Did you spy Yeshi in Saturday’s Guardian? He was hard to miss. Deborah Linton interviewed us as part of a wider piece about the immigrant-run restaurants that bring life to Britain’s streets. Yeshi’s smiling face beamed out from a double-page spread, but his journey – like those of many of the others – has been anything but straightforward.
Yeshi left his homeland without meaning to stay away forever: he crossed the Himalayas to help his younger brother join a monastery in India, and ended up staying over there himself. In the picture above he had just arrived in Dharamsala, where we later met. After this photo was taken he didn’t speak to his family in Tibet for over eight years, and it was a further nine before he was able to lay eyes on them again.
Just as he’d got used to life in India, I brought him to the UK. Oxford wasn’t what he was expecting. All these old buildings – he had pictured skyscrapers like the ones in New York where his older brother lives. Food was arguably the hardest thing about the move. In India he had at least been able to eat with the seasons. He started an allotment, not as a hobby, but out of sheer need.
There are fewer than 1,000 Tibetans living in the UK, so it’s hard for Tibetan people to find community here and to share experiences. For Yeshi, running Taste Tibet is a way of keeping alive some of the memories, customs and flavours of Tibet that are most vivid for him. It’s a homecoming of sorts, a vehicle for communicating who he is and where he comes from, and for keeping him and our children grounded in that history and culture.
In time, we’re looking forward to introducing new menu items that carry some deeper meaning for Yeshi. For now we’re just focussing on keeping the current ship above water. The Guardian piece touched on many of the issues that are increasingly affecting our industry: the struggle to recruit and retain staff, to source ingredients, and so on. These are all as real for us as for the next restaurant. Bear with us!
Our opening hours for this week are as follows:
Wednesday: 5-9.30pm (dinner only)
Thursday – Saturday: 12-3pm (lunch) / 5-9.30pm (dinner)
Looking forward to seeing everyone soon,
Julie and Yeshi