August 10 2018
Neighbourhood Profile: Maneli Nourbakhsh and Azar Najarpoor from Bambo Cafe
Written by Gastown Admin
(daughter and mother pictured above: Maneli and Azar)
Name: Azar Najarpoor
Name: Maneli Nourbakhsh
Title: Communications Manager
Organization/Business: Bambo Café
What do you do and how did you get here?
Azar: Jeff is my husband, and it was his idea to come to Vancouver to open a restaurant in the late 90’s. We originally operated a restaurant in Madrid, then in 1984, moved to Toronto, and in 1995, settled in North Van, opening a restaurant on the North Shore. A few years later, we felt drawn to open a business in Vancouver, and started exploring the city with this intention. I remember my first time visiting Gastown. It was nighttime, and when I saw this location right on the northwest corner of Cambie and West Cordova, I knew it was for us. Cordova, east of Cambie was underdeveloped but as the years passed, and when the Olympics came to town, things changed and Gastown became popular. It’s funny how life just unfolds despite one’s plans; I used to be an accountant in Iran and now I’m chef in Gastown!
Maneli: I help Azar and Jeff with communications for the café and sometimes help around the kitchen. Growing up, I remember all my friends wanted to come to our house to eat. She was the cook for everybody all the time. I can’t tell you how many people have said that your mom is my mom away from home. I used to teach fashion design and I had a few students who were isolating Goths or some who were particularly moody and introverted, and when they discovered that it was my parents who owned Bambo Café, they became super friendly, telling me how much they loved my mom and her cooking.
How did the name come about?
Azar: Jeff is a music lover and Bambo is the name of popular song that originates in the South of Iran. It is a very old and happy song and is well known throughout Iran.
If you had 15 minutes to spend in Gastown, how would you spend it?
Azar: I’d spend it walking up and down Water Street. I love my strolls along Water, especially during the summer. It’s such a beautiful street, always alive with character and personality.
What do you love about Gastown?
Azar: It’s the people. The people make the neighbourhood, and our Gastown community is friendly and helpful to each other. I also love the buildings and how the heritage of Gastown is respected and preserved. I love the building that we are in with its corner location and high ceilings. And I love cooking! This was all Jeff’s idea and I had no idea how to run a restaurant. Today, I’m a better chef than he is!
Can you remember a particularly happy moment or experience here in Gastown?
Azar: I can’t think of anything right now but I’m sure I will.
Maneli: She always tells me about her old customers – the ones that are no longer in the neighbourhood and are now married and have kids. She tells me about how they often return to Bambo Café to introduce their children to her and stay to have something to eat. She also tells me about the many tourists that have come to Gastown, ate at Bambo and then years later, come visit us again. She loves her customers, both near and far.
Anything coming up for Bambo we should know about?
Maneli: The café will be undergo a big renovation in the coming months. Next year, we celebrate Bambo’s 20 years in Gastown at this same location.
What’s your philosophy for a good life?
Azar: Be a good person, make good food, and surround yourself with good people.