Muhib restaurant opened in 1989 on the site of the former Sylheti-owned Uzala Café. Severely damaged by a fire, Muhib reopened in 1992 under the new ownership of two brothers-in-law.
One was an experienced chef while the other had come to the UK in 1973 at the age of 10 with his mother and siblings, in the aftermath of Bangladesh’s war of independence. Subsequently, he went on to own a leather factory on the three floors above Musa Patel’s ‘Indian’ sweet shop, Sweetmart, at 118 Brick Lane.
Having witnessed a marked decline in the profitability of the clothing sector, he thought that establishing a restaurant in Brick Lane offered an alternative means of making a living. Because of a longstanding interest in politics, however, he left the business in 1994, and in the same year was elected as a local councillor. Muhib continued under the remaining partner’s control until a decade or so ago when it was sold to another Bangladeshi partnership.
Muhib’s current assistant manager arrived in the UK at the age of six, as part of his family’s reunification. Having left school at the age of 16, he initially found work in the kitchen of a Brick Lane restaurant. He then worked as the head chef in several Bangladeshi-owned ‘Indian’ restaurants in Berkshire, Essex, Kent and Surrey. Thereafter he returned to Spitalfields, where he grew up, and started working at Muhib.
The restaurant is open every day, except Christmas Day. Kitchen and waiting staff are all British-born Bangladeshis, who work a shift system. All staff members live in either Tower Hamlets or Newham.
Customers tend to be a mixture of City workers, foreign tourists and local students. Most customers are in the 35-44 and 45+ age ranges and tend to include equal numbers of men and women. The most popular dish at Muhib is chicken tikka masala.