AN Indian restaurant is set to defy the coronavirus pandemic and open its doors in Headington.

Bhoomi Kitchen will be serving South Indian cuisine from July 30 at its new venue in London Road, opposite The Manor Hospital.

Owner Michael Raphael had hoped to open at the beginning of June after securing the lease for the building back in March, but his plans were quickly thrown into disarray.

He said: “The virus was only creeping in around that time, until all of a sudden it was here.

“It was really challenging, but I’m an optimist.

“I knew we were always going to get here, whether it took us four months or one year – it should all have been finished in under three months.

“It’s still a scary time, but we just have to get on with it and hope for the best.”

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The Oxford eatery is the second under the Bhoomi Kitchen name, after Mr Raphael opened his first restaurant in Cheltenham in 2013.

The 39-year-old is based in the Gloucestershire town but lived in Headington for many years after leaving school, while the new location was partly chosen for family reasons.

When his grandfather Appacha first arrived in the UK from Kerala, South India, he moved to Burford – roughly halfway between Cheltenham and Oxford.

He worked for several years as a private chef and passed on his love of food to Mr Raphael.

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While it took time for his first restaurant to gain a foothold, Bhoomi Kitchen’s owner hopes he will prove an instant hit in Headington.

He said: “It was a struggle at first, because when people think of curry they look at our menu and don’t see anything familiar.

“After a couple of years we got a good following.

“I’m trying to bring our heritage – what my grandfather fed us when we were growing up. He had a passion for it.

“I’m biased, but it’s such great food.”

The building, which was formerly the home of the Mirabai Indian restaurant, will initially operate with a small number of staff.

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At capacity, Mr Raphael expects to boast a 12-strong team, with everyone but the chefs recruited from Oxford and the surrounding area.

He is aware of the reservations people may have about eating out, with restaurants only reopening under strict restrictions less than three weeks ago.

But the owner hopes to cash in on the venue’s outdoor seating – as well as an offer for 50 per cent off all food for the first week.

Mr Raphael revealed his Cheltenham restaurant has swayed towards caution when it comes to distancing measures.

It will be the same in Headington, with screens, distanced tables, toilet restrictions, constant table cleaning and an only-bookings policy all planned.

The owner said: “We’re all about making people feel comfortable.

“All these screens aren’t so nice, but we’ll do our best to make people as safe as possible.”