20 years
in darlinghurst

September 2003

In September 2003, amidst the chill of spring, I embarked on the journey of bringing Malabar to life with the dream of establishing it as a renowned dining destination.

On that inaugural night, with just four customers in attendance, it was a humble operation with only myself and a solitary waiter handling everything from food preparation to cooking, washing, and serving – a testament to the passion that fuelled our beginnings. 

From a tiny 70 seater with a staff of two in 2003 (including myself) to 140 seats and 30 staff in 2023

As we celebrate the milestone of two decades in 2023, we reflect on a journey of culinary passion and community connection.

The First Year
One decade
Two decades
Malabar Interior 2005 1 copy
This is the 'old' location circa 2005.
Malabar in 2012
This is the 'old' location circa 2012.

In 2014, Malabar moved location and expanded to 100 seats

It represented a milestone as I finally could design a culinary workspace perfectly attuned to the actual needs of our menu. With a clean slate and a vision in mind, every aspect of the kitchen was meticulously planned and executed. No expenses were spared in elevating the quality of the culinary environment, from premium-grade appliances to top-notch fittings. Notably, the upgrade extended to the now-renowned wine glasses, a testament to our commitment to excellence in every detail.

Malabar 2014
This is the 'new' corner location in 2014

Then in 2023, we knocked a wall down and made it 140 seats

Forward to 2023, the opportunity to knock down the wall in our current location was truly momentous. It not only expanded our physical space but also symbolized a transformative step forward for Malabar. Breaking down barriers, both literally and figuratively, has allowed us to create a more open and inviting atmosphere, fostering a sense of togetherness that perfectly complements the warmth of our Indian cuisine.

During the "wall knockdown" phase we had a fake wall to enable us operate throughout the reno, it became a 20 meter community drawing board.
New Malabar
The New Malabar in 2023

Behind the scenes of Malabar’s journey, there have been moments that were anything but smooth sailing. Picture this: the tandoor, an essential component of our culinary magic, choosing a Saturday night in the midst of service to break down. Then there was the infamous grease trap that decided to throw in the towel on a Saturday, adding an unexpected twist to our weekend plans. Indeed, it seems that in the world of commercial kitchens, equipment failures have an uncanny knack for timing their dramatic entrances for the busiest moments. It’s a curious phenomenon – nothing ever seems to break on a serene Monday morning at 10 am. And if by some stroke of luck, we manage to fix one thing, you can almost guarantee that another issue will rear its head within minutes. Even when its brand new.

Yet amidst these challenges, we’ve learned to navigate the turbulent waters, often finding humor and camaraderie in the chaos. But let’s be honest, when you’re faced with a relentless deluge of 500 liters of water per minute, it’s very hard to see the humour in the situation. We will forever be grateful to the fire station across the road…

Nevertheless, these trials are but mere blips on the radar of our larger journey, serving as reminders of the resilience and determination that have propelled us forward.

Our customers are at the core of everything we do. Your feedback, insights, and needs have been integral in shaping every single change we’ve made. From the smallest tweak to the boldest innovation, our customers’ voices resonate throughout our restaurant, driving us to constantly evolve and improve. You inspire us to push boundaries, challenge conventions, and exceed expectations. In essence, our customers aren’t just part of the journey; they’re the very reason for it.

To each and every one of you who have walked through our doors, shared your ideas, sampled our dishes, and graciously offered feedback, we extend our heartfelt appreciation. For you who are yet to visit us, or is just starting “to get to know us”, please don’t be shy to share your ideas and feedback, it is what makes us propel forward!

Your loyalty and engagement have been the cornerstone of Malabar’s success, inspiring us to continually innovate and refine our offerings. We are immensely grateful for the invaluable insights you’ve shared – from recommending exquisite wines to suggesting enhancements to our menu and ambiance. Your willingness to challenge us to do better has been instrumental in our journey of growth and improvement.

At Malabar, we consider ourselves fortunate to have a community of discerning diners who are not only passionate about great food but also deeply invested in the ongoing affairs of our restaurant. Your support has been the driving force behind our commitment to excellence, and for that, we extend our sincerest thanks.

So... where are we going?

As we reflect on the remarkable journey of the past 20 years, it’s only natural to wonder, “Where are we going?” Rest assured, our destination is guided by the same unwavering commitment to excellence and passion for culinary innovation that has defined Malabar since its inception.

With your continued support and invaluable feedback, we are excited to embark on the next chapter of our culinary adventure. Together, let us explore new flavors, create lasting memories, and embrace the endless possibilities that lie ahead.

As we look forward to the future with anticipation and enthusiasm, we invite you to join us on this exciting journey. Here’s to many more years of culinary excellence and cherished moments at Malabar!

Lastly, being responsive to feedback has  always been the cornerstone to my way of operating this restaurant. If there is something you think is missing, or could be done  differently, please let me know. My email: mohammed@malabarcuisine.com.au

Thank you for being an integral part of the Malabar Darlinghurst family. Your patronage is the cornerstone of our success, and we look forward to many more years of sharing delicious meals and creating cherished memories together.

Tastefully Yours,
Chef and Owner Mohammed Sali

Chef Mohammed Sali