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Chef banks on Bermudian flavours at North Shore eatery

Leap of faith: Curtis Azhar, a veteran chef, is the owner of Royal Flames, a waterfront restaurant on North Shore Road, Devonshire, that he expects to open later this month (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Royal Flames is a leap of faith for Curtis Azhar, a trained chef who is banking on local support of his newly opened island-style restaurant on North Shore.

Added to that he has the pressure of following in the footsteps of his “Aunt Jenny” Seymour, who operated the Devonshire eatery as Flame until her death in 2022. At the moment however, he’s taking it all in his stride.

The waterside restaurant offers spectacular views from its patio however the chef hopes that the menu and its “Bermudian flavour” will become the star attraction.

“I'm really trying to emphasise Bermudian cuisine,” he said. “So that’s all your traditional sides – for example, when it’s in season, pawpaw casserole; scalloped potatoes, Spanish rice, peas and rice …. I’m gonna have Johnny bread.

“There’s Johnny bread tortilla wraps that I’m working on that I want to use with my fish sandwiches and my fishcakes and whatnot.”

Having his own business is something Mr Azhar has been working towards since the start of the pandemic.

He was hired by Spirit of Bermuda only a month before the purpose-built training tall ship was forced in to dock.

Desperate for a way to support himself and his ten-year-old daughter, he began offering meals to meet specific dietary needs.

About a year ago he returned to work on Spirit of Bermuda but the dream of having a business of his own remained.

“Things have really, really moved on [since the pandemic],” he said. “I thought I was actually going to see a place a couple of times before, but now I'm actually finally here.

“Somebody, a relative of mine, came and said, ‘Let's go. You’ve been doing this for a minute. What do you need to help you?’.

“For me, that was always my goal, my dream – to have my own place, to do my own thing, to make my mark in the industry.”

Mr Azhar got his start in the kitchen of Hamilton Princess & Beach Club. He then joined the Little Venice Group, which sent him to Italy for three months training; on his return he moved around in different restaurants the company owned.

He picked up more experience working for Bermuda Aviation Services and, at Agape House, learnt about cooking for people with specific dietary needs.

“I got back on Spirit of Bermuda probably in February, so just as we were starting to hear about Covid-19, and in March when Bermuda shut down, that was it,” he told The Royal Gazette in 2020.

Left to find his own way he was thrilled when “this opportunity was presented to me”. That he looked upon Mrs Seymour and her husband Gregory as extended family, made it all the more special.

“I feel a sense of obligation to Aunt Jenny,” he said. “I’m not trying to compete with what she created but I’m definitely hoping to do her spot proudly.”

Mr Azhar’s plan is to put in a floating dock so people can access the restaurant by boat. He also intends to put the menu on Sargasso so people can enjoy it even if they can’t make the drive to Devonshire.

With an island theme, music is a must in his opinion. The restaurateur intends to have live entertainment every Friday.

“And at least once or twice a month I want to put on different brunches, different themed events or whatnot to try and make it [interesting],” he said.

The restaurant seats about 15 customers but has the capacity to accommodate roughly 35 if the demand is there.

His hope is that his daughter, Royal, who is now a teenager, will join him in the kitchen this summer. The idea is to turn Royal Flames into the place for visitors and locals looking for food you would find in a typical Bermudian household or on an island in the Caribbean.

Mr Azhar believes it’s an untouched market here.

“You can probably find places that have pieces but no you won't find a place that is fully dedicated to the Bermudian experience,” he said.

“They won’t necessarily be all Bermudian dishes. For example, we have our fishcakes and I know Jamaican and West Indians, they’ve got a totally different take on it. I might offer something like that.”

One of the dishes he is most excited about is his Johnny Bread bread pudding.

“That’s the one I would love to make one of my staple dishes. Another one that I'm trying out, I'm planning on adding jerk chicken garlic bread.

“I also want to do a Bermudian take on Mexican street corn with probably a spicy cheese and, when it’s in season, I plan on having a loquat vinaigrette or a loquat chutney. I’m actually working on a hibiscus vinaigrette right now,” Mr Azhar said.

“But basically I want on my menu all these different little things that kind of bring it back to Bermuda. I'm just grateful for the opportunity.

“I’m constantly growing and just looking forward to presenting my product to the island.”

Royal Flames is expected to open this month. For reservations: 292-0348

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Published June 10, 2024 at 8:00 am (Updated June 11, 2024 at 8:03 am)

Chef banks on Bermudian flavours at North Shore eatery

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