BCA dishes up a night to remember

February 18, 2014 No Comments

This year’s 9th British Curry Awards, held at the Battersea Evolution, was certainly something special! It was a closely guarded secret, known only to a select few, but the surprise VIP guest on the night was none other than the Prime Minister, David Cameron MP.


The Prime Minister has been a big supporter of the event for many years, attending when Leader of the Opposition, and also taking time to write notes for the programme and record congratulatory videos when he was not able to come along in person.


This time he not only made a rousing speech, he was first shown round the kitchens by the BCA founder, Enam Ali MBE. He could see for himself the hard work that goes into preparing high quality curry for over 1600 guests.


As he started his speech he joked that, “Rather than being the first serving Prime Minister to attend the British Curry Awards, I thought I was going to be the first Prime Minister to serve at them!”


Paying tribute to the event, which he called the ‘Oscars of the British curry industry’, and an ‘amazing spectacle’, he confessed to being an ‘enormous curry fan. ‘The Prime Minister then made three key points in his speech. Firstly, he promised to back the industry ‘every step of the way.’ He acknowledged that curry restaurants face specific challenges in terms of immigration and getting the skilled chefs that are needed. But he said,”We can work through this together.” He promised to help restaurants get the skilled chefs they need, but also to support them in developing the next generation of chefs here at home.”We can rise to the challenge and secure a future for this great industry for years to come,” he declared.


Secondly he urged the curry industry to ‘keep doing us proud abroad’, describing the success of the British curry overseas as ‘an incredible story of innovation.’ He said he wanted to see British curry become a dish of choice across the world, even on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro, and the government would work to support that.


Then, thirdly, he went on to praise the pride and values that were evident in the room. He said,”I see the values that our country needs shining out. An appreciation of the values of application and hard work. This is the spirit that is needed in our country today. From the bottom of my heart, let me say thank you for everything you give to our country.”


The audience also listened intently to the words of Enam Ali MBE, who set up the awards in 2005 and has emerged as one of the leading spokesmen for the industry. He said he was incredibly proud of how far the industry has come in that time. “If anyone had told me back in 2005 that by 2013

our awards dinner would be attended by the Prime Minister and several cabinet and shadow ministers amongst other dignitaries, media and guests, I wouldn’t have believed them. Here you all are and The British Curry Awards has become an institution,” he said. “I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the part you have played in helping to make the British Curry Awards the biggest and most spectacular event in the hospitality industry calendar.”


Enam reflected on how the British people had adopted curry as a national dish. He said, “Curry may have been born in India but now British curry has truly a place in the hearts and stomachs of people throughout the land.” He recalled that it started in the early 1960s with curry and chips. According to Enam, “In those days it was the chips that broke down the barriers and Vindaloo or Tindaloo proved the masculinity of ‘real men’ before they washed it down with a few pints of lager.”


He continued, “When we started the British Curry Awards in 2005 we were criticised for calling curry ‘British’. I am happy to take the blame for the changes in perception that have taken place since then because today British curry dishes such as Tikka Masala have an identity all of their own and are known and admired throughout the world.”


He said he thought it would be good idea to go back to the industry’s roots by including on the menu the dish that started it all for many of us – curry and chips. He declared that it was ‘a tribute to our masterful forefathers who invented the British curry and whom we salute.’


Hosted by TV personality, Chris Tarrant, this year’s ceremony once again welcomed a who’s who guest list of leading restaurateurs, celebrities, politicians, dignitary and business leaders and influencers. Among them were celebrity chefs, James Martin, Ed Bains, Anjum Anand and John Gregory-Smith; radio broadcaster James Whale; ITV newsreader Charlene White; TV personalities Ulrika Jonsson, Melinda Messenger and Lizzie Cundy; and politicians Chris Grayling MP, Keith Vaz MP. Anne Main MP, Alok

Sharma MP, Andrew Rosindell MP and Rushanara Ali MP. In total more than 1600 people attended, coming not just from all over the country, but internationally as well.


While they witnessed keynote speeches from Enam Ali, and David Cameron, the main focus of the Awards was of course the restaurants themselves. From a staggering 236,000 public nominations received this year via app, email and post, winners were selected from their respective category shortlists and announced at the event as follows:


Best Spice Restaurant Scotland: Karma, Whitburn

Best Spice Restaurant North East: Raval, Gateshead, Newcastle Upon Tyne

Best Spice Restaurant North West: The Viceroy, Carlisle, Cumbria

Best Spice Restaurant Midlands: Mem Saab, Leicsester

Best Spice Restaurant Wales: Bokhara, Pen-y-Fai, Bridgend

Best Spice Restaurant South East: Chez Mumtaj, St Albans, Herts

Best Spice Restaurant South West: Myristica, Bristol

Best Spice Restaurant Central London and City: Benares, Berkeley Square

Best Spice Restaurant London Outer and Suburbs: Indian Moment, Battersea

Best Newcomer: Shampan 4 at the Spinning Wheel, Westerham, Kent


There was also a Best Takeaway Award, in association with sponsors Just Eat, the online takeaway ordering service. The winner of this year’s award was the Polash Tandoori, in Dartford, Kent.


Each year British Curry Awards also presents the Special Recognition Award to an influential culinary personality, with past winners including Atul Kochar, Madhur Jaffrey, Cyrus Todiwala OBE, Anjum Anand, Heston Blumenthal OBE, Shelim Hussain MBE and Dipna Anand. This year, the award was presented to Mohammed Aslam MBE of Aagrah Group, a man who has been extremely influential, starting up the Aagrah chain from nothing and building it up to being the biggest of its type in the UK.


The audience were treated to a fantastic feast, with a menu that included chaat, lamb rogon and chips, murgh malai, balti paneer, daal, Le Raj saffron rice and naan bread. Catering was by the award winning chefs at Le Raj in Epsom. There was also top notch entertainment from Shapla Saqlique and a stunning dance fashion show conceptualised by Awards producer Justine Ali and Debbie Astelle.


Not long before the event was held, the world was shocked by the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. It was a popular choice when Justine announced this as the chosen charity for the evening. Guests willingly put their hands in their pockets and raised an impressive sum to help alleviate the suffering of those caught up in this terrible natural disaster.


After the awards ended guests left full and happy with just one thought on their minds. How on earth is Enam going to top this in 2014? Rest assured he is already working on it!

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