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Curry controversy hits Indian food in UK

Indian chefs in Birmingham are up in arms after a survey adjudged London suburb of Bromley as the 'curry capital' of Britain but failed to list any Birmingham restaurant in the top 10.

world Updated: Jun 25, 2010 19:53 IST

Indian chefs in Birmingham are up in arms after a survey adjudged London suburb of Bromley as the 'curry capital' of Britain but failed to list any Birmingham restaurant in the top 10.

Britain's centuries-old love affair with spicy Indian food has reached a new high with the 200th anniversary of London's Hindustanee Coffee House. It was opened by Patna resident Sake Dean Mohamed in 1810.

To celebrate the anniversary, makers of Cobra beer conducted a survey and found that Bromley, with one Indian restaurant for every 853 people in the London suburb, qualified as the 'curry capital' of UK.

Other Indian restaurant hot-spots included Epsom, Reading, Leicester, Cardiff and Doncaster, but Birmingham, famous for its 'balti belt', failed to make it to the top 10.

Raj Rana, owner of Birmingham restaurant Itihaas, hit out at the survey and said quality and heritage made Birmingham the undisputed curry capital.

"Curry is synonymous with Birmingham," he said adding, "Bromley is a nice, quaint, tourist town and it's a relaxing environment. But if you go back to the first Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi immigrants, they didn't settle in Bromley, they settled in Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham."

"The balti revolution was a western concept and it began in Birmingham," Rana said recalling that Itihaas was recognised as the best Indian restaurant in the UK in 2007 and 2008 by Cobra for its Good Curry Guide.

"If Bromley have more Indian restaurants that's great, but you can't ignore where it began, that was Birmingham," he said.

Aktar Islam, head chef at another Birmingham-based restaurant Lasan, said, "It’s not just on concentration. It's about quality. Outside of London we're a culinary hot-spot for the country. The quality in Birmingham is second to none."

The survey also found Taj Mahal was the most popular name for an Indian restaurant followed by Taste of India, Maharaja, Akash, Spice Lounge and Monsoon. Other names included Posh Spice, Urban Turban, Ace of Spice and Some Like It Hot.

From humble beginnings in London in form of 'The Hindostanee Coffee House’ on George Street, Portman Square, in 1810, Indian food industry has grown into one of UK's largest, employing over 100,000 people with a turnover of billions.

Chicken Tikka Masala is considered UK's national dish, while Britons continue to patronise the Indian food industry despite recession.