After catapulting a few restaurants to the spotlight in the leafy green suburb of Eltham and Boxhill, entrepreneur and chef Himan Chawla is now making his presence felt at Camberwell. He has taken the licence for Degani Café along busy Riverside Road and added his personal touch to everything. The result: great coffees combined with a new level of catering suited for everyone – from regular visitors to corporates to business houses.
“My basic reason for taking Degani (which has been in Melbourne for 8-9 years) as a brand was to introduce food and menu which are solely my creations,” says Himan. Although the café sells Degani coffee in great volumes, Himan wanted to bring into use the 14 years of experience he had in London working with the likes of Gordon Ramsay. For instance, while at the Mayfair hotel in London, one of the highlights of his career was working on private events which included building a menu for celebrities. “We would do a fusion of, say, Indian and Spanish food and work on creative menus.”
Quite naturally, it is this rich experience and London influence that Himan brings to Degani. “At the moment we do a mix and match of food and introducing lots of variety from lamb koftas and saffron rice to organic quinoa, wild rice salad to British beef and fish pies to London BLT sandwich,” says Himan. The aim is to capture the suburb of Camberwell which is new, happening and affluent.
Himan’s newly-launched catering menu is trendy and has been received well. Fortunately, for him Degani is strategically located on the big junction of Camberwell with easy access to big businesses and banks. Some of the organisations that Degani has catered for include Relationship Australia, Able Australia, Kamco, NAB, Asteron, and iiNet. “That is also because our catering menu is not only sandwiches but we have brought in open sandwiches which not many people are doing,” he explains. For instance, Degani’s croughnut, a mix of croissant and doughnut, which is big in America at the moment, is exclusive only to Degani at the moment. Degani created a personalised menu at a recent lawyers’ meeting. “They wanted a British menu. So among other things, we served fish pie, curried egg open sandwich, fish and chips which are very popular in London,” says Himan.
Interestingly, even the breakfast menu at Degani has an element of newness and surprise. The breakfast stack is something which not many people are familiar with, according to Himan. “This is a very French adaptation. We put a lot of things in the stack and make it like a tower where we add mushroom, bacon and eggs.” There also specials dealing with Indian themes such as Delhi style chicken tikka or chicken korma, but these keep changing. Himan says it helps that he has an Indian-British chef of repute with a keen eye on what works and what does not and with an understanding of a wider audience.
With spring and summer approaching, Degani has a lot more to offer in the form of smoothies and shakes. Tapping into the beer culture alcohol is served in the café. There are outdoor street seating arrangements that make the café truly alluring.
Food apart, coffee is also one of the fastest selling drinks at Degani. Himan is assisted by two baristas who have 14 years’ experience behind them. “They add a lot of knowledge and passion to the coffee,” he says.
Degani is a very French themed café. Its antique vintage chairs and quiet seating arrangement exudes the vibe. There is also space for comfort seating arrangements with couches towards the back of the café. The spacious nature of the café makes it convenient to accommodate 100 people for parties and other functions. Food and café does not get more appealing than this!
By Indira Laisram