3 June 2023

Nepali adventure with food in the former Forked restaurant

| John Thistleton
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Rajan Gurung and Raj Acharya

Rajan Gurung and Raj Acharya formed a partnership in Goulburn, launched their first venture on the Federal Highway and have returned to reopen the former Forked restaurant under a new name. Photo: John Thistleton.

Australians up for an adventure sometimes travel to Nepal to climb Mount Everest, now two adventurous Nepalis are in Goulburn facing their own mountainous challenge.

Business partners Rajan Gurung and Raj Acharya have bought the former Forked restaurant and must open by Monday (5 June) or thereabouts to meet the first of their rental instalments on the Auburn Street premises. They’re being held up by suppliers, are awaiting their liquor licence and have been sorting out IT issues.

Yet the two young men who came to Australia about 14 years ago and met two years ago as kitchen hand and barista at the Paragon Cafe in Goulburn, have a cheery outlook for their latest venture.

They plan to open ‘Lush Cafe and Bar’ in the well equipped restaurant that seats more than 120 people with a mix of Australian and Nepali cuisine, similar to their offerings at their previous venture, Olive View Cafe and Restaurant on the Federal Highway near Collector.

Forked owners Melissa and Michael announced on Facebook last month: “It is with heavy hearts that we will be closing our doors on Sunday, 21 May. For those unaware, Michael has been struggling with his health for the past 12 months and although he has kept the doors open during this time, he is unable to continue moving forward.”

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The post was met with a flood of well wishes and gratitude from regular diners.

Rajan and Raj did not know each other when they set out for Australia on student visas and subsequently attained permanent residency.

Raj has learned to cook over 10 years in Sydney working as a kitchen hand alongside chefs. Rajan worked in cafes and became a barista.

“Raj and I used to work in the Paragon Cafe, we met in the Paragon, actually,” Rajan said. Always on their toes at the city’s best known cafe, they said Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday lunches were their busiest periods. “I’m the barista and he is a chef and we thought to do something on our own, so we took over Olive View,” he said.

Their dishes included fettuccine marinara, a lamb curry with tomato, garlic, onions, wine and coriander with rice and papadam and crumbed lamb cutlets with mash and other veggies. They cooked varieties of hamburgers and creamy garlic prawns in white wine sauce and a selection of steaks.

Their Nepali offerings included their country’s traditional dish momo dumplings made with chicken mince, cabbage and onions served with a dipping sauce of tomato puree and spices.

One Christmas lunchtime when few eateries were open they fed more than 100 people for lunch. On the highway, public holidays and weekends brought in customers. The snow season generated more traffic than the quieter summer months.

“In summertime the place is dead,” Rajan said. After one-and-a half years they realised Olive View was not busy enough to support the both of them and their staff.

“So we decided to sell that one and do something in the town to get more consistent people coming in,” Rajan said. “We were thinking for a long time to do that and we saw this one (Forked) on sale.

“Everything happened all of a sudden,” Rajan said. “Getting suppliers takes time, they are not very efficient, but we don’t have time to organise everything in two weeks which ends on Monday, (5 June) so we are very busy,” he said.

“The issue we are having at the moment is with the liquor licence. We will open as a bar and cafe but we won’t be serving alcohol for a week, I guess, unless we get our licence,” Rajan said.

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But diners can bring their own alcohol because the premises is licensed at that level and they have their responsible service of alcohol certification.

The menu will be much the same as what they served at Olive View.

“We are going to open here seven days a week including every public holiday,” Raj said.

They will close to mark Nepal’s Dashain festival which is celebrated worldwide in October.

The son of a retired army officer, Rajan graduated with a degree in information technology. On the other hand, Raj said he did not achieve much in his student days.

“I studied, wasted my parents’ money,” he said. “We never had the concept of getting a job or earning money. My dad had a business, a grocery shop.”

Today the two young hopeful restaurateurs are learning fast.

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