The man who ate Lincoln Rd collected the entire set of food joints in the block of shops opposite the hospital on Lincoln Rd when I called in for lunch on Wednesday at Chapati Indian Restaurant. I've eaten there before and really enjoyed it. It's a classy sort of place, done out in various shades of scarlet, with brass elephants and tear-drop chandeliers. The menu includes a lot of goat.
Lunch was $12.95 for all mains except fish. I think that's a little on the steep side. I have an unshakeable conviction that every New Zealander has the right to eat a hot curry lunch for $10, including naan bread. It started becoming standard practise in Auckland a good 10, 15 years ago and has done much to make life in this city just that little nicer.
In any case, I ordered lentils with beef, and it was delicious. When I finished mopping up the green sauce with naan, I had a chat with Chapati manager Mohan Kumar, 25. There is a lot of high-quality restaurant management on Lincoln Rd - Steve Mason at Pita Pit and Saten Sharma at The Coffee Club run their businesses so smoothly that they could probably run the government just as well, plus they'd feed people - and I count Mohan in their class.
He's from a small village of maybe 2000 people in Punjab state. His dad ran a hardware store, but died when Mohan was 12; his uncle took over the shop. Mohan came to Auckland in 2009. He studied business management, and worked as a door to door salesman - he was one of those guys who show up to try and persuade you to change your energy supplier.
"I was kind of a shy guy when I arrived, but I learned how to talk to people doing that job," he said. He also studied customer behaviour. "You do a little dance," he said. "When they move, you move the same way."
I usually loathe the wandering squadrons of energy supplier salesmen but I could easily imagine falling for Mohan's charm and patter. I said, "Were you a good salesman?" He gave a shy laugh, and said, "Oh, I was alright." In a good week, he made 12-15 sales.
These days he manages Chapati and works about 30 hours a week. We talked about the 52 other good joints on Lincoln Rd. His favourite coffee is the caramel latte at Dunkin Donuts, and his favourite meal outside Chapati is a burger with fries at Nandos. His favourite meal inside Chapati? The medium-hot chicken kadhai. "I eat it two or three times a week," he said, beaming with happiness. "At least."
He flats around the corner on Swanson Rd. He's learning to swim at the Tepid Baths, and trying to save towards buying his own business. His wants to open a takeaway. His target is $70-80,000.
I really hope he gets there. He's talented and bright, a hell of a nice guy, very laidback, very personable, and his head is screwed on. I had the feeling he could sell just about anything. He can. He mentioned in passing: "I also used to sell subscriptions to the Herald."
Top man. Good restaurant. Rating: 8/10.