Interview: TARIQ MANZILS
It’s rare to find a Southampton student who hasn’t relished on a Manzils curry after a night out. The masala-splattered table cloths; the Britney Spears on repeat; the gorging of […]
It’s rare to find a Southampton student who hasn’t relished on a Manzils curry after a night out. The masala-splattered table cloths; the Britney Spears on repeat; the gorging of poppadoms- it’s an experience not to miss.
But what is it like for the sober staff, working in and among the drunken madness? We caught up with Tariq Manzil, the man behind our favourite post-night out curry house, to find out what he really thinks of the intoxicated students who frequent his restaurant until the early hours of the morning.
Hey Tariq! First of all, do you get a lot of student customers?
We have students in every night, both before and after nights out. Some students come in before going to the clubs. Some come in with family or with their boyfriend or girlfriend to enjoy the meal under candlelight. Some have socials in the early evening with our £6.95 student deal and our party party deal.
Do they act very differently in the early evening to after midnight? How?
When they come in early they’re very nice, talking nicely, everything is good. When they come in late some of them don’t know what they’re doing (laughs). One funny thing is when students come in and pay twice, because they’re drunk they don’t know. We only charge them once- we know they’re limited for money. But then others of them try to run out without paying the bill!
Oh and some of them get…naked (laughs). Honestly, the boys are sometimes naked. They sit down to the meal, I go into the kitchen, come back and have taken their clothes off! But in all honesty, they’re very good with me. They respect me; I respect them as well. If I tell them “please don’t do that”, they put their clothes back on.
So are they often still in ‘clubbing’ mindset once they get to you?
Yes! Some of the students come in and start dancing. We like to play Britney Spears at night- it’s the favourite. When I go to sleep at night, I’m still singing Britney Spears because it’s on from midnight to 4am in the morning! Without Britney Spears the students don’t want to eat. “Where’s Britney Spears? I don’t want to eat without Britney Spears!” they say. So, after 12am, we need Britney Spears. We’ve got four or five Britney CDs- earlier in the evening we play classical Indian music, but after midnight, it’s Britney.
When did this idea for late-night opening hours come about?
2000 was the year I set up this Manzils business, and I started attracting students. I started trying to bring in the students from this area, coming from Sobar, coming from Jesters and coming from town, and it worked!
And what made you decide to do this?
Firstly, around 2000, I saw lots of students avoiding retsaurants because they cost too much money. If they did come in, they’d buy one meal between three of them and share it. I thought, if I can offer a full meal- the poppadum, the curry, the rice and the naan- for an affordable price, many more students would come in. Previously, one chicken tikka masala was £7.50, with rice, but students were always sharing. Now, when I charge £6.95 student deal with everything for your table, I don’t see many people sharing.
And one of the most exciting things about this is that for loads of the students this covers their breakfast as well! They take their leftover curry in containers and walk home with it. Students tell me, “Tariq, this will sort my breakfast for tomorrow morning!”
Do students often come in really drunk?
Yes, very, very drunk. There was one case at the end of June this year, where I found a guy sitting in the toilet until 7am. He had just finished his studies, and he didn’t want to say bye to Tariq Manzils. He started crying in there. I said “Please come out, everyone has left”, he said “No I’m crying I don’t want to go, I want to stay in here”. What could I do? I had to stay with him. He said “Tariq, this is my last year, you won’t see me ever again. I don’t want to leave Manzils”.
Often at the end of term, graduating students go into the kitchen and they start crying for the chefs, because they love it so much. We have a lot of problems at the end of June because we need to protect the kitchen, as so many students go in there just because it’s their last time in Manzils. Many of them want to learn how to cook the food, so we teach them. When it’s quiet, they ask “Tariq, how do you cook a Buna or a Tikka Masala?”. We let them watch.
Is the restaurant always a mess at the end of the night?
Oh yes, curry everywhere, even on the ceiling. We have to clean curry from the ceiling! I did want to get decorators in and decorate the restaurant, but then I thought no, there’s no point. One month and it’ll be wrecked! Some of my other non-student customers would like that, but because my main trading is with the students, it’s just not worth it.
Do you think you’ll always attract students?
Yes. In the summer I have lots of local customers, but when the students come in, I can’t cater for the regulars- they disappear. When they come in they’ve got no seat, there’s rice and naan bread being thrown around- they can’t enjoy, they stop coming. Obviously I don’t mind this too much, but I control it and the students respect it. My main business is with students.
What do you honestly think of Southampton students?
We love the students. Twenty years ago, students would come into restaurants in the area and fight. Many restaurants closed down because they didn’t want to give students a seat. But I decided to try and bring students in. They go to Jesters, Sobar, then come in here. I’ve seen a lot of articles in the paper that say that at least one point in their university lives students have to come into Tariq Manzils! They like coming in here.
So students honestly don’t cause too many problems for you?
Honestly, over at least the past ten years, I can’t say there have been many problems, because most students come in here and show respect. Older students tell new Freshers “respect him”. I tell the students it’s not my restaurant- it’s theirs. Some of them even start to work! They pick up the water, fill the glasses, carry the jugs. They say “Tariq we know you’re very busy, I want to help you.” Occasionally they cause trouble, but honestly, they’re family, we’re in one family!
Any funny stories from nights in Manzils? Let us know in the comments below!