Guest journalist Ruth Moorhouse goes in search of an Indian supper and hits upon an inspirational story…

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So it was that on a rainy, windswept night I entered the safe haven of The Singleton Tandoori in Ashford. Buffeted and bruised by the inclement weather it was with relief that I stepped through the door and into a restaurant full of warmth and wonder. It wasn’t so much that my bones immediately began to thaw out, it was more that my soul felt instantly captivated by something I couldn’t as yet explain.

We had already heard great things on the grape vine about the food here, and we were not let down. Our meal was delightful, traditional and cooked to perfection. A round of poppadoms with a tray of chutneys provided intense flavours; that satisfying snap of the poppadoms was enough to whet my appetite. Next up was a plate of the best onion bhajis that I have ever had the good fortune to eat. They were delightfully crisp, perfectly seasoned and cooked to perfection. My companion enjoyed tasty chicken tikka. It was clearly a great choice, as it didn’t last long. Chicken pasanda and lamb rogan followed for our main courses, along with pilau rice and a garlic naan.

Having eaten many Indian meals over the years, I can safely claim to be a bit of a connoisseur and as such have high expectations. Singleton Tandoori exceeded these expectations. Dishes here are pleasingly familiar but taken to the next level by chefs that make the sauces just that bit creamier, richer, and full of complex layers of spice.

This, I think, is where Ian Sleeper has succeeded in creating a business that is indeed full spice and spirit. At Singleton Tandoori, it’s not just about the fine food, and I’d like to tell you a bit about the owner, Ian, as his story is a unique and inspirational one.

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Ian took over ownership of The Singleton Tandoori eighteen months ago and has gone on to create a staff-led business. It wasn’t a mere whim which led him to open a restaurant, his strong Christian faith led him to make a life-changing decision, and leave behind a career in business consultancy in order to pursue this culinary quest. It was a fork in the road that was prompted, not by a mid-life crisis, but by a spiritual revelation – the very opposite of crisis. For Ian, Singleton Tandoori was the result of a true calling from God to change his path and take on a project that would cement his faith and allow him to realise his true potential.

A brave decision, you will agree, but one that has already paid dividends in terms of spiritual contentment and reaffirmation of his faith – and that’s not to mention that the local diners are in raptures over the cuisine. Working with a team of Muslim staff, Ian has joined two cultures together, showing huge respect and consideration for both cultures and beliefs. During my thoroughly enjoyable evening spent at Singleton Tandoori, I had the chance to chat to various members of his staff and I was warmed by their generosity of spirit towards their employer, their interest in the teachings of the Bible and their appreciation of the healing power of united prayer.

You already know from my rave review that the food is exceptional, but the story behind this restaurant is one that inspires. The passion and care, not just for the food, but for staff well-being and customer contentment is palpable. Ian is a committed person, he has brought people together, created a wonderful restaurant and most importantly he has stayed true to himself.

As I said, when I entered the restaurant my soul felt instantly captivated by something I couldn’t as yet explain. Having had the extreme good fortune to sit and chat with Ian I understood instantly what it was I had felt. It was the strength of Ian’s faith and the kindness accompanies this.

I am sure that this is only the beginning of this story…

Alex Everill

Whenever he goes anywhere new, Alex remembers what he ate above all else. Days are always planned around food with life stuff slotted in between, where possible. He loves a good bowl of ramen or phở, a good cup of coffee, anything Medieval and graphic novel adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays.

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