Roaring success for new bar at Crosspool restaurant

The Das family has been part of Sheffield’s Indian restaurant heritage ever since Nishit Das ran the Curry Inn, his first venture near the traffic lights on Ecclesall Road, in the 1970s. Fifty years on, his son Nilendu and his wife Aparna run Varanasi in Crosspool. The family vision is for Varanasi to be an ‘Indian restaurant like no other’ and the eclectic and tasty menu is a far cry from the standard, including dishes such as Maharaja Mutton, Naaga Delight King Prawns and Machli Kalimirchi Curry. Their famous ‘green sauce’ is supervised by Aparna and is a family secret!

When Nilendu and Aparna bought the building, the first floor was completely empty. In 2021, they used a COVID-19 restart grant from Sheffield City Council to transform it into a comfortable, welcoming and visually unique bar space, with live music and dancing in the evening. It’s taken a creative vision for what will work, as well as lots of hard graft. 

They bought their impressive bar second-hand for £600, driving to Nottingham to pick it up and putting it together themselves. The curved upholstered benches around their tables were salvaged from a closed down shop. The large, wooden-framed lamps that stand around the space also came as a job lot; when customers ask about them, as they often do, Nilendu has been known to offer them a spare one.

Throughout the pandemic and the fit-out of the bar space, Nilendu has been working with Esther Morrison, expert place maker and food consultant and one of Business Sheffield’s Business Information Officers. These are a team of experienced business people who go door to door throughout Sheffield, making sure local high-street businesses have what they need to thrive. Nilendu first got in touch with Esther about applying for grants, and she visited the bar when it was just a shell. 

“When she told me what she does,” says Nilendu, “I said, ‘I might need your help!’ It was Esther who gave me the idea to apply for a grant from Business Sheffield to help us through COVID-19, and she helped me identify that a bar upstairs would be good for the Crosspool area.” Esther advised Nilendu on the set-up and running of the bar space, as well as nominating him for the Star’s Small Business Awards. 

“What we’ve achieved through Esther’s support,” says Nilendu, “is that the Varanasi Bar is doing really well, with live music on weekends, which no other pubs in the area have, and gives a lovely vibrant atmosphere. Everyone loves it.” As well as practical assistance, Esther’s enthusiasm for the bar project has given Nilendu valuable confidence. “This is your kingdom,” he recalls her saying; “You have the potential to make this place work.”

Since its opening, the bar has been a huge success. Nilendu remembers customers who have come up to the bar after dropping in to collect a takeaway; and two older ladies who had dinner in the restaurant and, when Nilendu encouraged them to try the bar after their meal, ended up staying and dancing until midnight. “At the end of the night I’m tired and keen to get home, but no one else wants to go!” jokes Nilendu, “But I like to see everyone happy and enjoying themselves.” 

Esther’s available to support high-street businesses throughout Firth Park, Spital Hill, Crosspool, Parsons Cross, White Lane, Hollin End, Kelham Island and Crystal Peaks. Call her on 07725 857040, or email esther@rosiabay.co.uk

If your business is somewhere different, contact Business Sheffield to find the right person to support you. Email BusinessSheffield@sheffield.gov.uk or call 0114 224 5000.

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