First look inside new restaurant Babaji as it brings 'unfiltered' Indian food to Sunderland

A new restaurant is bringing an ‘unfiltered’ taste of India to Sunderland city centre.

Babaji is the newest restaurant to open its doors in the city after a major transformation of the former Royale Thai restaurant in Mary Street, which had been empty for around a year before being taken over by the current owners.

Meaning ‘dear Father’, Babaji is inspired by the Indian fathers who moved to Britain in the 1960s, pioneering the Indian food industry in the country and sparking the nation’s love of curry.

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The restaurant has been brought to the city by Shah Lalon Amin, who has had great success with his award-winning Delhi 6 and Delhi Lounge ventures in South Shields, and his business partner Sohel Khan.

Babaji, Mary Street, Sunderland city centre

Speaking about how the new business came about, Lalon said: “It was actually one of our Delhi 6 customers who mentioned that the site was available, as he knows I’m always interested in new projects.

"So I came up to see it and was really impressed with all the changes in Sunderland, such as all the developments around The Holiday Inn. I felt there was a real buzz about the place and I wanted to be a part of it."

The site was most well-known for its days as the old Royal Mail sorting office, before becoming a restaurant unit.

Lalon said: “It’s a great location and I’ve been in to visit all the other businesses around, like Chaplins, The Gunners Club, Cooper Rose and Roma, which is a great Italian restaurant. We want to bring something new to the area whilst complementing the existing businesses around.”

The new Babaji Indian restaurant opens on Mary Street in the former Royale Thai site. From left manager Sohel Khan, front of house Leila Pires and MD Shah Lalon Amin

Curry options at Babaji, which are its speciality, include: 70s Chicken Madras (£11), Governor’s Jalfrezi (£11), Babaji’s Lamb Bhuna (£12), vegan Bengali Aloo Posto (£9) and more.

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There’s also a two course pre-theatre menu, which runs from 5pm to 6.30pm, priced £15 Sunday to Thursday and £17 on Fridays and Saturdays.

Drinks include Cobra on draught, as well as bottled beers, a range of wines and Indian-inspired cocktails.

Lalon said: "Our father was one of the pioneers of the British Indian food industry, which changed Britain’s palate forever. We wanted to honour that heritage by taking classic dishes and bringing them into the modern era with authenticity. It’s true Indian flavours, we call it ‘unfiltered’ Indian food.”

The new Babaji Indian restaurant opens on Mary Street in the former Royale Thai site.
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Babaji, which has created 14 new jobs for the city, opens with a grand opening on the evening of January 25, which is already fully booked.

"We’ve had a lot of interest, especially from our Delhi 6 customers, as well as from locals,” said Lalon. “We’re always so grateful to our customers, we don’t take it for granted.

"We’re very excited to open our doors, we’re never complacent about these things. We’re full of determination and experience and we’re looking forward to bringing our award-winning food to Sunderland. It’s a difficult climate for hospitality, but we’re hoping the support is there and we’re successful.”

:: Babaji opens for its grand opening on January 25 and will then be open Wednesday-to-Monday from 5pm to 11pm.

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The new Babaji Indian restaurant opens on Mary Street in the former Royale Thai site.
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The new Babaji Indian restaurant opens on Mary Street in the former Royale Thai site.
The new Babaji Indian restaurant opens on Mary Street in the former Royale Thai site.
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The new Babaji Indian restaurant opens on Mary Street in the former Royale Thai site.
The new Babaji Indian restaurant opens on Mary Street in the former Royale Thai site.