The UK’s top curry restaurants, as voted for by the British public, were announced at The British Curry Awards in association with Just Eat. The industry’s foremost celebration of the nation’s finest curry houses, the 18th annual ceremony took place on Monday 28th November at Evolution London, Battersea Park. The evening also paid tribute to the late Enam Ali MBE, the event’s founder and the UK’s leading spokesperson for the curry industry, who worked tirelessly to promote the curry industry globally for over 45 years.
Recognised globally as the original and most coveted award ceremony in the UK curry industry, also referred to as the ‘Curry Oscars’, as termed by former Prime Minister David Cameron, British Curry Awards welcomed personalities from the worlds of politics, sport, showbiz and entertainment alongside celebrity chefs and curry restaurant owners and their staff from across the country. In attendance were: TV personalities, Chris Tarrant, James Whale, Nadia Essex (Celebs Go Dating), Dr Ranj Singh; Merlin Griffiths (C4’s First Dates), Hayley Sparkes (This Morning), Danielle Mason, Saira Khan; actors, James Cosmo, Nina Wadia; former England footballer, David Seaman, and partner, ice skater, Frankie Poultney; former England cricketer, Phil Tuffnell; reality TV star, Farah Sattaur (Ex On The Beach); The Apprentice contestant, Nick Showering; news presenters, Gavin Ramjaun, Patrick Christy; MP’s, Chris Grayling, Paul Scully; and Bangladeshi High Commissioner, Saida Muna Tasneem. The event was hosted by comedian, Hugh Dennis. The Awards’ main sponsor was Just Eat, the market-leading online food ordering and delivery platform.
In a video message of support, Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak said, “The thing I’ve learnt about being Prime Minister is that the best training I ever had was working in a curry house. I know how hard every one of you works from the chefs to the waiters to the restaurant managers and the delivery drivers. And that experience gave me a huge appreciation of business, of the importance of treating people fairly and the value of this most iconic of British Asian industries. So I’m delighted to be supporting Britain’s ‘Curry Oscars’. I want to thank all of you for everything you do to fill our high streets and our homes with some of the best curry in the world.”
Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister of State for the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office and the Minister for South Asia said, “What an incredible series of awards these will be that bring together the whole country. Indeed, it defines the rich diversity of our United Kingdom today and how we’ve seen South Asian culture, like any other cultures, become part and parcel of the rich tapestry that defines the modern United Kingdom. From culture to cuisine, we see South Asian curry now very much part of what defines us as a nation. But this year’s awards are marked with great sadness as we remember the incredible Enam Ali. About a couple of decades ago, Enam came up with this idea of the British Curry Awards. He was passionate about ensuring that we recognise the achievements of restaurateurs up and down the country. Lert’s recognise Enam as someone who raised £2 million for charity, who really put these awards on the map. The greatest tribute we can pay to him is to ensure that these awards carry on from strength to strength.”
A nationwide nominations process is led by the local patrons of curry houses on the streets of Britain, annually invited to nominate their favourite curry restaurants and takeaways. The process of public nominations creates an authentic list of the nation’s favourite Asian eateries, based on the opinions of residents, leading to a rigorous vetting process by an independent panel of judges.
British Curry Awards 2022 winners:
Best Restaurant Scotland: Swadish by Ajay Kumar, Glasgow
Best Restaurant North East: Khai Khai Indian Restaurant, Newcastle
Best Restaurant North West: Mowgli Street Food Liverpool
Best Restaurant East Midlands: Calcutta Club Restaurant, Nottingham
Best Restaurant West Midlands: Lasan, Birmingham
Best Restaurant Wales: Purple Poppadom, Cardiff
Best Restaurant South East: Shampan at the Spinning Wheel, Westerham, Kent
Best Restaurant South West: Prithvi Restaurant, Cheltenham
Best Restaurant London Central & City: Benares, Mayfair
Best Restaurant London Suburbs: Copper Ceylon, Bromley
Best Takeaway: Maliks Express Kitchen, Gerrards Cross
Best Newcomer: Colonel Saab, Holborn
Personality of the Year Award: Khalilur Rahman, Khalil Foods
The award ceremony also marked the introduction of the Diners’ Choice Award – a new category that rewards curry establishments that are able to engage their customers through social media. Any nominated establishment in Britain had a chance to win this award based on the highest number of live, public votes on the night. Winning the Diners’ Choice Award was: Urban Tandoor, Bristol.
The fundraising auction on the evening, in aid of the Enam Ali Foundation – a charity that has been set up in honour of the event’s late founder – raised approximately £80,000, £50,000 of which was raised through the auction of an original letter penned by former British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill.
The UK curry industry, known for its resilience in weathering operational and business challenges such as staff shortages and the pandemic, now faces further uncertainty with the energy and cost of living crises and amid rising inflation. With spiralling costs, It is estimated that the average price of a curry could reach as much as £30 and industry leaders fear it could lead to the closure of thousands of curry restaurants across the UK.
Curry restaurateurs have seen their shopping bills increase by an average of 40 per cent. The price of oil alone has increased by more than 100 per cent; while the cost of other curry house essentials such as a 25kg sack of onions has now doubled to more than £14.50. The situation is unsustainable for the industry as curry houses are desperately trying to minimise off-setting these costs against menu pricing, as households are facing tightened budgets themselves.
The Spice Business ‘Onion Bhaji Index’ indicates the average cost of an onion bhaji in the UK will jump from £4 to £12 per portion, while rising inflation means the average price of curry house favourite, the chicken tikka masala, would rise from an average menu price of £7 to £17, which diners are simply unable to afford. Add to that soaring energy bills, it is estimated that around seven in ten restaurants could be forced to shut their doors for good without government intervention.
Speaking about his late father and British Curry Awards Founder, Enam Ali, and recognising the challenges facing the curry industry, Jeffrey Ali, Director, British Curry Awards said at the event, “His dedication for all of us was something for me to behold. We are privileged to be benefiting from his life’s work today and beyond. As the natural custodians of this platform, my family and I bear the weight of the curry industry’s plight. And I take this opportunity to reassure everyone how sincerely we take the gravity of this responsibility. We will always ensure to present a united voice for the British curry industry. And as a restaurateur myself, I am acutely aware of the adverse and unconducive economic situation we are currently facing. Unfortunately, the distant horizon shows little side of improvement. Businesses from all sectors are facing an onslaught of rising costs and slowing demand.”
Stuart Herrington, Head of UK Account Management, Just Eat said, “Awards like this rightly shine the spotlight on the hard working people behind the restaurants and takeaways that are making an invaluable contribution to their local community and the UK economy. Curry is where Just Eat began. One of our first restaurants on the platform – some 17 years ago – served curry. It continues to be one of our most popular cuisines today.
As we all know too well, the hospitality industry is facing increasingly tough challenges. Inflation has climbed to its highest levels for many years, the price of food and energy bills continues to soar, interest rates are increasing at an unprecedented speed and we are still seeing staff shortages as a result of Brexit and Covid. There is no denying that it’s an incredibly challenging outlook.
At Just Eat, now more than ever, we believe our role is to support the industry to flourish; using our scale and influence to play an active role in helping to tackle these challenges. This is why we introduced a £1 million Inflation Support Package to aid small, independent businesses, like the ones many of you in this room run. We also spearheaded the British Takeaway Campaign, in which we are currently calling on the Government to introduce five new policies to support the sector’s growth. These include freezing VAT rates at 12.5%, extending business rates relief until the end of 2022 and introducing a working visa for people from Commonwealth countries.”