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Bengali vegetarian restaurant plans for former Prickly Pear premises

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Karim Ullah is hoping to open a vegan and vegetarian restaurant at the former Prickly Pear in Hockerill Street Pic: Vikki Lince
Karim Ullah is hoping to open a vegan and vegetarian restaurant at the former Prickly Pear in Hockerill Street Pic: Vikki Lince

Crowdfunding is under way in a bid to launch a vegan and vegetarian Bengali restaurant in the former Prickly Pear premises in Bishop's Stortford.

The project is the brainchild of Karim Ullah and his wife Sultana. Their culinary creations are familiar to town residents through Brohmon, their pop-up Indian restaurant, which has featured at the Marne Inn and Wheatsheaf pubs and the Gin Palace bar.

The Prickly Pear in Hockerill Street had served Mexican dishes for the past decade but closed in October with this message to customers: “We felt it was our time to leave on a high and to discover new life experiences.

“We can’t thank our customers enough for the continued support and custom we have received over the years. We have thoroughly enjoyed our time serving you all and we are going away with the best memories.”

Karim hopes to foster the same loyalty. He said: “We are very keen to secure the former Prickly Pear restaurant, now on the market, and we are working to raise the funds via crowdfunding.

“We are looking to raise £50,000 and are offering 20% equity for investors. Our preference would be to raise £250 from 200 local investors and we have found quite a few who are happy to invest. We are of course looking for more and would be happy to hear from anyone that maybe interested.”

He explained the concept: “We are a vegetarian and vegan restaurant serving authentic Bengali dishes and we are not aware of any other restaurant that does this in the UK. There are vegetarian Indian restaurants, but most of them specialise in food from South India.

“We can offer a much healthier menu than the high street Indian restaurants. We have created a special lunch menu so that people can look forward to something much more exciting than what’s available in town.

“We have also created a special kids’ menu as we want kids to look forward to eating a meal at Brohmon and not just come along because their parents want to eat an Indian meal.”

Ultimately Karim would like the new venture to become a Certified B Corporation, a new kind of business that balances purpose and profit. They are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their staff, customers, suppliers, community and the environment. Currently no UK restaurant holds the status.

Karim added: “We would also employ local people as we believe there are enough talented people who can do the jobs that need to be done. We are happy to train them and we are hopeful they will enjoy being part of our team.

“We are going completely against the grain, but we are confident we are doing the right thing.”

Elsewhere in the town, Sophie Jackson and her staff at Lollylou hair and beauty salon in North Street are preparing for a move to new premises in Florence Walk and a new name – Jackson and Smith. Koar boutique in the arcade, which has several empty units, has now shut up shop.

In North Street, male and female fashion store Spirit is at the end of its lease while in South Street the Blue Elephant Indian restaurant is also boarded up.

At Coopers of Stortford in Bridge Street, the Margaret Kay concession selling flowers, chocolates, wines and ales is set to reopen on November 5 after refurbishment. Across the street, Muse boutique has reopened after an interior refit.

There are new looks too for Wilko in Jackson Square, Boots in Potter Street and Sainsbury’s at Thorley Park, and the Nationwide building society’s move to larger premises in South Street is now complete.

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