Spotlight on Infuse Modern Indian Bistro 6 Oct 2021
They say every dish tells a story. There aren’t many stories as unique as Sameer and Ganga’s. It’s National Curry Week so we caught up with the pair behind the brilliant INFUSE MODERN INDIAN BISTRO St Albans that fuses decades of experience in some of the world’s most iconic restaurant brands and a united passion to serve St Albans with truly authentic Indian food.
“My idea is when you come to dine with us, for that time period… you are transported to India without a visa or travel requirements. We offer regional plates of good authentic Indian food as it should be served in a comfortable social space.”
Opening in St Albans in 2019, Infuse has quickly become a favourite 5-star choice for locals and foodie lovers looking for fabulous flavours and a high-quality dining experience. But how did two boys from Delhi come to open their first restaurant in St Albans?
Love affair with food starts young…
Born in New Delhi, India, Sameer passed out of Hotel School in 1996 with training in the 5-star Maurya Sheraton Hotel & Towers and then worked as Master Chef in restaurants in Bangkok and Dubai. Sameer returned to India to head up 5 leading restaurants as General Manager, including Chor Bizarre, which also had a London restaurant in Albermale Street. Running restaurants with varied cuisines like Ruby Tuesday, American Diner, Oriental Octopus, and The Deck plus catering for large scale events gave Sameer well-rounded experience and edge.
Sameer met Ganga, then aged just 19, and took him on as a junior chef. So impressed was he, that Sameer encouraged Ganga to work overseas and helped secure him a chef’s role in Vietnam. Ganga spent the next decade working in top iconic restaurant brands across the globe, including Michelin starred restaurants – Chutney Mary, Veeraswamy, Brigadiers and Kricket, earning himself an enviable reputation as a highly skilled chef.
(Image 1: Sameer and Ganga at Infuse Restaurant)
Managing London’s top Indian restaurant – Gaylord…
In 2009 Sameer was approached to head up London’s prestigious Indian restaurant, Gaylord, on Mortimer Street in Fitzrovia.
“Gaylord was one of London’s oldest Indian restaurants and was hugely popular with foodies and celebrities from across the globe, including Russell Crowe, Nash from Guns and Kapil Dev. Famous dishes included Butter Chicken, Tandoori Lamb Chops, Chana Bhatura and flambéed Gulab Jamun.”
(Image 2: At Gaylord with Hrithik Roshan and Rakesh Roshan)
Fate was calling…
When Gaylord closed for renovation in Feb 2019, Sameer decided the time was right to do something on his own. Just as he was formulating plans, he received a phone call. His old friend Ganga was in the UK. He had news. He’d just bought a house and was calling to invite his dear friend to visit. This new house, it turns out, was in the same area as Sameer! Fate had brought the pair back together after 20 years!
In March 2019 the now neighbours, visited St Albans – drawn to the city by its vibrancy and love of food and drink.
“The moment I came to St Albans, I fell in love with the city. It has the same vibe and charm as being in London and the High Street pulled me like a magnet and I knew we had to open here.”
Infuse Modern Indian Bistro opened in April 2019 with a menu created by Chef Ganga and Sameer harnessing their expertise, passion and flair for world foods – and a welcoming atmosphere inspired by London’s Gaylord.
The power of good food…
Lots of dishes have stories. And Sameer and Chef Ganga have big stories to talk about. Their menu is a fusion of classic dishes from regions of India with a modern twist and when you eat them, you are transported there. Like their Kerala Prawn Curry – eating it literally transports you to the backwaters of Kerala.
(Image 3: Kebabs in Tandoor)
A huge hit with foodies…
The Choori chaat is their most instragrammed dish and is always at the top of the menu. Other popular dishes Chicken Momo tandoori (which are on the menu because of Sameer’s daughters’ fascination with them) and the Chicken Malai Tikka Afghani. Their Signature Dum Biryani is cooked using traditional methods in modern way to achieve the beautiful, layered effect with the dough sealing in all the flavours and is opened in front of you. The menu is inclusive with plenty of vegan and gluten free options.
“Our menu is created through travels, and nothing is extremely hot because we love flavours and don’t overpower with too much chilli. But if you want more… just ask for it!!!”
(Image 4: Sameer with cricketer Kapil Dev – Indian captain of 1983 cricket World Cup winning team)
A well-considered drinks menu
The pair have curated a retro cocktail menu designed to complement the food. Bar manager from hip and happening Goa, Yogesh says the ‘Saffrontini’ is the signature drink with Saffron Infused Gin, Cointreau and a dash of Tonic and is hugely popular. The non-alcoholic menu does not disappoint. Try the ‘Virgin Paan Mohito’ with Rose Petal Jam or the beautifully layered ‘Infuse Rainbow’. The wine list has been picked to perfection with Sameer recommending the Sancerre and Gougenham Malbec to match his favourite dishes.
“This is a decision that I will never regret, enhanced by the lovely people we have met in the last 2 years and continue to meet daily. It strengthens my belief that St Albans is the place for us.”
(Image 5: Sameer with Chef Aldo Zilli)
What’s next for Infuse?
They are enhancing their outdoor catering business which offers a bespoke menu for events with guests from 20 up to 2500 and are keen to expand in St Albans, to meet growing demand. They are also shortly launching a pre theatre menu which includes a complimentary drink.
Find Infuse on pop up markets in St Albans and at The Plough in Sleapshyde, where they regularly host pub takeover days.
To celebrate national curry week, Infuse St Albans are offering two special set menus with Chef Ganga’s and Sameer’s most loved and recommended dishes for a special price. See their website for details.
Must try dishes…
- Tapas – Choori Chaat, Paneer Shashlik, Tandoori King Prawns, Lamb Chops
- Mains – Kerala Prawn Curry, Lamb Bhuna, Dum Biryani, Chana Peshawari
- Sides – Tamarind Fries, Butter Chicken Naan
- Pop-Up Market – Infuse Thali, Paratha Wraps, Samosa Chaat
- 10% discount on collection or home delivery via their website
- Enjoy their £5 lunch specials with curry bowls and wraps from 12-3
- Special drinks offer – pints are just £3.50 12-2.30 and 5-7pm
- Ladies’ nights on Thursday with two for one cocktails 5-7pm