An 85-year-old Indian-origin woman who came to the UK as a refugee from Uganda is now one of its oldest chefs and restaurateurs. Manjula Patel owns and runs Manju’s, a popular restaurant in the seaside town of Brighton that serves traditional vegetarian dishes from the western Indian state of Gujarat – where Manju, as she is fondly called, was born.
Manju’s is a family-run operation. Manju’s sons greet customers and take their orders, while she and her daughters-in-law Dipali and Kirti run the kitchen and prepare the food. The restaurant, which has around 48 customers a day, has a small menu. “On any given day, the menu will have 12 dishes that change constantly, depending on the vegetables that are in season,” says Kirti, Manju’s elder daughter-in-law. Like other businesses, the Covid pandemic and high inflation in the UK has hit their work as well. But Manju says she has no plans to retire just yet. “I want to continue cooking and feeding people for as long as I can.”