WESTMINSTER PEOPLE: Ali Aloudi on Burger King, the Queen of Sheba and mother Moogabah
Paddington restaurant specialises in traditional Yemen moist mandi meat
04 August, 2017 — By Aleesha Hansel
Starting any new business venture will have its challenges, but launching something which is the first of its kind takes some courage.
Step in Ali Aloudi, who in May 2005 opened what he says was the first Yemeni restaurant in London, the Queen of Sheba in Bouverie Place, Paddington.
Joining his family, he relocated from Yemen to Hounslow in 1993 and took a number of jobs based at Heathrow Airport.
Starting in security, he moved into various customer service roles and even worked as a server in Burger King, all of which he said taught him the necessary skills to be a successful restaurant owner.
“I learnt responsibility. Working at Burger King I learnt how to manage and when I joined an airline I used to handle up to 600 people.
“All that stress and pressure gave me a lot of experience in patience, responsibility and good customer service,” he says.
But even with a good foundation, the journey hasn’t been an easy one.
“It was a hard start but people and family supported us and we managed to be successful.”
The challenges however weren’t just limited to building a customer base and reputation. Ali also had to adapt to one of the main problems that faces London, the lack of space.
Needless to say, he couldn’t go digging up the streets of Paddington and so had to adjust it to work with cosmopolitan living.
Mandi, coming from the Arabic word “nada” meaning dew and reflecting the moist texture of meat is a traditional dish from Yemen and a staple on his menu. The meat gets this property from a special tandoor cooking technique, which is essentially a type of oven dug into the ground and covered with clay.
One of nine siblings – six boys and three girls – and growing up in an Arab country, food had always played a big part in family life for Ali, but apart from his stint in Burger King he had no experience within the restaurant industry, not that that stopped him.
“Burger King was fast food and totally different to working in a restaurant. In every business there is a risk, you just have to put your foot down.”
Ali does credit one main source for teaching him and giving him inspiration though, his mother Moogabah.
“She is the love of my life,” he says. After Ali’s father died when he was 12, she was left to raise the him and his siblings single-handedly. “I’m so proud of her, raising her kids, without an education herself,” he says.
“To me she is the top lady in the world. She is my school and my university.”
Along with his mother, Ali also deeply values his regulars who, he says, he sees more as friends.