Founder of Rola Wala Marks Wright tells us about the opening of Rola Wala in Oxford'sd Westgate centre, his journey and how he brought Indian food to the UK

Born and bred in Australia, I landed in London 10 years ago and rented a flat in Brick Lane, the curry capital of Britain. Growing up with a passion for Indian food and spices, I loved to wake up every morning smelling spices and delicious flavours from my window, as I was staying right above some Indian restaurants.

My passion became an obsession and I just wanted to know more and more about that mysterious world, so I started to travel in India, where I felt in love with the colours, flavours and vibrancy of the beautiful country.

While I was wandering around eating food on the beaches and streets of Bombay, and backstreets of Delhi, I fell in love with the diversity and the food offering. While sitting on a beach in Kerala eating a beetroot Idli (rice cake) and dal for breakfast, I thought about how I would never have the opportunity to eat these incredible flavours in UK. So I asked myself – why not create something like this back home? I wanted to bring a new-wave Indian cuisine back with me and dispel the myth that all Indian food is unhealthy and over-indulgent.

When I got back to London, I quit my job in advertising and started to learn how to cook with spices in my home kitchen, recreating some of the dishes I tried during my travels. The first dish I ever created was the beetroot dal that inspired me to start this journey back on that beach in Kerala, and the rest is history from there!

Oxford Mail: rola wala

With a focus on fresh and punchy flavours and high-quality, healthy ingredients, myself and Danny Vilela launched Rola Wala’s first permanent restaurant in Leeds serving up rolls and bowls back in 2014. Now at the end of 2017 we have three permanent sites, with our recent opening in Oxford, and Leeds and London. I still can’t believe it!

Our new Oxford Westgate kiosk is serving up Rola Wala’s delicious dishes, where the journey begins with a choice of three bases: the hero Sourdough Naan Roll, inspired by the kati rolls of Kolcatta, Red Rice Bowl, plus low-carb option Cauli-Rice Bowl. For protein fillings, meat lovers can enjoy flavour powerhouses, Rola’s Chicken Tikka, Nagaland Lamb, and Bengali Spiced Beef, a slow-cooked beef brisket in a spice mix made up of fennel, fenugreek, nigella, cumin and mustard seed.

We make sure vegetarians and vegans are not stuck for choice with half of our menu consisting of nutrient-packed plants packing a punch. Our first ever dish at Rola Wala, Red Channa Dal, sits alongside the delicious coconut and tamarind delight, Keralan Chickpea, and Sweet Potato Saagwala which has the option for extra Paneer Cheese. From clean meat gains to guilt-free grains, Rola Wala has a nutritional dish to suit each diet and lunch craving. To cut through the spice, you can wash it all down with an all-natural Mango & Turmeric Soda or lager from Camden Town Brewery.

We are situated in a kiosk in Westgate Social. Here, we not only offer the flavours of India through food, but in setting too – our restaurant is created from reclaimed materials, inspired by travels and the merge of London street vibes and the roadside stalls found in India.

Every Rola Wala meal bought in our sites will help feed a hungry child living in poverty with One Feeds Two. We pledged to work with the charity partner back in 2015 when we were only a start-up business with just one restaurant, and have since provided over 350,000 meals to date, which is a huge accomplishment and something Danny and I are very proud of!

Oxford Mail:

Despite our quick success, we never really set out to create a restaurant business. I wanted to share all the amazing flavours and ingredients I had the opportunity to try out in India and bring people on an exciting journey through one of the most diverse cuisines on the planet – and I guess we are on the right path!

I hope Oxford loves our twisted Indian food just as much as London and Leeds do – try something a bit different today and join the Rola Club!