Golden Rickshaw: Family's fond memories as Baldock's oldest restaurant prepares to close
PUBLISHED: 18:01 12 November 2017
The year 1969 may be synonymous with the first moon landing and US music festival Woodstock, but it also provided a moment in history for Baldock - the opening of the town's first dedicated restaurant.
The Golden Rickshaw was a self-proclaimed “do it yourself job” as current joint-owner Walli Mar, dad Joe and his two brothers did all the work in just three weeks – and the Chinese restaurant has been a permanent fixture in Baldock ever since.
But, after almost 50 years in business, the restaurant is set to close its doors for good at the beginning of December.
Reporter Georgia Barrow paid a visit to the Chinese – based in Whitehorse Street – as the Mar family reflect on their time and prepare to say goodbye.
Hearing about Walli, it is clear the restaurant has become a labour of love for him since starting out as the front of house manager. His personal approach has helped him build a special rapport with customers, some of who have nicknamed the place Walli’s.
It was in the mid ’80s when him and his wife Cheryl took on the entirety of the business, that Walli also took on his dream role of head chef.
The couple’s daughter Christina told the Comet: “His passion is cooking. He does it mostly on his own, nobody else touches the food.
“The dish that most people ask for is my dad’s special ribs – he’s definitely known for his ribs. Sometimes people have asked for our recipes but we will be taking them with us.
“The best part for him is when he sees his customers having a good time and enjoying his food, that makes him so happy.
“We will particularly miss our Chinese New Year celebrations. It’s one of the things we do that people remember the most. My dad cooks a special banquet and people would always be looking forward to it as a bit of a pick me up after Christmas and New Year ends.”
Christina – along with her sister Elizabeth and brother Andrew – have all worked at the restaurant on and off over the years.
“We’ve all grown up here, even my daughter, Serena, who is two,” Christina added.
“This was her first restaurant experience and she treats this place like her home. She knows how to behave in a restaurant and even tries to serve people!
“It will definitely leave a hole in the town – it’s become part of so many peoples lives – but my dad feels it’s just time now to retire.”
When Walli and Cheryl took over the business as joint owners, Cheryl became front of house manager and now describes her regular customers as more like friends.
She said: “This has been my life through the years – I’ve not known anything else. For 35 years I have been here serving the public. It’s like a second home and a lot of long-standing customers have become close friends.
“A lot of them are quite upset about the closing down of the business, and have said they can’t believe it.
“I’m always looking forward to seeing people, especially since we hold so many celebratory meals here and we have been able to be a part of it.
“It was always so nice to see families from generation to generation come in and enjoy our food.”
Long-standing customer and friend Martin Roberts and his wife Angela have been eating at the Golden Rickshaw for 30 years. Martin said: “We’re disappointed that it’s closing. We’ve has most of our family parties there and we’re always well looked after. We’ve developed a friendship with all the family. My three year old grandson enjoys going with us for meals and has even helped serve desserts.
“We remember the first time we went 30 years ago when the restaurant was upstairs. We will miss it when it’s gone, there’s no where else that does barbecue ribs like they do. My 85-year-old father always goes every week to get his takeaway so he will be lost without them.
“We wish them well in whatever they decide to do in the future.”
Asked for the secret to the Golden Rickshaw’s success, Cheryl said: “There are so many restaurants around, but you don’t always get that connection because it’s part of a chain. It’s bespoke here so for a lot of people it would be the obvious choice to have their birthday or anniversary celebrations here because they remember it and come back.
“We’re now just looking forward to having time for ourselves and for the family.”
Cheryl and Walli want to pay tribute to their loyal staff, who have also become more like friends – particularly Sam and Lydia who work in the kitchen.
Cheryl added: “It’s going to be really hard to say goodbye to the Golden Rickshaw, but it’s not like we’re closing on a bad note – we are going out on a high.
“We just want to say thank you to all the customers, staff, friends and family for all of their loyalty and valued custom over the years. We will miss you.”
An official closing date has not yet been set, but customers are expected to say their final farewells to the Golden Rickshaw in early December – with a new restaurant filling what will be a very big void.