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Sunday, 16 November 2014

Fancy something a bit spicy for breakfast?

Try Kedgeree ...

If you’re looking for an unusual weekend breakfast dish as an alternative to the ubiquitous bacon and eggs, kedgeree is the ultimate comfort food. 

The dish originated in India in the days of the British Raj and was brought to the UK by returning colonials who wanted to replicate the spicy dishes they had enjoyed on the subcontinent. 

Kedgeree reached its height of popularity in Victorian times when the dish was served at breakfast. The anglicised version traditionally involves smoked haddock but the original recipe is thought to date back to the fourteenth century when lentils and rice and (sometimes) fish were combined to make a dish known as Khichri.  This was also served at breakfast as a thrifty way of using up leftovers from the night before, accompanied by a spiced yoghurt drink.

The British version of Kedgeree can be eaten hot or cold and is deelicious …!!

Recipe for Kedgeree 

Serves Four


  • One medium red onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Two tomatoes
  • 3 eggs
  • 700gm undyed smoked haddock
  • 200gm basmati rice
  • Generous knob of butter (or ghee)
  • Handful of chopped chives
  • 2tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 2 heaped tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tbsp English mustard
  • 1 fresh red chilli
  • 1 pot sour cream 
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Fresh coriander
  • Salt and black pepper


  • Boil the eggs till hard boiled, peel and quarter.
  • Put fish and bay leaves into a pan with enough water to cover.
  • Bring to boil, cover and simmer for five minutes until cooked through.
  • Remove from pan, reserve water and remove skin (and bones if any).
  • Flake into chunks and set aside.
  • Melt butter in pan.
  • Stir in ginger, onion, garlic and curry powder.
  • Add chopped tomatoes and cook for a while.
  • Stir in rice (adding more butter if required)
  • Add reserved water, bring to boil and simmer until rice is tender (about 15mins).
  • When liquid has been absorbed, stir in mustard, flaked fish and lemon juice and allow to gently heat through.
  • Season to taste.
  • Add eggs, coriander and chilli and gently stir.
  • Sprinkle with chives and place in a warm serving dish.

Mix coriander into the soured cream and serve with kedgeree.

Serve with spiced yoghurt drink (optional).

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Dazzling Curry Life Chef Awards 2014

As we suspected, the Curry Life Chef Awards 2014 was a dazzling occasion!

On Sunday, 19th October 2014, the ballroom of LancasterLondon Hotel was buzzing with excitement as a colourful melee of glamorous guests, immaculate chefs, managers and restaurateurs gathered for Curry Life’s most impressive awards ceremony to date. The evening was also attended by international chefs, MPs by the dozen, dignitaries and inspirational figures from the curry industry, with over 700 guests in total. Madhu's caterers provided a banquet fit for gourmets.

The presenter was Cathy Newman,

influential journalist and broadcaster and a familiar figure on Channel 4 news. But of course, the heroes of the night were the chefs themselves – this year over 40 were recognised for their fantastic contribution to the Indian restaurant scene. Each was invited onto the stage to receive their awards accompanied by families and friends, while the audience had the chance to see them at work in their respective restaurants on the large screen video presentation.

As well as the Curry Life Chef Awards there were the special honours for exceptional work in the curry industry, including a Lifetime Achievement Award presented to Mohammed Tayyab of Tayyabs restaurant in Fieldgate Street. Mr Tayyab who came to the UK from Pakistan in 1964 to work in the garment industry, became renowned for his delicious Punjabi curries. Tayyabs is now celebrated across the whole of London and recently beat the French chef Raymond Blanc to the position of number 8 in the Zagat restaurant guide.

Special awards also went out to chef Utpal Mondal, Corporate Chef of HHI Group of Hotels and international chef Lars Windfuhr, Executive Chef of Park Hyatt, Hyderabad. The European Chef of the Year Award was received by chef Karim Razaul of Indian Garden in Stockholm.

Speeches from VIP guests included quotes from Winston Churchill and Mahatma Gandhi.

Chief Guest, Minister for Employment, the Rt Hon Esther McVey said the Awards combined some of her greatest passions of business and enterprise, family life, “authenticity and staying true to your roots”. “But one of my greatest passions is food, and in particular curry,” she continued, getting a loud cheer when she told of how she had spent the summer perfecting her cooking of Rogan Josh. The Minister went on to praise the SMEs which provided employment for millions in Britain, largely through the “grit and determination” of people like the guests in the room. She assured chefs and restaurant owners of the government’s continuing support through measures such as apprenticeships.

Samsun Sohail of Cobra Beer invoked a famous quote from Winston Churchill: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Mr Sohail said: “This is true of this industry – each and everybody here is an example of what he says – we have immigration problems, VAT, not getting work permits, but our industry has accepted this and has said ‘we will shine more, we will accomplish more, we will succeed’.” This meant greater revenue and more business for the country as a whole.

The CEO of Cobra Beer, Lord Karan Bilimoria speaking from Hyderabad thanked Curry Life magazine for what it was doing, not just in the magazine, but also in the chef awards and workshops, in Britain and abroad in India and Eastern Europe. “This continuing innovation is how businesses go from strength to strength,” he said.

He quoted his favourite saying of Mahatma Gandhi: “Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, your values become your destiny.”

“Looking back we have gone through a tough time in the restaurant industry but we have not only survived, we have succeeded because the industry has the confidence to believe in itself,” he continued.

Mohammad Azad of Cafe Saffron, Shrewsbury receives an award
Rushnara Ali, MP for Bethnall Green and Bow, was proud to see her constituent, win the Lifetime Achievement Award, encapsulating the story of her own father’s generation who came to the UK in the fifties, and worked in the catering industry. “People like Mr Tayyab, along with my father, helped to build a curry empire worth £4billion which has enabled people like me to become MPs,” she said.

The Right Honourable Keith Vaz, MP, was aggrieved to find no-one from Leicester amongst the winners but congratulated Curry Life on a very successful event. “You have more MPs here this evening than we have in the House of Commons for some debates,” he joked, adding it was because all MPs know how important the British-Bangladeshi community is in the UK.

Frank Dobson MP brought a message of support from leader of the Labour party Ed Miliband who was unable to attend. Mr Miliband said the curry industry in Britain had continued to prosper even in difficult times and curry had become a part of British life. “Tonight is the opportunity to recognise the contribution chefs and restaurants have made to the British economy and culture and that is something to be proud of.”

But Festival Organiser, Syed Nahas Pasha got the biggest cheer of the evening when he spoke out for the curry industry: “We hear nothing but cuts from this government, but when are they going to cut VAT for the restaurant industry?” he said to loud applause.

Festival Organisers Syed Belal Ahmed and Syed Nahas Pasha

Syed Jaglul Pasha, Syed Nahas Pasha (editor), Cllr Jehangir Haque

Zoe Renfrew with Chef Utpal Mondal, Corporate chef HHI

Congratulations to all award winners! 

(Further details and many more photos of the evening will be in the next edition of Curry Life magazine):

Chef Alexander Crum Ewing
Owner: Dr Kowsar Haque
The Indian Dining Club, 244 Gipsy Road, London  SE27 9RB

Chef Mushfiqur Rahman
Delhi 6 Restaurant
12a Burnett Road, Little Aston, Sutton Coldfield  B74 3EJ

Chef Sharif Ahmed
Manager: Kowsar Choudhury
Radhuni Restaurant, 88-2 Ocean Road, South Shields, Tyne and Wear  NE33 2JD

Chef Habibur Rahman
Manager: Topon Alam
Ballingdon Valley Indian Cuisine, 57 Ballingdon Street, Sudbury, Suffolk  CO10 2DA

Chef Misbah Al Islam
Manager: Jakir islam
Yuva, High Street, Debden, Saffron Walden, Essex  CBII 3LE

Chef Syeduz Zaman Kamran
Manager: Syed Ali
Ozmi Indian Restaurant, 43-49 Winwick Road, Warrington  WA2 7DH

Chef Jamal Uddin Ahmed
Manager: Jalal Uddin Ahmed
Shozna Restaurnt, 153 Maidstone Road, Rochester, Kent  ME1 1RR

Chef Abdul Alim
Owner: Abdul Mujib
Village Modern Indian Cooking, 16 Warley Hill, Brentwood, Essex  CM14 5HA

Chef Tohur Ali
Manager: Azad Miah
The Shah Jahan Indian Restaurant, 111-113 South Western Road, Salisbury  SP2 7RR

Chef Amruj Ali
Manager: Anwar Ali
Massala Lounge, 57-59 Huddersfield Road, Holmfirth, Huddersfield   HD9 3JH

Chef Atikur Rahman
Manager: Badal Miah
Paprika Indian Restaurant, 27 Nightingale Road, Hitchin, Hertfordshire   SG5 1QU

Chef Liton Ahmed
Owner: Shahedur Rahman
Blue India, 59 High Street, Crawley, West Sussex  RH10 1BQ

Chef Mohammed Miah
Manager: Karim Miah
Spice Club, 10 Eastover, Bridgwater, Somerset  TA6 5AB

Chef Jammal Uddin
Westwood East Bangladeshi Cuisine
Westwood House, Eleanor Street, Oldham  OL1 2NN

Chef Khalis Rahman
Banana Leaf Indian Cuisine
47 Bethel Road, Seven Oaks, Kent  TN13 3UE

Chef Suruk Miah
Master Chef Luton Limited
76a Hart Lane, Luton  LU2 0JG

Chef Muhamed Deen Jitu
Manager: Mikayeel Deen
Champagne Signature Restaurant, 10 Pomona Place, Hereford   HR4 0EF

Chef Nasihur Rahman
Owner:  Kamal Hussain
Shajahan Indian Restaurant, 62 High Street, Kingsthorpe, Northampton  NN2 6QE

Chef Abdus Sahid
Village Indiya, 29 Lodge Lane, Grays, Essex  RM17 5RY

Chef Boshiur Rahman
Manager: Kawsar Rahman
Monsoon Indian Cuisine, Northport, Wareham, Dorset   BH20 4AT

Chef Mohammed Mohi Uddin
Owner:  Mohammed Mizanur Rahman
Adnan’s Indian Restaurant, 137-139 Market Street Hyde, Cheshire  SK14 1HG

Chef Mohammad Azad
Manager:  Abdul Husen
Café Saffron, 25 Hill’s Lane, Shrewsbury  SY1 1QU

Chef Azizur Rahman
Owner: Moksud Miah
Delhi Divan, 18 Lower Gungate, Tamworth, Staffordshire   B79 7AL

Chef Abdul Malik
Manager: Dilwar Hussain
Raj of India, 16 Hall Grove, Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire   AL7 4PH

Chef Shohid Ahmed
Manager: Azad Miah
Shikara Indian Cuisine, 181 Whitley Road, Whitley Bay, Tyne & Wear  NE26 2DN

Chef Mohammed Anwar Hussain
Owner:  Abdul Malik
The Jaipur Spice, Busby Stoop Inn, Thirsk, North Yorkshire   Y07 4EQ

Chef Mohammed Ruhul Alm
Owner: Miah Monirul Alam
Kashmir Tandoori Restaurant, 20 Palace Street, Canterbury, Kent  CT1 2DZ

Chef Sundor Ali
Owner: Amir Hussain and Habibur Rahman
Rupali Restaurant, 335-337 Tile Hill Lane, Tile Hill, Coventry  CV4 9DU

Chef Shamin Ahmed
Owner:  Shamsu Miah
Gulshan Tandoori, 3 High Street, The Precinct, Broxbourne, Hertfordshire  EN10 7HY

Chef Juber Ahmed
Manager:  Anis Haque
Fetcham Tandoori, 248 Cobham Road, Fetcham, Surrey   KT22 9JF

Chef Misba Uddin Ahmed
Vujon Indian Restaurant
Unit 3B, Astle Park, High Street, West Bromwich  B70 8EN

Chef Abdul Hay
Manager: Haron Ahmed
iNaga Restaurant, 84 Croydon Road, Coney Hall,West Wickham  BR4 9HY

Curry Life would like to thank all sponsors of the event: Jaguar, Cobra Beer, Lebara, annecto uk, curries online, Pasco, M, travel life, Currylife Figovec, Goldstar Chefs, Chivas, Belu Cobra Foundation.

Also thanks to all our supporters: Samson Sohail, Nobab Uddin, Amin Ali of Red Fort, Pegasus Textiles, Amirul Chowdhury, Musleh Uddin Ahmed, Biren Parikh, Preet Singh, Golam Faruque, Allam S. Ullah, Abul Monsur Jewel, Muhibur Rahman, Amjad Sahel, Mohammed Azad Hussain, Molay Chandan Shaha

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

The Great Curry Taste Off!

Can a readymade supermarket curry really compete with one bought from an Indian takeaway?

According to a report from consumer analyst NPD group, Indian restaurants and takeaways are facing hot competition from the supermarkets. Apparently, ethnic restaurants have suffered a decline of 123 million visits over three years. Meanwhile supermarket sales of readymade Indian curries have soared.

But can a supermarket product really compare with the recipes, processes and spice blends used in an Indian restaurant?

Curry Life decided to find out.  We invited 20 ‘judges’ comprising chefs, caterers, restaurant critics, cookery writers, supermarket employees and a few curryholics to exercise their taste buds in an exclusive Curry Taste Off!

The aim was to sample, compare and judge ten different versions of Britain’s favourite Chicken Tikka Masala and (less favourite) dish of vegetable curry. Eight dishes were from the major supermarkets and two from the typical Indian takeaway down the road. All tasting was anonymous and tasters had no idea which curry came from where.  And after some serious slurping, concentrated chewing and inward digesting, we got some very interesting feedback. Here are the judges’ comments (in no particular order), with the final rankings revealed at the end …

  • Waitrose Chicken Tikka Masala and Rice  £3.89  400g  SCORE:  75

Supermarket description: A rich tandoori spiced cream and tomato sauce served with pilau rice.

Chicken content: Diced chicken breast 14% (rice was 13%).

The verdict: Our tasters were united in liking the creamy flavour, although the curry was generally judged to be a bit on the bland side. Cumin and cardamom spices were discerned. Comments included: “The meat is very smooth but a bit dry.” “Nice level of spice.” “Creamy and pale - possibly too pale to be authentic.” “Good spicy aftertaste.” “Chicken seems a bit processed but the sauce is lovely!” “Very nice - creamy and tomatoey, but not full of flavour.” “I can taste spices but it’s more like a Korma.” “Chewed on a cardamom pod!” wailed one taster, whilst another got a strong taste of cashew nuts.

Chef’s comment: “Bland to start with, then a nice hint of spice. Well balanced flavours. Chicken a bit soggy – probably cheap chicken was used in this dish.”

  • Asda Chicken Tikka Masala with Pillau Rice - £1.50 450g   SCORE: 58
Supermarket description:  Marinated pieces of succulent chicken breast in our spicy, creamy sauce with tomato, yoghurt and a touch of chilli.

Chicken content: Cooked marinated chicken breast (28%), Chicken breast (96%) (pillau rice 36%).

The verdict: Testers were divided on this one – while some loved it, others found little to praise. Comments ranged from an enthusiastic “Authentic taste, enjoyed it”, and “Really tasty! This has got to be the ‘real’ curry!” to “Chicken is like mush, poor quality – tastes very processed”, “very bland!!!”, “wishy washy”, and “watery”. “The sauce is nice but I didn’t really like the texture of the chicken as it was bit mushy”, said one. Another taster commented that was more like a casserole than a curry. “It lacks spice and flavour and has a strange consistency.” At the end of the day with a price tag of £1.50, it’s surprising the dish did so well.

Chef’s comment:  “No texture to the chicken. The dish didn’t look appetizing and tasted a bit like spicy baby food! I didn’t like the finely chopped vegetables but it was nice and flavoursome on first taste.”

  • Chicken Tikka Masala from Indian takeaway £8.95 approx 650g SCORE:  85
Description:  Chicken marinated in yoghurt and a blend of tandoori spices cooked in a clay oven, then re-cooked in a rich mild special sauce containing nuts, raisins and cream.

The verdict:  Astute tasters recognised the bright red colouring was indicative of the authentic takeaway dish. Most enjoyed it and liked the buttery flavour. The meat was generally thought to be of better quality and it had obviously been cooked in a tandoor oven with skewer holes evident. Comments included: “Nice smell and taste.” “Chunkier pieces of chicken but too much turmeric.” “Enjoyed this one!” “Sweet coconut and spices but chicken is dry.” “Quite sweet; nice meat.” “Chicken is dry but has a nice flavour.” “Good colouring, tastes authentic.” “Possibly a bit too sweet and coconutty,” wrote one taster. Someone else complained about the “coarser texture” and “synthetic colour” whilst another described the dish with an enthusiastic, “Mellow and morish!”

Chef’s comment: Nice texture to the chicken and it actually tasted and looked like chicken! This one has a real authentic tandoor flavour. Quite a mild curry but very pleasant and quite sweet – the taste of coconut is a little overpowering; but it’s also spicy and hot.”

Supermarket description: A medium spiced curry made with tender pieces of marinated chargrilled chicken breast in a rich, creamy masala sauce, finished with aromatic coriander leaf.

Chicken content: Cooked marinated chicken 40% (87% chicken breast).

The verdict: M&S claim to sell over 18 tonnes of Britain’s favourite dish a week. The most expensive of the supermarket bought meals, tasters found it “wishy washy” and criticised its creaminess. “I can taste heat but not spice” was one comment. “It’s creamy but has a bit less flavour.” “Poor taste with a strange wheaty aftertaste.” “Too much garlic!” Several mentioned the taste of cumin seeds, and cardamom flavours. Praise included: “Has texture of real meat”and “mild but has a nice tang”. However, some tasters thought the opposite: “Chicken tastes modified” said one, whilst another simply wrote “Yuck!”

Chef’s comment: The chicken has a good texture. It’s quite spicy but a pleasant and quite creamy curry.

  • Sainsbury’s Indian Chicken Tikka Masala £3.60 400g  SCORE:  78
Supermarket description: Marinated British chicken breast in a creamy tomato sauce with coriander and tandoori spices.

Chicken content: Chargrilled marinated chicken breast 35%.

The verdict:  The natural flavours of this dish proved to be a hit. “This is definitely not supermarket – yes I like this one,” wrote one mistaken tester. Other comments were: “Warming and spicy.”“Creamy with a hint of spices.” “Not much flavour here, just spice.” “I like the look of this one! Nice texture of meat.” “A bit more heat would make it very good”. “Tangy aftertaste”. “Nice and flavoursome.“ “Fairly spicy, not very colourful.” “Nice bit of heat” and “hotter!”. “Tender meat” was noted more than once. “It’s more smoky and herby tasting as well”, said one taster. “Thicker sauce, maybe too thick,” wrote another.

Chefs Comment:  Good texture of chicken. Again, I found the sauce a little thick and heavy. Nice spicing. I liked the texture of the chicken and flavour but the texture of the sauce lets it down for me.

  • Tesco’s Indian Chicken Tikka Masala - £3.20 350g  SCORE: 71
Supermarket description: Marinated chicken in a spiced tomato sauce infused with paprika, coriander, cumin and chilli.

Chicken content: Marinated chicken 51%

The verdict: Again, testers found the dish a bit bland though they commented on the good texture of the chicken. It was generally judged to be less creamy. Feedback was as follows: “Nice flavour, just a hint of spice.” “A bit oily.” “I can taste coconut and mint,” (neither ingredient was in this dish.) “The sauce is lovely”, “tasty, fairly spicy.” “Herby.” “Has a look of a Korma,” wrote one tester, “It’s too mild for me,” complained another. “The chicken seems very processed. Not much flavour. Nice, creamy texture but not enough spice,” was the final conclusion.

Chef’s Comment:  A bit bland but the texture of the chicken is good.

  • Morrison’s Indian Takeaway Chicken Tikka Masala £3.25 385g SCORE: 62
Supermarket description: Marinated chicken breast pieces in a creamy, lightly spiced sauce.

Chicken content: Chicken breast 28%

The verdict: “Brilliant! Jolly nice, a bit coconutty.” “Watery sauce, chicken tastes rubbery.” “There is hardly any chicken and the sauce is too thin.” “Not much flavour, horrible chicken.” “I eat more supermarket readymade meals than curries from takeaways so I’m more used to their taste,” one tester was heard to comment.

Chef’s comment:  Too watery and bland. The chicken tastes more natural than some but is still a bit synthetic with a strangely smooth texture.


  • Marks & Spencer’s Vegetable Curry  £2.90  SCORE: 76

The verdict:  Surprisingly, several people thought this was the authentic takeaway dish. Comments were highly complimentary with the vegetables receiving praise for their chunky size and taste. Comments included: “Very tasty, nice spice level. “Vegetables are good consistency.” “Vegetables seem like they’ve been frozen.” “Great cauliflower!” “Don’t usually choose veggie curries but I could go for this!” “Nice big chunks of vegetables.” “Sharp spice taste – definitely supermarket.” “The vegetables are more chunky, but not a lot of taste.” “Excellent! Very tasty, exotic. Got to be authentic!”

Chefs comment: Vegetables are nice and crispy and can identify what everything is. This dish is nice and spicy too.

  • Tesco’s Takeaway Vegetable Curry   £3.50   SCORE: 41
The verdict:  No-one seemed to like this dish, with one taster labelling it as the “worst curry ever!” The general opinion was that the consistency was too mushy. Comments were: “Moist but not very tasty.” “Not much taste.” “Seems to be made with frozen veg.” “No spice.” “Very tomatoey.” “Doesn’t look appetising, veggie bits seem to have a liquorice taste.” “Veg are a bit soft.” “Not for me!” “Very little flavour,” and finally … “Me no likey!!”

Chef’s Comment:  The vegetables are soggy. I’m not over impressed with the flavour. Medium spice but lacked body.

  • Vegetable Curry from Indian takeaway £5.95  approx 650g
The verdict:  Comments were not all full of praise, although there were plenty of positive remarks:  “Veg mushy.” “Unpleasant aftertaste.” “Nice aftertaste.” “Too much of one particular spice, not sure which.” “Smooth, nice taste.” “Hot but not too hot.” “Love this one! Nice and spicy.” “Bitter taste, frozen veg again.” “Good spice on the whole.” “Tasty, lots of veg – best of the veg curries.” “Very spicy must be the real thing.” “Quite hot.” “Good after spice taste.” “Gloopy! If this is authentic I will eat the raw chillies (not my hat),”

Chef’s comment:  Something is lacking with the flavour. It has nice spice and is quite hot. I’d like to see some more exotic vegetables rather than carrots, peas and potatoes, though I can also identify celery, butternut squash, sweetcorn and maybe spinach in there. I find the aftertaste quite unpleasant although other people seemed to like it.


Chicken Tikka Masalas

  1. Indian takeaway  85
  2. Sainsbury’s  78
  3. Waitrose 75
  4. Tesco’s   71
  5. Marks & Spencers  66.5
  6. Morrison’s  62
  7. Asda  58

Vegetable Curries

  1. Indian takeaway  78
  2. Marks & Spencers  76
  3.  Tesco’s Takeaway  41


From this tasting session at least, it seems you still can’t beat the real McCoy from the local Indian takeaway if you are looking for quality; fresh, natural ingredients; flavour; authenticity, and a real tandoor taste.

But supermarket curries have a few things in their favour, notably the price. They also possibly have less ghee content – most of the ones we tested used rapeseed oil which has less unhealthy saturated fats than all other cooking oils. Surprisingly, they used mainly natural ingredients, no additives or flavours were involved. Only the Asda product contained modified maize starch. Ingredients included separate, sometimes in the case of Waitrose, whole spices and cloves. Cashew nuts were used in some supermarket dishes (Waitrose, Morrisons, Tesco’s and Sainsbury’s) rather than less expensive desiccated coconut. On the downside, many supermarket curries contain over half a teaspoonful of salt – more than half the recommended daily intake – and there’s no getting away from that synthetic tasting chicken which, in all cases, did not seem to have been separately cooked in a tandoor.

When we look at the vegetable curry, in this tasting at least, the M&S product follows close on the takeaway’s heels, with a significantly lower price tag. However, it should be said that although the takeaway products cost more, the portions at approx 650g were almost twice the size of some supermarket meals, with enough to feed more than two people.

So, should Indian takeaway operators be worried? According to Guy Fielding, Director of Business Development for the NPD Group, ethnic food may not be perceived as the everyday good value it once was.

He continues: “To compete with the supermarkets ethnic operators need to change the price value equation by introducing deals and promotions that resonate with consumers. The recession has made consumers more discriminating in the choices they make. Ethnic operators will need to get more sophisticated about the deal and the promotion element of the business if they are to turn this decline around.”

Some of our Tasters:

Lisa Anderson, Owner of Finer Catering

Testers and staff from the Yorkshire Wolds Cookery School who took part in the tasting session.

A Summer Dine in Holmfirth

Anwar Ali of Massala Lounge

You can’t talk about Holmfirth, in the beautiful Holme Valley in West Yorkshire without mentioning the Last of the Summer Wine. Most people remember, with affection, the longest running TV comedy show of all time that followed the adventures of three retired gentlemen who just couldn’t grow up. The series was the first sitcom to be taken out of the television studios and filmed entirely on location in Holmfirth. The town’s streets, cafes and surrounding scenery became an instant tourist magnet for millions of people all over the world.

So, a stroll around Holmfirth, or Little Hollywood as it’s known locally, is a bit like a trip through sitcom nostalgia. Of course there are signs of more recent glory – the yellow bikes, reminders of the town’s starring role in the Tour de France earlier this year, still cling to the stone walls. For dining options, however, it’s hard to get away from the ilk of Sid’s Café, Compo’s Fish and Chips, the Wrinkled Stocking Tea Rooms (shades of Nora Batty), or even the oddly named Toad and Tatie. Thankfully, for those looking for the perfect antidote to Last of the Summer Wine-iness, Massala Lounge on Huddersfield Road offers the suave, sophisticated and cosmopolitan (should that be Compopolitan?), alternative.

The immaculate menu commands you to Relax, Enjoy and Indulge – and really, it’s impossible to refuse, especially in the luxurious red leather sofas that beg you to recline in their midst. Through an arch to the spacious dining area, the colour theme continues with black high backed dining chairs, red table settings and wood decking floor. Moody down-lighting highlights three dimensional walls. Look out of the picture windows at the end of the restaurant, however, and you’re back in Holmfirth. The restaurant is on the second floor and the classic view is of stone-built houses perched perilously on top of the adjacent hill, grey tiled roofs, glimpses of the distant Pennines – look down below and you can almost see the three old reprobates - Foggy, Compo and Clegg, ambling down the street…

We quickly turned back to the menu and the delights of Massala Lounge!

It was, in fact, the Last of the Summer Wine that first brought 33-year-old Anwar Ali, to Holmfirth.  He and all his family live in Bradford and, although the main family business is in property letting, they were looking for a restaurant for Anwar and his four brothers to run. Having watched the programme on TV, Anwar visited the town out of curiosity and instantly fell in love with the place.

“I decided to take a stroll round the town to see what it was all about,” he explained. “It was really, really busy. I was trying to find a place to eat and I couldn’t find any. All the other Indian restaurants were mainly down back streets, so there wasn’t really anywhere to go.”

Seeing the potential for a commercial enterprise, Anwar did some research and came up with the two-storeyed premises on Huddersfield Road. “I realised there’s a good population round here – most people are bankers or business owners, hence, more affluent, so I knew the restaurant needed to be stylish and contemporary.”

The former nightclub offered an ideal location and, with Anwar masterminding the design, the family carried out most of the refurbishment work themselves.

Massala Lounge opened in August 2009 and was a success from day one. Now, with a five year anniversary coming up the restaurant is firmly established at the heart of the Holmfirth community.

The five brothers have a demanding lifestyle. Anwar, who is father to a seven-month-old son, has worked as a Quantity Surveyor for 12 years. His brothers have equally high profile roles in accountancy and Trading Standards. How do they cope with having two full time jobs each, surely there aren’t enough hours in the day?

“We don’t look at it as a job, it’s more like a family get together than anything else,” explains Anwar. “There’s also enough of us in the family to share the work between us. You do what you have to do and when you think about it, it’s only a few hours from 5.30pm to 10pm or 11pm and although we all live in Bradford, it’s just 18 miles in distance. The restaurant is not our bread and butter but it’s our passion.”

“We’re lucky to have no staffing issues. We’ve had the same people working for us as from day one – even the weekend and kitchen staff; no-one has changed at all.”
At this point Anwar breaks off to bid good bye to a customer who leaves, thanking him profusely for the delicious food.

There certainly is an atmosphere about the place with happy and friendly waiting staff who aren’t afraid to have a banter with diners. Anwar agrees that the Last of the Summer Wine has a lasting influence and brings in many tourists but they don’t make up the majority of patrons.

“We get a lot of Canadians – it must have been a very popular show there, and a lot of Australians. But most of our customers we know by first name. We have one guy - a regular - from Amsterdam who works in Manchester every three months who always calls in and we also have clients who come from as far afield as Liverpool. It’s just that special bond that we try and cultivate. Once the customer knows you it’s nice and relaxed; the customer feels at home.”

The menu is based on traditional food from Bangladesh with a modern twist and influences from Mughlai cuisine. Starters and mains include an exotic sea food selection. The Machlee Pakora: golden crispy parcels containing spicy cod, proved delicious, as was the locally reared lamb Sonargaw served with homemade tamarind sauce.

Many ingredients are, in fact, sourced from customers and Anwar takes advantage of the plethora of farms within the area to purchase fresh vegetables, milk and chicken. Signatures offered an exciting selection of dishes including Hash Jamdhani: tender pieces of duck

breast in a chilli, garlic and tomato sauce layered with cauliflower. The Rangamati Chorchory: lamb or chicken cooked with spinach, is the restaurant’s best seller while the Sylheti Jal Jool offers a rustic taste of eastern Bangladesh

Anwar works with his brother Amruj Ali who is the head chef, to find new dishes: “We don’t have too many curries on the menu; we just select one or two. I have customer feedback cards so I know exactly what the customer wants and at the end of the year I’ll change the menu accordingly. I’m not a cook myself but I do know how a curry should be cooked. I come up with the ideas and then we experiment and test – a dish has to be appetising for the eyes before you taste it.”

Planned innovations to the menu this year include the addition of lobster and venison. Like the menu the wine list is also carefully selected with the Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Moët and Chandon reflecting the affluence of the area.

Although the food is undeniably outstanding (with rave reviews on Trip Advisor, the restaurant has a certificate of excellence), Massala Lounge isn’t just about the cuisine. Anwar and his brothers have made sure that the venue has become part of the local community by sponsoring sports teams, arts festivals or cultural events such as Yorkshire Day. As sponsors of the Holme Valley Scouts Mountain Bike Challenge, the restaurant annually supplies up to 750 people with free food and drinks.

Mindful that the premises were formerly a nightclub which contributed to the social life of the area, Massala Lounge also hosts special nights, get-togethers and charity fundraisers. The floor above the 80-seat restaurant still has a function room with soundproofing, a stage suitable for a band or DJ which has been the venue for many successful events including 80’s discos and Reggae nights. Anwar appreciates that the place holds poignant memories for members of the community, so it’s important to keep it as a social hub where people can meet up, relive memories and generally have a good time.

But the brothers don’t leave it there: Massala Lounge has also hosted the Holmfirth Film Festival and shows movies on a regular basis. “We generally talk to customers and see what films they want for next year and then get them in,” says Anwar. “Between May 23rd and end of June this year, we actually showed 14 movies!”

Long before the Last of the Summer Wine, Holmfirth was the centre for the pioneering film makers Bamforth & Co Ltd and in the early 1900s the West Yorkshire film industry was even thought to surpass that of Hollywood. It’s good to see Anwar keeping the history of the place alive. And if Foggy, Compo and Clegg were still around to see it, they would have been proud.

Massala Lounge, 57-59 Huddersfield Road, Holmfirth, West Yorkshire
Tel: 01484 681 172/ 01484 680 742 info@massalalounge.com

Compo, Foggy and Clegg from Last of the Summer Wine