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The great British curry crisis

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Very interesting. As discussed in the article, it's sort of surprising that the curry houses have retained their individual mom & pop family ownership as long as they have, vs. being pushed out by a "fast casual chain" version of themselves.  And the fact that 80-90% of curry house owners can trace their roots to a modest sized city in Bangladesh is rather amazing.  I imagine it will be an interesting story to watch going forward.  Thanks for posting.

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Very interesting - they're seeing similar problems in Singapore where profits of hawkers stalls is declining, and the younger generation are now university educated and don't want to do the hard work of running one...  the government of Singapore is very concerned about this, since the hawker stalls are part of their heritage, and are constantly having conferences among food professionals and public opinion experts as to how to solve the problem.

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Parliament has a curry committee? Why can't congress have a pizza committee, a coney committee, a burger committee...?

   BTW-for the record- I do see this is important. I would consider anything that could ,potentially, cause mass unemployment an important issue. And, I am glad to see that the government is trying to do something about it. Sometimes my silly/stupid- side gets the better of me when it shouldn't.

Edited by Naftal
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"As life's pleasures go, food is second only to sex.Except for salami and eggs...Now that's better than sex, but only if the salami is thickly sliced"--Alan King (1927-2004)

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  • 7 years later...
On 1/9/2016 at 2:38 AM, liuzhou said:

There have been numerous articles like this in the British press over the years and others that covered changes in immigration rules halting the flow of chefs from Bangladesh. All spelling the end of the BIR (British Indian Restaurant).

In realty the BIR trade has changed significantly over the the last 40 years. The food on offer at take always differs greatly from what I was eating back then, menus have grown from the few standard curries ranging from mild to blistering hot, to no end of regional style dishes that no kitchen could expect to turn out tasting close to the original dish.

Back then there were only a few “up market” restaurants; Veeraswarmy’s was one of those, based in the West End of London and opening in 1926 it was one of the first, another would be the Bombay Brasserie which opened in 1982. These offered a  higher standard of food with individually and well spiced dishes. There are now many such establishments, cream of the crop in my opinion are the Cinnamon Club/Cinnamon Kitchen range and between them comes the likes of Dishoom. 

As well as that, with the number of good authors out there offering traditional recipes, and the ready availability of the necessary ingredients, people are prepared to invest their time in preparing a good home cooked curry that stands head and shoulders, taste wise, above what the BIR are offering.


The demise of the BIR must be weighed against its former popularity. Every small town could have a number of curry houses, but the trend has peaked and a number can no longer operate in the dwindling market so whereas you may have had the choice of several in a town, now you may only have two. 

And the latest blow is the cost of living crisis which has pushed down both the quality and quantity of food. I rarely eat from a BIR these days, but have had reason to turn to a take away curry in recent weeks. My post to another website earlier this month, which I have copied below, outlines why I won’t be rushing back.


The BBC is running a story on the current cost of a takeaway curry in various regions of the U.K.

Indian takeaways: Restaurant owners say high prices down to perfect storm https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/newsbeat-67138765

The wife and I used to have a takeaway most weeks but in our area, a medium sized town midway between Chelmsford and Colchester, the cost is becoming prohibitive.

A main course each, a couple of chapatis, two veg side dishes and some poppadoms (which used to be free) is now close to £45.

The price seems to be a bit of a lottery; we add up the cost of the order and even though we have the latest menu, an additional 3 or 4 quid is always added to the order. I don’t know if this is now for delivery, despite the menu stating delivery is free but it means the delivery guys and gals don’t get as big a tip as they used to receive from us.

The takeaway opens at 17.00 but has recently decided to deliver from 18.00 hours, meaning the food is invariably tepid and can arrive too late to eat before bed. 

The biggest problem is the quality of the food. I tend to order from the tandoori section, mixed grill or chicken shaslik, whilst the wife focuses on some of the “regional specialities”, shaktora or Nawabi. I’ve noticed on a chicken shaslik that the quantity of chicken has reduced to be replaced with added onion or tomato, whilst the wife says everything off the regional menu tastes exactly the same, there is no variation in the sauces.

This is from the take away that we have used for many years, it has never been the greatest but was the best of the lot. A rival opened a few years back claiming to offer a “fine dining takeaway experience”, a claim they never substantiated but it was a better take away and carried a premium price. We used it for a short while but reverted to our usual take away after a while. I’m told now that this high end restaurant has also increased its cost but has nearly halved its portion size and quality has fallen away. The owner of a local Tapas bar used to sing the praises of this high end option but was so disappointed with recent meals he told the restaurateur, a friend, that he could no longer recommend the place anymore and would no longer being ordering from there, and these guys are/were good buddies.

We all know the Indian restaurant trade has been in trouble for years now, I just wonder if this is the death knell for the industry from which it won’t claw itself back?

Edited by Tempest63 (log)
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