Jools and Syed also honouring their late father (Syed Abdul Hekim) and mother (Hussanara Chowdhury – Dolly) with the promotion of their charity The Dolly Foundation.
Their father Syed will be well-known to many people in Cambridge as he founded the Taj Tandoori in the 1980’s – and, it turns out, he was the first person to bring a tandoori oven into Cambridge (at The Curry Queen, in 1980). As well as leaving them the legacy of the Taj itself their parents also sparked their devotion to their community and so they founded The Dolly Foundation, named for their mother, to continue their charitable legacies by helping the local community as well as aiming to fund orphanages, schools, and even build wells.
Everything was done to a high standard (as you would expect from the team at the Taj). Even the canapés were absolutely out of this world and presented in a fun and accessible way which really fit into the mood and style of the evening.
The Bhel Puri was presented in a cone which made it easy to eat while cha(a)ting away to guests (…sorry!). The fish pakoras were easily my favourite, which you can probably tell by the fact I was eating them so quickly…that I forgot to take any photos! Surely, a testament to Jools’ wizardry in the kitchen.
For people who insist on an alcoholic drink, one of my favourite things about the Taj is it’s BYOB policy, which not only gives customers and guests more choice in what they drink in the restaurant, but also save customers money from oppressive pint prices across the city. For me, the mocktails were perfect to enjoy on this particular evening.
Looking at the menu, there were 5 courses coming our way, with the “Mackerel Three Ways” coming out as a ‘3 in 1’ dish.
The stuffed paneer pepper was one of the highlights of the evening for me. It was everything a starter should be: light, vivid, and full of flavour. Absolutely superb!
While we were enjoying our meal, the speeches were rolling, starting with Syed talking about their journey over the past few years with the transformation of the restaurant, their success with “The Catering Circle”, and the legacy of their mother and father which led to the birth of their new charitable foundation.
The “Mackerel Three Ways” came out charmingly presented in nostalgic Heinz cans served with mackerel rice. This came with a mackerel fillet with a potato cake and radish.
I have always said that restaurants don’t do enough mackerel and low and behold I get three portions in one! I have never had anything quite like it. It was presented in such a unique and humorous way, it truly reflected the dedication, passion, and attention to detail that the team at the Taj put into their food but also shows the light hearted and fun side which makes me keep coming back. It was a true reflection of who they were.
For dessert we were treated to “rose mango creme brulee”. This was another lovely piece, which offered a light and very sweet experience. There was nothing quite like cracking through that sheet of caramelised sugar.
He couldn’t hide in the kitchen forever! Towards the end of the meal Jools came out to a thundering round of applause for the incredible meal he had prepared this evening, but also for his great success over the past few years.
Alamin and Shaz from Alamin Media did a great job of managing the projections and media for the evening and made sure Jools’s hilarious boxing video was being played on the big screen as he came out. This was a video used to promote Jools’s success winning the Best Chef at “Asian Restaurant Owners Networ” a few years ago.
Jools paid tribute to his late mum and dad and shared his inspiration for his signature dish for the evening. It is clear for anyone to see that Jools and Syed are incredibly passionate about the food they produce, and the experience they deliver in the restaurant.
It was an electric evening full of sensational food, celebration, and great people. I want to thank Syed, Jools, and the entire Taj team for such an amazing night. I wish them the best of luck with their new dish!
Goodluck on the 15th November for the season finale on Channel S!
Don’t forget to check out The Dolly Foundation – you can even make a donation if you want to support the great work they are doing.
Thanks for reading!