Reported by Melissa Sigodo on My London News on 2nd August 2021

For award winning cooking, then look no further than the heart of South East London where you’ll find authentic curry which is loved by many including soap stars, television presenters and even grandmaster chess players. 

Panas Gurkha, on Lee High Road in Lewisham, opened 11 years ago when owner Sujan Katuwal fulfilled his dream of owning a Nepalese and Indian restaurant.

Sujan has built the restaurant to become award-winning and popular with famous faces but he has remained committed to his roots – which is clear to see in what remains the most popular dish on the menu.

The restaurateur trained under Michelin-starred chef Atul Kochhar and TV chef Das Sreedharan but most importantly, he learned from his mum.

Sujan said: ”We cook from the heart. When I grew up I saw my grandmother cooking, mum cooking, even on my menu now I put ‘Mum’s Curry’.

If you’ve been to Panas Gurkha before and enjoyed Mum’s Curry and fancy trying something else, another highly recommended and popular dish is Jhane ko Mashu, which is a dry lamb dish.

Panas Gurkha won the Asian Curry Awards 2019 and has now been shortlisted in the ‘Best In London Suburbs’ category at the British Curry awards which are taking place in November.

The proud business owner has had celebrities into his restaurant such as Absolutely Fabulous star Joanna Lumley, who is a big supporter of the Gurkha veterans, former Coronation Street actress Sally Lindsay, BBC newsreader Clive Myrie and an international chess grandmaster.

Before hosting celebrities and Lewisham locals, Sujan was living in Nepal until he came to the UK aged 24.

But what fuelled the restaurateur’s determination to succeed was his dad’s death from a heart attack.

Sujan said: “I was 18 or 19. That’s the time when you need your dad to be honest.

“If you do anything wrong he’s there to guide you, but that changed me overnight.

“It made me focus. I didn’t have anything else in my life but to focus and to just make him proud whatever way.

“I’ve lost over 30 years now [without him] and there’s not even one day that I don’t remember him.

“But that gives me motivation, that gives me energy, that gives me a drive to go and do something good to make him proud wherever he is watching.”

The dad-of-two studied hospitality management and along with his wife Bandana, 42, they worked to save the money needed to start the business venture.

The 46 year-old said: “Coming from such a humble background, a small background, it’s not that you have money in a pot and you can just take it out, pay the deposit and just run the business.

“The hard work is there. We saved our money and then finally we opened that and here we are today”.

The business owner remains humble about his success and does not forget where he came from.

Sujan added: “[Growing up] sometimes you might want a nice pair of slippers or trainers and then you didn’t have that privilege.

“When I opened the first day I told my staff, listen guys just be yourself and treat people how you want to be treated. Simple philosophy.

“How I see even someone who spends £1 or £1,000 there is no difference. They are a customer”.

The business owner faced deep challenges during the pandemic and found himself thinking about quitting.

The Charlton resident said: “There was one point I was trying to shut down and run away, to be very honest with you.

“I was ready to shut down, give the keys to the landlord.

“There was no light at the end of the tunnel”.

The restaurateur decided to stay the course after his mum came up with an idea to help during the pandemic by donating 100,000 meals to the community including key workers and the homeless.

With the help of his family and Panas Gurkha’s head Chef Ram Paudal, they were able to succeed in their mission to feed those in need.

Sujan said: “Lewisham Hospital made me stay.

“Once me and my wife went to Lewisham Hospital to serve the food in March, the appreciation, the clapping and the beeping from these ambulance drivers, that gave us a positive thought.

“We thought even if we have to close down, we’ll close down later on, for now let’s go and serve the community because they need us.”

He has continued his charity work which is a reflection of his own dad’s work as a teacher.

Through numerous projects including working with St George’s Garrison Church in Woolwich to build a commemorative garden for Gurkhas, Sujan has been touched by the people he has met.

The family man says there’s more that he would like to do but that despite challenges running his restaurant it’s all part of life.

Sujan said: “I still face challenges. If there’s no challenges there wont be life.

That’s part of life, you just need to balance and learn to live with it and work with it.

To his customers, the restauranteur says they often ask how they can support his business to which he says: “If you like my food, keep coming back, keep supporting us”.