Kinara Kitchen Talha Pasha
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A Chat With: Talha Pasha, General Manager of Kinara Kitchen

Talha Pasha has become a beloved figure in the Irish hospitality industry, known for his ever-positive presence and passion for looking after his guests like they are old friends, which many of them end up becoming. As the General Manager of Kinara Kitchen, Talha helms the much-loved Ranelagh restaurant with a wealth of sommelier and leadership expertise. 

Talha’s journey from being a newcomer in Ireland to a prominent face in the hospitality scene has seen him become an expert in the craft of creating memorable guest experiences, with a deep community connection. His commitment to celebrating authentic Pakistani cuisine, coupled with his genuine Irish hospitality has made Kinara Kitchen under Talha’s watchful eye a standout destination for food enthusiasts. We had a chat with Talha about his career to date, his life in food and his favourite spots in the city.

Can you share the story of how you got into hospitality?

The day I arrived in Ireland, my cousin collected me from the airport, and we stopped at a little café on the way back to his place. The lady serving us was so welcoming and opened my eyes to the world of Irish hospitality. From that moment onward, I decided to explore my budding passion for hospitality under the supervision of my uncle, Kinara Group co-founder Shoaib Yunus. I started working in various roles within the Kinara Group, learning everything from the ground up. This hands-on experience, combined with the guidance of my uncle and the warm embrace of the Irish community, solidified my desire to pursue a career in hospitality. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Tell us about some of your career highlights in the hospitality industry to date.

There are so many highlights worth mentioning, but here are a few of my favourites:

– Developing strong bonds with my customers who have followed me on my career journey from restaurant to restaurant. It’s incredibly rewarding to see familiar faces and know that I have played a part in creating memorable dining experiences for them.

– Making lifelong friends in the industry. The camaraderie and support among hospitality professionals are unparalleled. I’ve met some of the most inspiring and dedicated individuals who have become like family to me.

For me, it’s always about the people. Whether it’s the customers, colleagues, or mentors, the connections I’ve made are the true highlights of my career.

What do you love most about being the GM at Kinara Kitchen?

Every day is different, and each is equally challenging and rewarding. We constantly have new faces to greet, new dishes to savour, and new hurdles to jump, with renovations and weather warnings, to name but a few. The dynamic nature of the job keeps me on my toes and ensures that no two days are ever truly the same. What makes it so amazing is the opportunity to create unique and memorable experiences for our guests. From organising special events to introducing new menu items, there’s always something exciting happening at Kinara Kitchen.

What do you think the secret to success is at Kinara Kitchen?

I think it’s the mix of authentic Pakistani food made with great care, killer cocktails, and an Irish style of hospitality. Our commitment to quality and authenticity sets us apart. We use the finest ingredients to create dishes that are rich in flavour and tradition. A lot of our customers are regulars now, which means we have gotten to know them very well, and there is true pleasure in seeing them each time they dine with us. This personal connection fosters a sense of community and loyalty. There is a homely atmosphere in Kinara Kitchen, which we love and which keeps people coming back for more. Our team works hard to ensure that every guest feels like part of the family.

What is the most difficult part of running a busy restaurant?

Each day is different and can present unexpected challenges. At the moment, rising costs are proving difficult for all restaurants, but we are working hard to maintain our standards and offer the best value to our customers. Managing a restaurant requires a delicate balance of many elements, from staffing and supply chain issues to customer satisfaction and financial stability. The key is to stay adaptable and proactive, always looking for ways to improve and innovate while keeping the core values and quality intact.

Describe your typical working day.

Every day starts with a coffee and a deep breath, followed by a quick check-in with all the staff and some admin work. We start each service with an all-hands team meeting, discussing the running order, any special requests, allergies, or important events being celebrated that day. This ensures everyone is on the same page and ready to provide the best service possible. The service itself tends to be busy with greeting guests and ensuring everything is running smoothly both in the kitchen and front of house. I also spend time interacting with customers, getting feedback, and making sure their experience is top-notch. I always complete my day with an evening wind-down, which always features a cup of tea. Reflecting on the day’s achievements and challenges helps me prepare for the next.

Do you have a favourite dish at Kinara?

Champ Kandhari from our chargrill! Irish lamb has to be the best in the world, and our house marinades make the dish mouth-wateringly succulent. The combination of tender, flavourful lamb with our special spices and grilling techniques creates a dish that is both comforting and indulgent. It’s a perfect representation of our commitment to using high-quality local ingredients in traditional Pakistani recipes.

Describe your food philosophy in one line.

The simpler, the better. For me, there’s nothing better than mac and cheese; it does exactly what it says on the tin! Simplicity allows the true flavours of quality ingredients to shine. I believe that great food doesn’t need to be overly complicated; it should be honest, satisfying, and made with love.

Why do you love working in the Irish food industry?

I love working in the Irish food industry because of the incredibly generous and knowledgeable people, and because of the high standard of produce. Amazing food is made in Ireland, and it’s always exciting to turn world-class produce into Pakistani cuisine. The sense of community and collaboration among Irish food professionals is truly special. There’s a shared passion for excellence and a dedication to sustainability and innovation that makes being a part of this industry so fulfilling.

What’s one restaurant you will never get sick of visiting?

Reyna Kebab on Dame Street. You’ve never seen a cleaner plate than when I get to visit! Their food is consistently delicious, and the atmosphere is welcoming and vibrant. It’s a place where I can relax and enjoy a great meal, knowing that every bite will be as satisfying as the last.

Favourite Irish artisan producer/ingredient?

At the moment, I would say Marita from Drummond House Foods. I recently got my hands on a jar of their garlic sauce and dip—one word: delicious. Their dedication to quality and flavour is evident in every product. It’s always a pleasure to use ingredients that are crafted with such care and attention to detail.

Irish chef or restaurateur you admire most?

Eric Matthews. I was hooked on his cooking videos during lockdown and even attempted to recreate a few of his recipes myself. His creativity and passion for cooking are truly inspiring. I’ve yet to try out Kicky’s, but it’s top of my list and I cannot wait to visit and support his new venture.

Best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?

Build the platform and they’ll come. Every day is a new day; keep the energy up and smile. This advice has kept me motivated and focused throughout my career. It reminds me that success is built on a foundation of hard work, positivity, and perseverance.

Favourite travel destination for food?

London. The diversity and quality of food available in London are astounding. From street food markets to Michelin-starred restaurants, the city offers a culinary adventure like no other. It’s a place where you can experience flavours from around the world, all in one city.

What is the best food memory you have?

My best food memory was the lunch my family made for me before I embarked on my life-changing move to Ireland. Everyone was together around one table, sharing stories and enjoying a home-cooked meal. The warmth, love, and support I felt that day gave me the strength and confidence to pursue my dreams in a new country.

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever eaten? 

Raw wasabi—enough said. The intense, overwhelming heat was an experience I won’t soon forget. It taught me the importance of understanding and respecting the potency of certain ingredients.

What’s one ingredient you cannot stand?

Raw chives. A pointless thing! No flavour, and they are a nuisance when they get into your teeth! While they may add a bit of colour to a dish, I find them to be more trouble than they’re worth.

Which four people (living or dead) would you like to make dinner for?

I would love to make dinner for my parents. While they’re still with us, I’d love to welcome them to the country where I’ve grown my life and career. As for those who are no longer with us, I’d love to welcome my maternal grandparents to the table too. Sharing a meal with them, hearing their stories, and showing them what I’ve accomplished would be incredibly meaningful. They were always immensely proud of all their grandkids, supporting and cheering us all on from the side lines no matter how far.

Go-to drink order?

Irish-produced ginger ale with a squeeze of fresh lime. It’s refreshing, not too sweet, and has a nice kick from the ginger. Perfect for any occasion.

Where’s your local?

The Hill, our go-to for an after-work drink after a hard day’s work with the guys. It’s a place where we can unwind, share a few laughs, and enjoy a well-deserved pint.

Favourite cuisine to cook?

Italian pasta—my ultimate pleasure! The process of making fresh pasta from scratch and pairing it with a simple, flavourful sauce is incredibly satisfying. It’s a cuisine that brings comfort and joy to both the cook and the diner.

Favourite cuisine to eat?

Without a doubt, my favourite is French cuisine. French onion soup or dauphinoise done right are simply magical. The rich, layered flavours and meticulous techniques make every French dish a true work of art.

Favourite coffee spot? 

I have to say Nick’s Coffee across the street from Kinara Kitchen in Ranelagh. Sublime coffee and the friendliest of smiles regardless of the weather. It’s a place that feels like a second home, where I can enjoy a perfect cup of coffee and start my day on a high note.

Takeaway order?

My go-to is Bad Egg on Clanbrassil Street; they have the best eggs around! Their creative and delicious egg-based dishes are perfect for a quick and satisfying meal.

You are stuck on an island, you can pick one dish to eat forever without getting tired of it. What would you eat?

Lentils—easy to cook and I’ll never get sick of them. I would say a roast dinner, but if I’m on an island, I wouldn’t get all my trimmings! Lentils are versatile, nutritious, and can be prepared in many different ways to keep things interesting.

Go-to breakfast?

Eggs Royale from Herbstreet in Grand Canal. I’m not a morning person, but in the event that I’m awake before lunch, it’s my go-to spot. The combination of poached eggs, smoked salmon, and hollandaise sauce on a toasted English muffin is a breakfast classic that never disappoints.

Sweet or savoury?

Simple, sweet! Whether it’s a decadent dessert or a piece of fruit, I always have room for something sweet to end my meal.

Find out more about Kinara Kitchen here.

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