Currying favour at a bmi regional airport near you!

  • 09th May 2014

Curry is firmly on the menu across Britain and the dish has become such a British institution that there’s even a competition to honour the best suppliers. Every year since 2002 a national competition has been run to find The Curry Capital of Britain, and the rivalry between towns and cities across Britain is hotter than a vindaloo! Bradford in Yorkshire has won the title every year since 2010 – will they win for a fifth time in 2015?

Each city is represented in the competition by four restaurants, which are selected based on a public vote and input from local councils and regional media. Voting for The Curry Capital of Britain 2015 opens in April and will continue until mid-August with the overall winner due to be announced in October. So…if you’d like to vote for your favourite curry restaurant click here for details and send your nomination to:

200 years of flavour

It’s more than 200 years since an Indian migrant opened the first curry house in Britain – the Hindostanee Coffee House in London – but although pioneering, it lasted only three years before its entrepreneurial owner filed for bankruptcy. However, that had more to do with the fact that people didn’t often eat out at that time rather than a question of taste, as Britons had developed a taste for Asian spiced food centuries before during the Crusades.

In fact, the first curry recipe was published in a British cookbook as early as 1747, albeit more herb-based than spiced. It wasn’t long though before more exotic spices were hitting our shores and the resulting hybrid of cultures that made up the lucrative spice trade led to the creation of many popular dishes that we know today. Examples include the Persian-inspired biryani and the famous vindaloo. This was a Portuguese meat dish with wine that was adapted by the Goans and included potato (‘aloo’ is the Indian word for potato).

Curry is not actually a term used in the countries that our favourite dishes originate from but is a British word adapted from the Tamil word kari, meaning sauce, used to describe a host of Indian and Pakistani foods. The British love affair with curry has peaked and waned over the centuries with Queen Victoria making it popular in the 19th Century before political instability around colonial rule lessened the appetites for it.

But it was after 1971 that the curry trade as we know it in Britain today was truly established, along with an influx of Bangladeshis into London’s East End following war in their homeland. They set-up curry houses to cater for fellow migrants working in the city and up until 10 years ago it was estimated that 65% of all Indian restaurants in the UK were still owned by Bangladeshis. Although, the further north you travel the more likely you are to find a restaurant with owners of a different ethnic origin. For example, in Glasgow there are more Punjabi-owned Indian restaurants than any other.

So, it stands to reason that curry does differ by UK region due to the different origins of restaurant owners. This means each British city has something unique to offer the Curry Capital of Britain competition. And although London may have been the birthplace of Britain’s curry house trade, it certainly hasn’t reigned supreme in the competition in recent years – as the 21 cities that took part in the 2013 competition showed.

Indian chicken and vegetable curries with pilau rice.

Indian chicken and vegetable curries with pilau rice.

The numbers

There are nearly 10,000 Indian restaurants around the country, serving 80 million meals a year.
Marks & Spencer alone sells 20 tons of tikka masala and baltis a week.

What makes curry curry?

The key ingredient is the chilli which has a chemical ingredient called capsaicin. Capsaicin produces a sensation of burning in any tissue with which it comes into contact – which provides the hotness. When you eat a chilli, you are actually eating the plant’s natural defence against being eaten. Many Brits take a delight is the heat – even enjoying the pain of the heat. In fact, when the pain hits, it releases a flood of endorphins to soothe the regions affected by the capsaicin. During a meal, the endorphins slowly build up, providing proper curry fans with a kind of high.

How to get started with curry

For the curry virgins among you, unsure of what to try, here is our guide to ideal first time dishes:

Tikka Masala – pieces of marinated meat cooked in a lightly spiced, cream and tomato sauce.

Korma – mild, creamy and slightly sweet due to the use of coconut and almonds in the sauce.

Dansak – a sweet and sour curry cooked with pineapple, garlic and spices.

Biryani – a lightly spiced rice dish containing meat of your choice, or served as a vegetarian option. All versions are served with a mild vegetable curry.

To accompany the curries (except the biryani), lightly spiced, pilau rice is a firm Indian restaurant favourite and an alternative to plain boiled rice. You should also sample one of the wonderful flat breads: chapatti (thin and light, similar to tortilla) or naan (a large, heavy bread cooked in the tandoor).

Britain’s national dish – the top 3

Jalfrezi: Made of green chillies, peppers, onion and tomatoes. Marinated meat is fried in oil and spices to produce a dry, thick spicy sauce. The name comes from the Bengali word jhal, meaning spicy hot. Be warned!

Madras: Quite a spicy dish made from meat, originating from the south Indian city from which it takes its name. Paprika and turmeric give it its distinctive colour.

Rogan josh: A lamb dish that is medium-spiced, made with root ginger and tomatoes, and, of course, dry red chillies. It comes from the Kashmir region – and is known for its distinctive cardamom flavour.

Cities to curry favour in

When you fly with bmi regional you can be sure that some excellent curry houses can be found in or near to our hub airports. We’ve selected a few to tempt you next tiem you fly with us.


Shadin Indian & Balti Takeaway, 70 Broad Street, Bristol, BS16 5NL, Tel: 0117 957 5786

Kathmandu, Colston Tower, Colston Street, Bristol, BS1 4XE, Tel: 07738 282383

Brunel Raj, 7 Waterloo Street, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 4BT, Tel: 0117 973 2641

Hari Krishnan’s Kitchen, 31a Zetland Road, Bristol, BS86 7AH, Tel: 0117 942 2299


Sachins, Forth Banks, Newcastle, NE1 3G, Tel : 0191 261 9035

Rupali, 6 Bigg Market, Newcastle, NE1 1UW, Tel : 0191 232 8629

Luigi Khans, 358 Westgate Road, Newcastle, NE4 6NU, Tel : 0191 272 4937

Aneesa’s Forster Street, Quayside, Newcastle, NE1 2NH, Tel 0191 222 1110

Sheffield (via East Midlands Airport)

Cutlers Spice, 1 Leighton Road, Sheffield, S14 1SP. Tel: 0114 241 6641

Butlers Balti, 44-46 Broad Lane, Sheffield, S1 4BT. Tel: 0114 276 0141

Viraaj, 743 Chesterfield Road, Sheffield, S8 0SL. Tel: 0114 250 9066

Ashoka, 307 Eccleshall Road, Sheffield, S11 8NX. Tel: 0114 268 3829


Desi Lounge , 236-238 Oldham Road, Failsworth, Manchester, M35 0HB Tel: 0161 683 0723

Mughli, 30 Wilmslow Road, Manchester, M14 5TQ, Tel: 0161 248 0900

Zaika, 2 Watson Street, Great North Tower, Manchester, M3 4EE, Tel: 0161 839 5111

EastzEast, Riverside, Blackfriars Street, Deansgate, Manchester, M3 5BQ Tel: 0161 834 3500

Wolverhampton (via Birmingham Airport)

Bilash, 2 Cheapside, Wolverhampton, WV1 1TU Tel: 01902 427762

Rangamati, 75 Lichfield Road, Wolverhampton, WV1 1TW Tel: 01902 307550

Jivans, 14 Broad Street, Wolverhampton, WV1 1HP Tel: 01902 427289

Cafe Rickshaw 20 Chapel Ash, Wolverhampton, WV3 0TN, Tel: 01902 425353

Gulshan Balti, 34 High Street, Bilston, WV14 0EP. Tel: 01902 493922


Pushkar, 245 Broad Street, Birmingham, B1 2HQ, Tel: 0121 643 7978

Rose Murree, 94-96 Hagley Road, Edgbaston B16 8LU, Tel: 0121 456 4500

Al Frash, 186 Ladypool Road, Birmingham, B12 8JS, Tel: 0121 753 3120

Itihaas, 17 Fleet Street, Birmingham, B3 1JL Tel: 0121 212 3383

Leicester (via East Midlands Airport)

MemSaab, 59-59a, Highcross Street, Leicester, LE1 4PG, Tel: 0116 253 0243

Santhi, 124 Granby Street, Leicester, LE1 1DL, Tel: 0116 255 5511

Shivali, 21 Welford Road, Leicester, LE2 7AD, Tel: 0116 255 0137

Chutney Ivy 41 Halford Street, Leicester, LE1 1TR, Tel: 0116 251 1889

Nottingham (via East Midlands Airport)

Lime, 4-6 Upminster Drive, Nottingham, NG16 1PT. Tel: 0115 975 0005

Curry Lounge , 110 Upper Parliament Road, Nottingham, NG1 6LF. Tel: 0115 941 8844

The Cumin, 62-64 Maid Marion Way, Nottingham, NG1 6BJ. Tel: 0115 941 9941

Singhs, 30 Market Street, Nottingham, NG1 6HW. Tel: 0115 941 5455

bmi regional operates up to 300 flights a week to 20 destinations across the UK and Europe.