The Rise of Britain's halal foodies
26 June 2014
La Sophia employs nine people. “My wife Sousan and I run the restaurant – she does back of house, the reservations and [deals with] suppliers,” says Mr Ali. He works 16-hour days, but “we make a good profit – we have three children, and we live in Notting Hill”.
The food at La Sophia attracts a mixture of customers, not all of them Muslim. “We have a lot of French, English and Asian diners – the quality is there,” he insists. But it is not easy to make gutsy French classics such as beef bourguignon or confit de canard and to remain halal. “We avoid using alcohol in our cuisine, and pork products, so we have to avoid things that a lot of chefs can’t work without . . . We have to create our own sausage without red wine. I replace it with a natural black grape juice and put in a lot of herbs and onions and marinate.”
But the reward has been curiosity from his Muslim clientele. “People who eat halal are not even familiar with French cuisine . . . [They] love to travel here, from outside of London just to try something different.” Eventually, he may expand the business as he expects demand to grow.
“The middle class and business people really want good, halal food – and not just Indian or Malaysian: at La Sophia we have the right environment and food.”
For the full article in the FT click here: