With a family history of working within the successful Aagrah chain it was no surprise when Nick Rahman decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and open his own Indian restaurant. But that is where the similarity ended for father and son, because despite Aagrah being Europe’s largest Kashmiri restaurant chain, Nick had a different vision for his Pan South Asian style restaurant.
In December 2011, Nick Rahman opened his dream restaurant in the centre of affluent Harrogate after painstakingly spending two years restoring the former Empire Theatre, which was near derelict when he bought it, keeping the original structure including the Grand stage area that now plays host to the large circular revolving remote-controlled table.
Nick personally sourced furniture from India, Indonesia and China and witnessed his hand drawn plans slowly being brought to life. So much thought and time went into the design, which was recognized in the prestigious Northern Design Awards in 2012 when they came runner up and again shortlisted in 2015. For some, the style offers more bling than Strictly, but none can fail to be impressed with the lavish glamour reminiscent of the 1920s theatres upon entering the 200 seat restaurant, which also provides a separate private dining room and plush bar area where they serve an array of new and classic cocktails.
It’s not only the restaurant design which has been recognized. In 2015, Cardamom Black Restaurant was selected for the Best in Britain Awards as one of three exceptional Asian restaurants in the North East. It was also listed in the top 50 Best in Britain Awards alongside some of country’s long-established and Michelin starred Asian restaurants. They also won Best Indian Restaurant in the Oliver Awards in 2013 and were shortlisted again in 2016.
Cardamom Black Pan South Asian restaurant is not your typical ‘curry in a hurry’ restaurant and that was a big part of Nick’s dream, to create more of a fine dining experience and swap pints of lager for Veuve Clicquot. However, you can still get a beer and traditional favourites like Chicken Tikka Masala, but their extensive à la carte menu offers a vast array of Indian curries you’ll have never heard of, or possibly even
Chefs are keen to use a lot of fish and seafood in their dishes to add to the variety and they use only fresh local produce, like their succulent Nidderdale lamb chops marinated in rosemary, fresh garlic and freshly ground spices and chillies to give them some kick.
It’s fair to say that Nick has put his heart and soul into the restaurant as well as every penny since opening, which is the driving force in leading a growing campaign to support independent businesses, particularly restaurants in the area which are constantly being squeezed out by the larger food chains.
Harrogate has one of the highest concentration of restaurants in the whole country.
But high business rates and a diminishing local trade are putting many independent businesses at huge risk.
It is seriously worrying, especially given the amount of closures recently of some of the best restaurants and establishments in town. That, coupled with the ever-increasing count of chains, means that long term business is extremely hard to cement in a small town such as Harrogate.
It will simply result in the closure of most independent establishments over the next few years. This will mean Harrogate will lose what makes it so special, which is, passionate independent retailers, family-owned businesses, boutique and specialist shops.
With such fierce competition, Nick is diversifying and looking at creating fun and different events, with their annual chilli-eating competition during National Curry Week, which is probably far more enjoyable for those watching the brave devour some of the hottest chillies known to man. The restaurant also hosts a decadent Champagne and Candelabra evening, which delights a whole host of other senses.
For more information please see www.cardamomblack.co.uk