It’s not every day that a family restaurant in regional Queensland takes out a national award. But that’s what happened earlier this month, when husband and wife team Raj Sharma and Jessica Hogan of Mackay’s Roshni Indian Restaurant won Indian Restaurant of the Year at the India Australia Business and Community Awards.

Roshni owners Jessica Hogan and Raj Sharma show off their award with manager Lakhwinder ‘Lucky’ Sandher (Pic via Daily Mercury)

Roshni owners Jessica Hogan and Raj Sharma show off their award with manager Lakhwinder ‘Lucky’ Sandher (Pic via Daily Mercury)

At Trade and Investment Queensland, we were almost as excited as Raj and Jessica, because not only did we see some big winners from Queensland, but this was the first time Brisbane had hosted this glittering event on the India-Australia calendar.

Roshni won Restaurant of the Year based on its recent business success and its commitment to helping others. We caught up with Raj between meals to find out about Roshni’s best feeds and best feels.

This win is as much about your partnership with Jessica as it is about what you put on the table in your restaurant. How did you and Jessica meet?

I attended a conference at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre for hospitality and tourism professionals. Jessica was the partnerships manager for Mackay Tourism at the time. I then came to visit her in Mackay a few months after we first met and we stayed in contact.

How did you hear about the India Australia Business and Community Awards?

I saw a Facebook post.

Congratulations on the award for Indian Restaurant of the Year. You beat out 200 competitors in the category. What was the best thing to come from the IABCA event?

Having a platform to bring two cultures, two countries together. Having my staff recognised for all the hard work they have done over the years and meeting a wonderful group of people at the event.

India is a huge sub-continent — what’s the style of food you serve at Roshni? And any signature dishes we should try when we’re in Mackay?

I’m from the northern part of India so a lot of the food we serve has a heavy northern influence. We have many signature dishes. First I would say our samosas would have to be one of the crowd favourites. (So good that we have in the past caught other Indian restaurants ordering a large amount of them to try to work out our secret ingredients. Our secret is still intact LOL.)

Curry wise, you should try our goat curry, Mughlai prawns, lamb garlic potatoes and Balti pepper lamb. We have a restaurant speciality butter chicken where we offer a money-back guarantee if you don’t love it. In five years, we’ve never had to refund a single person.

We heard you helped the Whitsunday Coast community during Cyclone Debbie — what did you do?

Raj Sharma of Roshi Indian Restaurant, Mackay

Raj Sharma of Roshi Indian Restaurant, Mackay

We were lucky enough to have power at our restaurant when most of Mackay didn’t. We simply opened as normal and offered to feed all the SES workers, volunteer firefighters and anyone else who was helping with the cyclone clean-up. They often work for hours and sometimes days just eating sandwiches, so we simply offered them free meals during the disaster.

We did lose power at our home. We have a little three-year-old girl so we were in the same boat as everyone else. We were just lucky enough to have the restaurant up and running where we could go to get cool or charge our phones. So we offered up a few simple home pleasures for people while Mackay was going through the aftermath of Debbie.

If you’d like to find out more about the India Australia Business and Community Awards visit their website.