Aida Khan’s new restaurant Shola – brings authentic Pakistani food to West London
Photo above by Jade Sarkhel
Aida Khan’s new Pakistani restaurant Shola had only been open for two weeks when our co-founder, Mecca Ibrahim, visited for lunch but it was buzzing with a warm and lively atmosphere as it brought some much needed spice to the Media Works area of White City in Shepherd’s Bush. Mecca interviewed Aida Khan about setting up her new restaurant and how her family were involved in the process.
How did you get into the food industry?
I was always into food and used to do a food show in Pakistan, travelling all around Pakistan tracing the journey of food, but that was when I was in banking myself and food was just a hobby. I moved to London and I cooked more with my two old son at home and realised there were not enough places in London where enjoyed eating, so I did a few supper clubs, but knew that if I wanted to do this professionally I needed that level of expertise on the process of cooking for bigger numbers.
What helped you make that move from home cooking to more catering and supper clubs?
I trained at Leith’s two years ago. The main thing I learnt was the importance of service and that finesse of getting food out en point but under pressure. It’s one thing to cook at home or even for friends at dinner parties, but I wanted to apply more structure to Pakistani food.
How did you come about with the menu for Shola, it is traditional Pakistani, or is it Anglicised in any way?
No, it’s authentic, 100% Pakistani food. I wanted to make sure we brought out the real flavours of Pakistan. There’s no fusion, no twists. This would be food that you would get at home with my mother in Pakistan. The same curries, the chicken pakora, the okra fries, the cookies. We are not adpating it for the audience. People travel so much, they know what real Pakistani food should taste like and we are just trying to bring those flavours to London.
Photo above by MyLegoman
How did you find the location as you are in a great position in Media Works with a college nearby, new developments and lots going on in this area?
Finding the right location for a restaurant in London is key. You need the right traffic, price points and everything. We had a number of heartaches along the way, but this is absolutely the right location. Back in the day this used to be the BBC’s dental office! But we put a lot of work into making the environment right and making the decor a little mellow as the food is so vibrant.
Where did the name come from?
The name Shola means spark and it’s the first spark when you light fire in an oven. We have charcoal oven in the back for all of our food.
Do you do takeaways as well as eat in?
Yes we do wraps as takeaways. I wanted to get the right bread for the wraps and we could not make 250 wraps fast enough ourselves and maintain the consistency, so we now outsource the wrap base, but we make all of the other bread ourselves, the roti and paratha.
What are the opening hours currently?
Right now the restaurant is open from 11 until 3pm but we want to get the kitchen tight and then gradually start opening in the evenings. We want to make sure everything is amazing before moving onto the next steps. We might then move to more family options with our menu and we are launching a series of supper clubs.
Are your children destined for the food world?
I’d love for them to do whatever they want to do. My three year calls himself the sous chef. But I find them watching TV and food shows much more than I did at their age. There are so many more food shows aimed at children too and I see them rooting for the kids on these shows.
Finally, what are your plans for the restaurant and brand?
We may have a larger menu coming up. For dinner we will have more dishes and we may do more of a sharing concept with small plates, as the current menu is designed for lunch. We wanted to produce a lunch where you didn’t feel that you had to have a nap afterwards, as that is often associated with South Asian food.
You can find Aida’s Shola Karachi Kitchen at Unit 6, Media Works, 191 Wood Lane, W12 7FQ, Telephone – 020 8735 2822