BOTH the owner and the head chef at Gurkha Planet will be taking a particular interest in the catering arrangements for the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle next May.
For Dinesh Maharjan, who owns the Nepalese restaurant on Avebury Avenue, and his head chef Dardaya Ram Giri have an unusual claim to fame.
They served dinner to the Royal Family on the eve of the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on April 28 2011.
At the time the pair were working at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Knightsbridge, London, where they were employed for 17 years before moving to Tonbridge.
And they are clearly at the peak of their powers right now, having been nominated for two prestigious awards this year.
Gurkha Planet was runner-up in the Best Healthy Eating Restaurant at the Asian Curry Awards at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London last month.
It was also shortlisted for Best Restaurant in the South-East at the British Curry awards at Battersea Evolution on November 27.
“As far as I remember they had canapés and then ate a three-course dinner,” says Dinesh. “Most of the guests were from royal families around the globe.
“They chose the Mandarin because it’s one of the best hotels in London. They had dinner in the ballroom, which is painted with gold on the walls and the ceiling.”
Gurkha Planet will be celebrating three years in the town early next year. Regarding the two award nominations, Dinesh says: “It came as a big surprise to us.”
So what set them apart in terms of healthy eating? “The judges were impressed that all our ingredients were so fresh,” says Dinesh.
“They said that our vegetables were nice and crunchy. Also we use very little oil in our cooking – often Indian food can be quite oily.”
He adds: “We also take time to cook our meat. The judges praised the fact that we spend 20 or 30 minutes cooking it, when normally the main course can come to the table in five or ten minutes.”
Dinesh and Dardaya worked with the likes of Heston Blumenthal and the French chef Daniel Boulud before striking out on their own.
They would drive out of London in search of suitable premises, even going as far as Yorkshire. But Tonbridge proved ideal because it was only 45 minutes from where they were living in the capital.
Dinesh is renowned as a chocolatier, and has won numerous awards for his confections. His speciality at the restaurant is a white chocolate parfait with dark chocolate curl.
He is particularly proud of his complimentary homemade chocolate truffles. Perhaps they might have swayed the judges’ decision.