The popularity of spicy, tingling Indian cuisine in Britain is well known, but one satisfied customer in an Indian restaurant in Northern Ireland was so happy last week that he left a tip of £1,000 (nearly Rs 1 lakh).
Stunned and delighted by the tip, the owner and staff of Indian Tree restaurant in Portadown are celebrating, but attribute the accolade mainly to the expertise of chef Babu, so known for his skills that customers follow him when he changes employment.
Preferring to remain anonymous, the businessman who left the tip sent restaurant director Luna Ekuch and Babu a message, thanking them for the “great food” and urging them to “please (accept a) small gift to help with your restaurant, see you next time”.
The businessman was in a group of five that dined at the restaurant and the bill came to £79.05.
Speaking to Belfast Live, Ekush said: "He has been a loyal customer of Babu since 2002 and since he moved abroad, when he flies home into Belfast he would call and see what Babu is cooking.
"He comes in, then goes home, it's amazing that he is so happy with the food and service and environment here...That day he pulled Babu aside and said he would like to say thank you and that he had a small token. We just turned and were like, 'That's not small, are you crazy?'
"We were all in shock but he took the machine and typed it in, he paid on card, and then he said, 'Now I would like to pay for my meal'.”
Ekush, who took over the restaurant more than a year ago, said it was the biggest tip she had ever received but added that all credit must go to Babu. “He is the selling point for the restaurant. It is a big boost for him and to the rest of us,” she said.
In a post on Facebook page, the restaurant said: “We may not be the most exclusive, the most glamorous, the highest grossing establishment, have a large number on our Facebook page likes, but we sure do have the most genuine wonderful customers that love everything about our food and restaurant.”
Elsewhere, the £4-billion Indian food industry in the United Kingdom is facing challenges, mainly due to a shortage of skilled chefs. This has resulted in a large number of restaurants closing in recent years. New visa curbs have made it difficult to recruit chefs from the Indian subcontinent.
Britain’s fascination with curry is not new and its origins go back to the 18th century.