Amid recession, British curry awards draw record entries

October 29th, 2008 - 5:40 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Oct 29 (IANS) An annual award to celebrate Britain’s favourite national cuisine - the Indian curry - drew a staggering 28,000 public nominations for over 3,000 restaurants but organisers warned the industry was being threatened by changes to immigration rules.The British Curry Award, which is said to be the biggest such event in the world, was handed over to 12 restaurants from a longlist of 100 at a gala event in London’s Grosvenor House Hotel recently.

The top restaurants, one for each of ten regions, were: Cinnamon Club, Aberdeen (Scotland/Northern Ireland); Last Days of the Raj, Gateshead (Northeast); Indian Ocean, Ashton-under-Lyne (Northwest); Mem Saab, Northampton (East Midlands); Lasan, Birmingham (West Midlands); Bokhara Brasserie, Bridgend (Wales); Maliks, Cookham (Southeast); Rajpoot, Bath (Southwest); Tamarind, Mayfair (central London); and Brilliant, Southall (London suburbs).

A special award for the most innovative restaurant went to Tiffin Bites, which has four restaurants in London, and Aagrah in Sheffield picked up the Newcomer of the Year Award.

Awards founder Enam Ali, owner of Le Raj restaurant in the town of Epsom and publisher of Spice Business magazine, said the age profile of some of the winners showed that “we are beginning to attract younger people into the industry”.

“Now we’ve just got to hope that some of these younger people are able to persuade a few more of their peers to also join the industry, only this time in the kitchens rather than at front of house.”

Enam said the industry faced dire consequences from the imminent introduction of a new points-based immigration system which, he said, would make it harder for restaurateurs to recruit the skilled staff they need to fill the thousands of vacancies in their kitchens.

“Despite all our lobbying, our mass protest in Trafalgar Square earlier this year, and clear evidence that, for the first time, the industry is shrinking rather than growing, the government is still not listening to us,” he said.

“How many more restaurants are going to have to close before the politicians recognise we have a special case and grant us the small concessions we are seeking?” he added.

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