Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay with owner Jaf Ali, as he visits Khai Khai. in Newcastle. Image: Graziella Nieto/Khai Khai.

Set in a Victorian house just back from the bustling Newcastle quayside, colonial-style Khai Khai offers tasty, modern Indian comfort food created using local produce; much of it cooked over the fire in the Josper or Tandoor ovens. Sit in the ground floor Heritage Room for a view of the kitchen.

Khai  Khai  on Newcastle’s Queen Street is bringing a fresh concept in Indian cuisine to the Northeast and one of the UK’s most renowned chefs is behind it.

 The official launch of the restaurant was held in May 2021,  as dine-in returned to the North following months of restrictions during the pandemic.

Having designed a concept unlike anything in the country, the restaurant won the British Curry Awards in the category for the best new concept restaurant in the whole country in November 2020.

A recent visit to Khai Khai was taken up by the celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, who surprised diners when he popped into the Indian restaurant on Newcastle’s Quayside.

The Kitchen Nightmares star was in the city for a two-day production in a place called by the river, which has set up containers and took a break from filming to try the ‘chef’s feast’ at Khai Khai, when he was told by Ali’s family members to try the Tandoori Pineapple Martini. 

The infamous tandoori pineapple martini is a menu that is left to the chefs to create, which comes with a pre-starter, which for Gordon was served as a spinach chaat, and includes items from the smoke, which is created from the tandoor or Josper ovens. Following that, is a selection of curries, rice, bread, and a dessert. 

The restaurant owner Jaf Ali told Asian Sunday “He didn’t book in his name, he just rocked up to the restaurant, we got a few minutes heads up.

“Whilst he was dining, about half an hour later, a group of six people who are part of his production team, came to the restaurant, but we turned them away because we didn’t have any tables, but Gordon spotted them and approached me and asked if I could fit them somewhere and luckily, I had family sat on one of the tables, so I just booted them off”.

Ali says Gordon “Specifically asked for the butter chicken and he loved it”, as the celebrity chef went to the kitchen to personally thank the chef and kitchen staff.

“He took over the restaurant, but not in an imposing way, he’s got such a presence about himself, and he was so humble, going up and speaking to everybody, he understood what our thought processes were in that moment like we just want a picture we just want to say hello, we just want to shake your hand, how was the food? So, he knew all of that” Ali tells Asian Sunday. 

Historically, Ramsay and the Michelin chef who influenced the menu have history, as Ali says, “Gordon Ramsay knows the calibre of Alfred Prasad and has listed him as one of the chefs in his all-star kitchen dream team”. 

The youngest Indian chef to be awarded a Michelin star, at 29, the world-renowned chef Alfred Prasad is said to have been a key influence at Khai Khai, having worked closely with owner  Jaf  Ali on the concept since early 2019. 

Owner of Khai Khai Jaf Ali (left) with the Michelin star chef Alfred Prasad (right). Image: Graziella Nieto/Khai Khai.

Chef Prasad is said to have used his wealth of experience and knowledge to design the menu and oversee the development in the kitchen.

The restaurant owner said they had hit a brick wall, after developing the concept and wanting to create a food story, until Alfred Prasad came into the picture, as Alfred is known to have elevated the reputation of British Indian food throughout the world.

 After six months of developing the menu, he got the opportunity to visit the restaurant in person as it opened to diners for the first time in 2021.  

Alfred, the man behind the menu, explains “The initial brief was based on traditional wood-fired stoves where smoke played an important part in the preparation of the food. We pushed that imagery further and the concept of Smoke Play and our food story was born.     

 “To bring the smoke play to life we use tandoor ovens but also a Josper oven which enhances the smokiness of the food cooked in it”.

He added, “We created a menu that includes small plates, smoke plates and heritage dishes, which is our twist on the classic dishes of the Indian subcontinent, with our own signature flair using charcoal.

“My philosophy of heritage, health and happiness reflects in our compact and eclectic menu. I am particularly proud of our extensive plant-based offerings, which bring a great balance to our food offering”.

Speaking about his favourite dishes on the menu, Chef Prasad says, “That’s a tough one but I would say the Smoked aubergine, and Josper lamb chops. The intense smokiness created by the Josper oven makes them even more special.”  

He finished by saying, “It’s been a pleasure going on this extraordinary journey with the Khai Khai team, from conceptualising the whole idea to seeing it come to life. I am truly proud to present a unique Indian dining experience to Newcastle and be a part of this urban legacy.”  

Since Ramsay’s visit to the Indian eatery, customers have been requesting his order verbatim, as tables of up to ten people have ordered butter chicken off the menu at one given time, Ali revealed.

He concludes “We want it to appeal to foodies, people that really know their food. We have had a lot of cool people coming in, like Harrison Ford, who was here in the first week we opened”.