Memsaheb on Thames was once the jewel in east London’s culinary crown.
Delia Smith famously called it her favourite Indian restaurant , while sportsmen such as Alan Hansen, Nasser Hussain and Ian Botham all enjoyed meals there.
But, after a tax scandal puts its previous owners behind bars, the Isle of Dogs restaurant has fallen on hard times.
Memsaheb was bought by Bangladeshi industrialist Kashfi Kamal back in April. She said initially it looked like a business to pursue.
“I came to England one and a half years ago looking for somewhere to invest,” she said. “I was told that there was a restaurant that the owners were looking to sell so I came to see it.
“After I saw how busy it was, I thought it was a good restaurant and a good place to invest in. The owners said they wanted to go back to Bangladesh and they gave us a very good price.”
But what she didn’t know was that owners Mridul Kanti Das and Rabiul Hoque were in the middle of a court case , accused of committing VAT fraud worth £1.2million over eight years. They eventually received sentences of seven years each.
“Gradually we came to know all the stories,” said Miss Kamal. “The customers started to know as well. That is when people stopped coming.”
Miss Kamal’s family are among Bangladesh’s most respected industrialists. She had run a textile factory, and later a school, in her home country. Her father, Mustafa Kamal , is a government minister, and the former head of the International Cricket Council.
But despite her strong business background, Miss Kamal said she was heartbroken when she found out about the former owners’ troubles.
“This was shocking,” she said. “I was crying for months because I had already given them the money and I could not go back.”
As well as being part-owner, Das was also the head chef at the restaurant, and those who knew him do not remember him as a hardened criminal.
“He was such a lovely guy,” said waiter Ashan Khan. “He would give so many people meals for free – if anything his problem was that he was too generous.”
After hearing about the situation in July, Memsaheb regular Jawar Ali offered his help to the restaurant, and now volunteers in the evening on top of his day job as a fundraiser at Westminster Council. He too has fond memories of Das.
“He was the chef and his food was fantastic,” he said. “I got to know this place through my work with Tower Hamlets Cricket Club. When we were doing well, we would have meals here and Mr Das would let us eat for free. He must have lost so much money.”
Those working at the restaurant say it is still reasonably busy on Saturdays and Sundays, but where footfall used to be strong on weekday evenings, trade is now “dead”.
However, those involved with Memsaheb are planning for a brighter future with Mrs Kamal insisting she will get the restaurant back on track.
“I know this will work,” she said. “The quality of the food is still very good here. We have put a lot of effort into promoting the restaurant and we are planning lots of events, we can get back on our feet again.”