Meet your local – Namaste Gurkha

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Inside one of the oldest properties in Blandford you will discover an authentic taste of the Himalayas, Rachael Rowe reports.

All images: Rachael Rowe

Prayer flags flutter as I open the door to Namaste Gurkha on a cold wintry day. The building is one of the oldest in Blandford Forum – dating from before the Great Fire of 1731, it is one of the few houses that survived. Gurkha regimental badges and panoramic views of the Himalayan peaks decorate the historic timbers and brickwork, bringing Nepalese culture and hospitality to North Dorset.
Namaste Gurkha’s owner Bhuwan Thapa told me: ’The business has been in Blandford for 14 years, but I bought it in 2020 two weeks before the first lockdown. It was a difficult beginning as we could only do takeaways!
‘Before that I was in Tidworth, and before that I was in Newcastle working as a chef. I was actually involved with Latin American cuisine then. ‘This is my first restaurant business and I’m quite new to Blandford. Like most small business owners, I do everything – I run the business but also help in the kitchen, and today I’m doing some of the deliveries for the takeaways too.’

Everyone loves the momos

From the street the restaurant looks very small, but in fact has more space than first appears.
‘We have 42 covers with larger tables upstairs.’
The restaurant serves traditional Himalayan cuisine – Nepalese-style daal, traditional sukuti (spiced dried meat) and Gurkha thali (a mixed platter), momo (steamed dumplings) and grilled meat.
Nepal is famous for the Gurkhas – soldiers native to the Indian subcontinent but chiefly from the mountainous Himalayan country. For the past 200 years they have been recruited into the British Army. Gurkhas are known to be as fearless in combat as they are good natured. Bhuwan explains the connection between the restaurant and the regiments. ‘My dad is a Gurkha. And of course we have a lot of people coming from Blandford Camp, where there are Gurkhas. We’re very popular with the Camp!’
Staff member Riya was working as front of house when I visited and is also from Blandford Camp, where her father is a Gurkha. The restaurant feels like an integral part of the Blandford community.

Some of the Namaste Gurkha team: (from left) Jaidee, Bhuwan Thapa, Riya

The most popular dish?
‘The momos. Everyone loves momos!’ says Bhuwan. Momos are famous in Nepal – a traditional steamed dumpling filled with minced meat or vegetables with spices, and dipped in a hot tomato chutney. Jaidee and Riya both recommended a couple of dishes. ‘Everest Khasi is a really spicy dish and people also really like the sizzlers.’
(Purely in the interests of research, on behalf of the BV Magazine readership I tasted the momos at Namaste Gurkha and can honestly say they were delicious. The dumplings are handmade, and very filling. They instantly brought back memories of my days trekking in the Himalayas.)

The Gurkha thali is typically eaten in households all over Nepal as a hearty dinner. Served with vegetables, daal, rice, naan, pickle and a dessert of gulab jamun with yoghurt – an absolute must-try in the restaurant

Tell me about your suppliers?
‘We shop locally where possible: our meat is from Mato (the Blandford butcher), and our vegetables are fresh and locally purchased too.’ I also noticed Gurkha, Tiger and Cobra beers from Nepal and India.

Your biggest challenge?
‘Starting up in the lockdown! It was very difficult as we could only do takeaways, it’s a small kitchen and we got really busy.’

What are you most proud of?
‘The food! And also our strong connections with the Camp, we do obviously get a lot of customers from there. I also own Solti Grocery in the town.’
If you haven’t visited it before, the Solti Grocery store is on East Street, and a visit is recommended to try some of the Nepalese foods.

It’s packed with interesting produce, and the staff are very welcoming. My personal tip – the bags of spices are great value.

Sizzling meat grills fill the restaurant with their sound and smell

So what’s next?
‘We are always looking at the menu, how we might change it. There’s always something to do.’

namastegurkha.co.uk
(order online for takeaway)
11 East Street,
Blandford Forum.
Opens Tuesday to Sunday
5pm to 11pm.

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