Four years ago, Mark Wright’s taste buds were awakened during a six-week trip to India.
The experience was so monumental that he came home, quit his job in advertising and set up a business serving Indian street food.
Today Rola Wala employs over 40 staff and serves customers in Spitalfields, Leeds and Oxford. It's the latest business to offer a discount to members of the Local Buyers Club (20% off food, info here).
Mark, 35, said: “Before I went travelling I wasn’t such an adventurous eater – I didn’t even eat onions or mushrooms. When I came back I wanted to know how they made such amazing food. So, I locked myself at home for a couple of months and learnt to cook.
“I didn’t know I wanted to go into the restaurant business, but I heard about a big street market Southbank Alchemy and thought I’d give it a go.
“Around 50 different Indian restaurants were there selling their food – I felt completely out of my depth selling my Indian rolls. But by the end of the day I had sold out. I started selling in other markets.
“At first I didn’t tell my family or friends what I was doing – I was embarrassed. I’d gone from an office job to serving food at an East End market in Hoxton. But I quickly realised I’m not the office type and came out and started telling people about my big idea and they all said: “that’s really cool.”
Over the years Mark, together with his business partner Danny Vilela and Mark Christophers, has fine-tuned the recipes of his Indian rolls, which he’s made as healthy as possible. They’ve created their own sourdough naan bread and offer fillings such as Chicken Tikka, Red Dahl (with beetroot and spices), served with pickles, herbs and salad. Each wrap is under 500 calories.
He added: “We aim to get all the flavours in one bite – spicy, salty, sweet, sour, bitter and umami.” Rola Wala means ‘the man that rolls’ in Hindi.
In 2014 an opportunity came up in the Trinity shopping centre in Leeds to open a street food stall for a month – it went well and five months later they were invited back for good.
Rola Wala was ranked among London’s Top 20 Street Foods by Time Out and crowned a Street Food that will Change your Life by Buzz Feed.
Mark comes from Perth but has spent much of his adult life living in Stoke Newington and now lives in Clapton.
The business has a strong charitable ethos, having partnered up with One Feeds Two, Rola Wala’s charitable giving has funded 150,000 school meals for children living in poverty.
What is the Local Buyers Club?
We're on a mission to help you discover and support the best local and independent businesses.
We've negotiated discounts for our members at dozens of fantastic restaurants, shops, bars and businesses throughout North and East London. We help promote them and raise awareness of the advantages of shopping locally. We also organise and support community initiatives.
Join Local Buyers Club and, for just £12 per year, you'll be helping to support local business and you'll receive a discount card to use at any of the 100+ businesses listed on the site.
Find out how it works and join the club