One of Oxford’s most famous crewdating venues, Jamal’s, has been sold and replaced by a new Indian restaurant.
The owners of the new eatery, Arzoo, have promised to retain a number of the perks which made the restaurant’s predecessor so popular among students, and have also undertaken a £200,000 refurbishment. They can now seat up to 186 diners.
A set menu will still be offered to groups of ten or more, and the restaurant will continue to run the BYOB policy which proved so popular among students, with corkage charged at £1 per head.In addition, around 18 new jobs have been created, while more than £10,000 was spent on creating a new menu.
Muhammad Ali, a partner and chef at Arzoo, told Cherwell that the new restaurant will “continue to welcome students at all times.” He also stressed that Jamal’s was not forced to close owing to its previous health and safety issues, but rather because the owners chose to sell. In March of this year, the restaurant was shut down by the council for a day after complaints of mice were received from owners of a neighbouring property.
Upon inspection, environmental health officers found washing basins had been disconnected, and ordered that the establishment be cleaned, sanitised and pest-proofed before reopening. Jamal’s will continue to sell online, however, and are offering a delivery service to their clients.
Mr Ali also spoke of how pleased he was to secure the restaurant, saying, “It has always been our dream to open a restaurant in Jericho but we could never find the right property. It is a very good market here and we really want the local community to come and try our food and see what we are offering.”
He added that his new restaurant is running a competition among the students of Cherwell Valley College to create a new dessert for their updated menu. “Indian restaurants are not known for desserts and we are looking to add a couple of new dishes to the menu which the students will then work on delivering in the restaurant, giving them great experience and helping their future careers,” he said.
Mr Ali, a chef by trade, also owns the Spice Guru restaurant in Watlington, while head chef and partner Arzoo Miah runs the Arzoo restaurant in Bicester, and was the first winner of the UK Indian Chef Competition last year.
Student reactions to news of the changeover has been mixed. One second year student from Exeter College welcomed the promised improvements, saying, “We have had some problems with Jamal’s, especially when it came to paying the bill at the end.”
He added, “I hope that Arzoo can improve on that aspect, and obviously on the health and safety standards too.”
One online commenter expressed his frustration at the new addition, posting, “Just what we need! ANOTHER Indian restaurant to add to Oxford’s 37 other outlets. Honestly.”
However, members of the notorious LMH dining society MMM were somewhat more optimistic, saying, “Jamal’s was great while it lasted, but after the mice incident, we never really trusted them. To be honest, we didn’t really trust them before that, but it was home to many a good night. We hope to continue our streak of infamy in Arzoo, and welcome any potential suitors.”
When approached for comment on the changes to students’ dining experiences, Mr Ali told Cherwell, “It will stay exactly the same.”