“It’s not the destination, it’s the journey” is a quote famously attributed to the Ralph Waldo Emerson, the American philosopher.
It’s a quote which fits the story of Samir Desai – the proud chef and owner of Leicester’s award-winning Broadway Bar and Grill, which sits in Abbey Lane.
Before taking over the venue in 2018, Samir worked in a variety of roles, trying his hand as a taxi driver and accountant. But none of it ever felt right. His passion was always food, so when the opportunity to open Broadway came along, he seized it with both hands.
For the past two years, it has been crowned the best Indian Pub Restaurant at the Leicestershire Curry Awards – an achievement of which he is understandably proud. However, putting smiles on the faces of his loyal customers is Samir’s biggest achievement – the thing which makes him happy and keeps them coming back for more.
“Cooking and eating is my passion. I love to cook fresh food, which is healthy and satisfying,” he says.
“For me, Indian food has got too much oil, so I use less in my dishes. I also use less red chilli powder as it can upset people’s stomachs.
“I can say proudly that in five and a half years, not a single customer has complained about any sickness or stomach problems after eating my food.
“People leave the restaurant with happy faces, and that’s all I ever want to see.”
Today, Samir is devoted to his restaurant and the excellent service he provides alongside his 15 members of staff.
However, his journey to Broadway wasn’t a straight run. He started out life in India, after being born into a farming family. Despite helping his father on the farm, he took a different path and graduated in accountancy.
At the age of 20, he started his own life insurance business and also worked as a journalist for a while.
He came to the UK with his family in 2005, and took work in a factory upon arrival. He worked for Samworth Brothers – the well-known Leicester food manufacturer for around ten years, before starting his own taxi business. which he ran for six years before completing a stint as a bus driver.
However, when the opportunity to open Broadway came along, he knew that this was his ultimate destination – the place he was meant to be.
“We feel so proud to run that place, and I’d like to thank all the customers who’ve supported us since we opened,” said the humble restauranteur.
“The reputation of the pub was not so good when we took it over, but we’ve really turned it around.
“Today we have regular customers – some who even visit us five days a week!
“When customers sit down and they ask if I’m the chef, I say yes and their reaction makes me very happy,” he added.
“Word of mouth has played a big part in our success and people enjoy our prawns, sizzlers and lamb chops, as well as our curry of course.
”Another thing which has had a hand in Broadway’s success, (surprisingly) was the Covid-19 pandemic. Unlike many other food businesses during this time, Samir never closed his, and worked hard to provide takeaways for the local community.
“It was the biggest opportunity for us in terms of advertising, and a lot of people found out about Broadway during that time,” revealed Samir.
“I never closed the business. I had no choice. I had to keep going because I had no help from the government.
“The community were really appreciative of what we were doing. They sent us messages and cards, and it made me really happy to provide a service to people during that difficult time.
”As well as running the restaurant, Samir is also a big sports fan and a proud father of two.
Family is incredibly important to him, especially his brother and wife Nikita, who are the backbone of his success.
“They’ve been strongest support to me in my good time and my bad times,” he said.
“Me and my brother have always been together – our hearts and minds are one. He’s a pioneer of the business and my wife works extremely hard to support and take care of things at home. She’s a wonderful woman.
”As for the future, Samir says although there are financial challenges in running a restaurant, he enjoys his work and finds it incredibly rewarding.
Speaking of his journey to Broadway Bar and Grill, he said: “I don’t look back – this is my future.
“I’m just an ordinary man – not overly ambitious. I just want to enjoy my life and make people happy. If I can do that, then I’ve had great success.”