A south Asian restaurant has opened in the building of a former Halifax bank with the owner's promise it is "here to stay".

GOAT opened its doors in Station Road, Upminster, last Wednesday (July 3) its manager Iftakar Hussain confirmed.

The premises was formerly a Halifax branch and converting it into a restaurant was a "long and challenging" process, according to Iftakar.

Iftakar said they had tried to open the business before Christmas but "collective delays", including structural issues, had pushed that back more than half-a-year.

Despite problems opening, the 42-year-old was adamant that GOAT, which stands for Greatest of All Taste, will be in Upminster long-term.

"It's our restaurant," Iftakar said. "We're personally invested and we hope to be very successful, and to be part and parcel of Upminster's history.

"We're here to stay," he added.

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Iftakar, who runs GOAT with business partner Russel Ahmed, 46, of Gidea Park, has taken on 11 people but is still recruiting baristas and front of house staff.

L-R: Iftakar Hussain and Russel AhmedL-R: Iftakar Hussain and Russel Ahmed (Image: Iftakar Hussain) GOAT is open from 5pm until 10pm Sunday to Thursday, and from 5pm till 10.30pm on Friday and Saturday.

The restaurant manager, who has lived in Hornchurch since 2018 after moving from Stoke-on-Trent, said he chose the former bank for its high street location.

"We needed a building that offered us access to a busy high street," he said. "[And] I absolutely love Hornchurch and the Upminster area."

GOAT serves food with influences from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal and has a ramp for wheelchair users.

South Asian food at GOATSouth Asian food at GOAT (Image: Iftakar Hussain)
Iftakar said he signed the building's lease in June 2023 and works began in September that year.​

It took ten months to complete which was outside his expectations to finish by December 2023.

"Like many projects, there are issues that we anticipated and ones that came as a surprise," Iftakar added, referencing the difficulty in taking down the former bank's reinforced walls.

But the restaurant is now open for business and Iftakar has invited people to come by.

“I think the restaurant is a beautiful addition to what I feel is required in the Upminster area," he added.