Going the extra mile is in Joe Ghaly’s nature as when he’s not serving up mouthwatering Indian cuisine at Shish Tandoori, he’s helping customers get home safely.
To Joe, his customers at the award winning Bridge of Don eatery are like family to him which is why he often ends up helping them to get home when their taxis don’t turn up.
“I treat customers like they are my family and special guests in my home so we look after them twice as much,” said Joe.
“Just the other week I dropped five people off as they couldn’t get a taxi due to the storm.
“I just like people in general so I’ll do anything to help.”
It’s no wonder that Joe, who manages the restaurant, has become somewhat of a local celebrity, even welcoming Adrian Lewis, the darts world champion, to the restaurant a few years back.
From Punjabi korma and shish chilli tikka to haggis naan and vegetarian dishes, the renowned local restaurant has something for everyone to enjoy.
Society met up with Joe to find out the recipe of his success and why he loves bringing a taste of Punjab to Aberdeen.
Can you tell us about your background?
I grew up in Punjab in India so on a clear day you could see the Himalayas. I have five siblings so we used to love running around outdoors. When I was 17, my family moved to Blackburn in Lancashire.
The first month was hard as we couldn’t speak the language, it was cold, it was completely different, it was a culture shock. Luckily I had my parents and my siblings there to talk to.
So I was there for eight years until I moved up to Aberdeen in 1982. Aberdeen was completely different than England. People were a lot more friendly here so I said ‘this is a place I want to stay’ as the people were really nice so that’s why I never went back.
How did Shish Tandoori come about?
I started out as a waiter, working in different restaurants before working my way up. The Shish Tandoori opened in 2004 so I’ve been managing it for 17 years now. It’s a special place as it’s the only Punjabi restaurant so the dishes come from north India. The people loved it straight away, it has always been busy.
Can you tell us about some of the dishes you offer?
Of course the tikka masala is at the top of our list, it’s the most popular dish. We have our own recipe which is the same for our chicken balti and our tandooris as well.
We also have our house specialities which you won’t get anywhere else including Ghaly tikka masala and we also do a cream of salmon chilli, so these kind of dishes you don’t get anywhere else.
What about sides?
We do haggis naan. It came about as we were already making haggis pakora so we thought, why not make some haggis naan.
People really enjoy it and what they tend to do it order a plain naan and a haggis naan which goes really well with chicken chilli masala or chicken south Indian.
The haggis naan goes really well with the spicy food. Peshwari naan is our most popular naan though.
Do you have a takeaway service?
Yes the takeaway part of the business has always been popular. During lockdown we kept the takeaway going the whole time. So we managed to survive while a lot of businesses didn’t.
What is the secret to your success?
We’ve had the same chef from day one, I would say that’s the secret to our success. If you keep the same hand all the time it means that people come in and they’ve already made their mind up about what they’re going to have.
A lot of the customers don’t even look at the menu as they know what they want and 90% of the customers we know them by name.
I think you’ve got to be genuine, you’ve got to be upfront as people will see right through you if you’re not genuine. I also go the extra mile as I’ll always take customers home if their taxis don’t turn up and they struggle to get home.
Do people travel far and wide to the restaurant?
Yes we have customers as far as Fraserburgh, Peterhead and Ellon. There’s a couple from Fraserburgh who come in every month and they’ll have a Chicken Royal Tikka Masala, they never change.
Another customer travels from further up north and every time he comes in he orders four tikka masalas, one for him and his dad and then more to freeze at home.
Have you had any famous customers?
Yes, we’ve had darts players including former world champion Adrian Lewis. He was a good guy, just a really nice man.
The restaurant also has the Brig Inn bar next door with accommodation so he stayed there. I’ve got pictures on the wall of most of the darts players who used to come in when they played up here.
What is it about the job you love so much?
I’m just so passionate about what I do so I’m a workaholic. I’m working from 6am and then I’m not in bed until 2am.
How do you relax when you’re not at the restaurant?
I like playing darts. To be honest I hardly get time off as if I get a day off, I’m usually working at night. I would like to travel to India some time in the future as I came away at an early age so I didn’t see much of the country.
To find out more about Shish Tandoori, you can visit their website.