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First Floor Restaurant prepares for Cowley Road Carnival (From Oxford Mail)

FIRST FLOOR STREET FOOD FEASTS FOR CARNIVAL DAY by Sarah Airey

Cowley Road Carnival means many things – music, drama, dance, colour, community, atmosphere, procession, laughter, fun, new things to see, exciting things to do – and food. Without doubt, the Cowley Road is the go-to destination for food in Oxford. You could eat out every day for a year and still find something new to try from the delis and restaurants serving up dishes from all round the world. A gastronomic trip down the Cowley Road is always interesting and delicious and when better than Carnival Day to do just that.

This year Carnival is on July 2 and most of the restaurants will have stalls outside with the most tempting street food. Abdul Shorkar at the First Floor is busy planning the menu for this year. The restaurant always prepares a delicious selection of street food for Carnival Day while the restaurant which is, as the name suggests on the first floor (of 158 Cowley Road) is the perfect point for viewing the procession from above and to end the day with a meal after the festivities.

One thing is sure, the First Floor chefs will be working flat out to cook up a mountain of chicken wings to keep up with demand on the day with the kitchen working flat out. Abdul says: “The First Floor will be holding a stall outside the front entrance of the restaurant. Look out for our famous First Floor Chicken Wings and other favourites on the day.” The chicken wings are prepared using a special and secret recipe which Abdul couldn’t be persuaded into divulging. Instead we have his recipe for pakoras.

The restaurant was founded by Abdul together with his wife Lisa, he says: “We began our journey in the heart of colourful East Oxford in 2008, with the opening of our Pan-Asian Buffet. We provide a unique, fun-filled experience with a variety of freshly cooked food. We have specially trained chefs, all of whom have mastered specific cuisines to ensure an authentic taste from India, China, Thailand and Europe. All our food is fresh and locally sourced. Our international chefs use fresh, authentic ingredients, herbs and spices so that every dish offers a true flavour of its country of origin.” As well as the buffet diners can have a la carte and table service.

Popular with locals, the First Floor also attracts tourists and bookings direct from abroad. Abdul says: “We are obviously doing things right if the people come from the countries local to the dishes we are serving and go away happy.” Recently the restaurant served the famous Pakistani musician Ustad Rahat Fateh Ali Khan (he regularly sells out arena tours in the UK, USA, Middle East and India) when he performed at the Sheldonian in May.

Abdul is very interested in nutrition and healthy eating. “We have recently been commissioned to work with the Saudi Arabian Taekwondo Olympic Team to provide a nutritional daily meal. Working with a nutritionist, we have to maintain the individual dietary requirements for each member of the team and adhere to the Olympic Committee Rules”

The meals are delivered daily, prepared to provide the team with the best- balanced diet for performance and the strict training regime. The eight members of the team are each given meals with food measured to the gram and cooked to meet individual requirements.

Abdul is a very keen supporter of the community: “We are very privileged to be located here in East Oxford’s very diverse community with people from all over the world. That is what is so wonderful about the Cowley Road.”

“We are very proud to be part of the Cowley Road Carnival. We have been involved for many years now and it is something we will continue to support. It is a wonderful opportunity for us to not just show what we are about but also to engage with the locals”

With an extra hour of festivities – Carnival starts at 11am this year – it is good to know that there is more time to for eating. Find out more about what’s on where on Carnival Day at www.cowleyroadcarnival.co.uk

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