Britain is well-known for a variety of things. It has over 50 flags under its commonwealth, is culturally dominant due to its language being spoken worldwide, has produced numerous great athletes, and its actors are among the most popular in Hollywood.
Despite all their accomplishments though, the Brits are not known for their cuisine.
The adage that British food is boring and bland didn’t develop out of thin air. Many feel this is the case when comparing British food to traditional dishes and cuisines from other parts of the world, which tend to be more flavourful due to a variety of spices and seasonings.
However, Simon and Intan, a married couple, were unable to relate to the stereotype. They own a local British restaurant called S+I Dining in Bangsar. For some trivia, the name stands for Simon + Intan, but the + also doubles as a Union Jack, befitting the food they serve.
“We are lucky that this wasn’t an issue when we first started,” Intan explained. “Being in Bangsar, we don’t need much introduction to British cuisine, and in fact, it was anticipated. We are happy that we were able to prove this misconception wrong to the locals.”
For them, the key to making British food flavourful was to add a touch of home in their dishes, which turned out to be more distinctive than something that is made out of a generic recipe. Everything is made from scratch in the kitchen with Simon’s own curated recipes.
The ‘S’ in S+I Dining
The S stands for Simon. He is a critical component of the business’s operations. All the recipes came from his extensive experiences as a chef at different restaurants over the course of his career.
Simon began his career immediately after school in Bristol, England, at a restaurant called Spaghetti Tree. He then attended Bristol City College and graduated as a chef two years later.
Working his way up the culinary ladder, the newly graduated chef gained experience from a variety of restaurants. They include a hotel in Cotswolds, a ski lodge in the French Alps, and other establishments around Europe, such as Switzerland and Norway.
In between his career, he journeyed through Asia, primarily to India, and spent brief periods of time in Thailand, Singapore, and other countries. This helped him gain an understanding of the diverse cultures and cuisines.
He was eventually offered a position as head chef at the Hilton Hotel in Bath City, where he worked for two and a half years before moving to Malaysia to start S+I Dining with his wife, Intan.
Over the course of the pandemic, they were physically apart. During that time, they would have date nights over Zoom calls, where Simon would show Intan how to cook some of his recipes.
By that point, the idea of starting an F&B business together was already brewing, and once Simon landed in Malaysia, their plans were set in motion, and in November 2021, S+I Dining was launched.
Establishing a restaurant in Bangsar
While stereotypes didn’t hold them back, there were other challenges to face.
“It definitely wasn’t a breeze,” Intan expressed. “We had issues with getting staff and supplies. Setting up the system and having the place ready was a challenge as we only had three weeks [to get the restaurant] from the ground up.”
They told Vulcan Post that they started the restaurant with close to RM500K in bootstrapped funds, which the pair disclosed was essentially their entire life savings. They were putting lots of faith in the business to work, which was why opening S+I Dining in a prime location was crucial.
That location turned out to be Bangsar, where a healthy mix of expats and locals can be found, all in line with the restaurant’s target market.
Fish out of water
Prior to opening their restaurant, Intan worked as a retail marketer. Nevertheless, starting a business is a different matter entirely. She pointed out, “My biggest challenge would probably be trying to understand the operations of a restaurant and the hidden expenses that come with it.”
Knowing that social media is the most effective way to spread the word, Intan utilised it to promote S+I Dining when it first opened.
Today, S+I is on the verge of breaking even three months after launching, though they’re still working through several issues.
“[Overcoming] financial challenges would be the key,” Intan revealed. “High rental is the prime issue, and with limited supplies from vendors, we’ve had to spend more procuring items a la carte. To be honest, we are still trying to overcome this issue.”
In spite of all the difficulties, the husband and wife haven’t given up on their dreams of running a restaurant together.
Going into their fourth month now, the partners have seen at least a 10% increase in their customer base and hope to gain even more traction moving forward.
They believe that by combining Simon’s culinary talent and experience with Intan’s marketing expertise, they will be able to create something that is truly authentic and homely.
The secret ingredient is always good reviews
Simon and Intan are pleased that Malaysians are receptive to the menu at S+I and that they will not need to make any changes. Even the curries are prepared in a manner in which they would be served in England, with the chicken marinated in yoghurt and served with a creamy tomato sauce.
They do, however, have something distinctly “Malaysian” planned for the month of Ramadan, but didn’t disclose any more teasers.
In a review, our sister brand gave them a thumbs up for their Fish & Chips with homemade tartar sauce, priced at RM43, slightly higher than another competitor, Cor Blimey. (Their favourites were ultimately the Corned Beef Hash and Creamy Fish Pie though.)
In the long run, Simon and Intan aspire to be known as Malaysia’s proper British restaurant. For now, they’re keeping their ambitions humble, wanting to see their first restaurant do well before expanding so that they can continue serving freshly made food with no compromise on quality.
Featured Image Credit: S+I Dining