Floods, pestilence, roadworks: how Cassia is defying the odds to bring us Sid’s iconic lamb chops

by | May 11, 2023 | Opinion

It’s worth enduring floods, a pandemic and a maze of orange cones just to try the lamb chops at Cassia, the Indian fusion restaurant by Sid and Chand Sahrawat. Flavoured with Goan spice and topped with cream cheese, the chops are a hit in a menu of bangers.

Like all of Auckland’s downtown hospo, Cassia has done it tough. Just as the sector was recovering from Covid came the Anniversary Weekend deluge and Cyclone Gabrielle. Cassia’s newly fitted-out Fort Lane premises was flooded twice, and forced to shut.

But the pair are inventive. They’re the brains behind Sidart, the Ponsonby restaurant turning food into a creative art form. And they’re entrepreneurial. They bought Auckland icon The French Cafe (now Sid at The French Café), opened a cocktail bar and eatery Kol, and kept the Cassia experience alive in the form of a pop-up, as well as Cassia at Home.

And tomorrow, Cassia reopens in Federal Street as a joint venture with SkyCity.

It’s somewhat a miracle. From the first meeting in late February, it has taken less than three months to agree on business terms, fit out the new space, bring over the entire staff and create the marketing and promo plan.

“I was introduced to Sid and Chand at the end of February,” says David Allott, SkyCity’s GM of Hospitality. “It was a great first meeting. We had a great conversation. I showed them around. From the beginning, we knew we were onto something. We couldn’t be more pleased with how it’s worked out.”

It’s also the kind of collaboration that might just help the sector bounce back better. SkyCity already had a space, formerly occupied by The Grill. And, remarkably for a corporate, it had the ability to move fast and meet the Sahrawat’s needs, including bringing over the entire staff as employees of SkyCity and giving Chand free rein to manage the design.

 

 

“We want to allow Sid’s signature expertise to shine and for Chand to recreate that Cassia experience. We wrap them with marketing, recruitment and finance so they can get on with the guest experience.”

Chand told us she wonders if this is the end of the hard period or maybe just the reality of running hospo now. “People tell us we’re resilient. But I’m a bit sick of being resilient – I just want to run my business,” she says laughing. She’s joking, but not really.

With the City Rail Link and SkyCity’s conference centre and hotel still two years from completion and gloomy economic clouds overhead, nothing will be easy for Auckland’s CBD for a while yet. The opening of Cassia is a welcome splash of colour.

 

Tandoori chicken

Charred eggplant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the Author

Vincent Heeringa

Hi, I'm Vincent! I'm a co-founder of The Feed, a writer, marketer and PR expert specialising in food, tech and sustainability. In a previous life I was publisher of Idealog, Stoppress, NZ Marketing and Good magazines and helped establish the Science Media Centre. I'm also the host of a podcast ‘This Climate Business’. When I'm not burning the midnight oil, I'm hitting the town or planting trees with my wife Sarah. Ping me to talk about all things food. @vheeringa

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