Serena Williams visits Eastbourne’s best restaurant, according to Tripadvisor

Tennis superstar Serena Williams visited an Eastbourne restaurant last night.

The 23-time Grand Slam singles champion is playing at Eastbourne’s international tennis tournament which runs from today (June 18) until June 25.

Last night (Friday, June 17) Williams paid a visit to Malayalam in Terminus Road – a restaurant which is number one in the Tripadvisor rankings.

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A spokesperson for Malayalam said on Facebook, “Guess who showed up and made our busy evening so cool? Serena Williams WOAH, such a great tennis weekend surprise!!

Serena Williams with the team at Malayalam, Eastbourne

“Thanks a lot for taking your time off and visiting our little place. Glad that you enjoyed our Kerala cuisine, fully sustainable menu and hospitality.

“We all are here twirling with excitement , how many times we had seen and enjoyed your matches and today we saw you coming into our restaurant, having little conversations and on top of it we served you one of our most demanding seafood specialities – ‘the fish in banana leaves’!!!

“Over the moon.”

Behind the scenes at Malayalam

The restaurant is owned by family friends Sajith Philip Kottappallil and Sneha Xavier.

Sajith and Sneha duo moved to Eastbourne in 2019 and set up the restaurant in June 2020.

Sneha said after they finished their engineering studies in the UK the regular nine to five job didn’t suit them.

She said, “We wanted to do something different. We were sure that if we could showcase the food from Kerala to the English people, it would be a hit as it’s so different.”

Kerala is a state on India’s tropical Malabar Coast and has nearly 600km of Arabian Sea shoreline. The state is known for its palm-lined beaches and network of canals.

Sneha said, “It had always been a dream to open our own restaurant, so when we researched the market and found that there were no Indian restaurants offering authentic Kerala cuisine in East Sussex, we decided to open - here in Eastbourne.

“Our cuisine, culture, traditions, and languages are very different from the other states in India.

“As a reader when I say South Indian restaurant what comes to your mind? The usual cuisine like tikka masala, balti, korma, naans etc. We don’t have any of this. We only serve Kerala cuisine which consists of dosa, kerala parathas, seafood specialities, variety of vegan options and gluten free dishes.

“Some of the customer favourites are fish wrapped in banana leaves– people love this dish and it’s been very popular ever since we opened the restaurant, pepper chicken curry with Kerala parathas, lamb and spinach curry, dosas and aubergines and tomato curry.”

Malayalam is often number one in the Tripadvisor rankings for restaurants in Eastbourne.

The duo said they feel ‘utter gratefulness’ for this success and thanked locals for help in and out of lockdowns.

Sneha said, “We were offering deliveries and takeaways through the various lockdowns, which really helped us because it allowed our customers to get to know our food, and in turn they gave us good reviews in our most difficult times.

“We are now delighted to be number one among Indian restaurants in the whole of East Sussex and No 1 restaurant in Eastbourne according to Tripadvisor. We are very grateful, and we still have the same people coming to us who are now regulars – their word of mouth really mattered, and it helped us survive through the lockdowns.

“It was challenging period for us but our sheer passion to open up a first authentic Kerala cuisine and our non-stop hard work along with our staff has paid off.

"With limited marketing space, we tried our best to reach Eastbourne locals. As a new restaurant opened in a middle of pandemic we faced massive struggles to be in the market especially in terms of introducing a different Indian cuisine, speaking about it while wearing masks, caring social distancing, serving food etc.

"We can’t imagine how hard it was but here we are on top on Tripadvisor which in turn is a great achievement for us."