This year’s hunt for Leicestershire’s best Asian cuisine ended at last night’s Leicester Curry Awards 2020/21. On 27 September 2021, the ceremony saw awards given across seven categories with the winners being given some well deserved recognition for their efforts to bring delicious curries to the region. Five additional special awards were also awarded to both establishments and individuals who had gone the extra mile to support the local community during lockdown.
The evening which was hosted by Leicester venue, Athena, saw limousine chauffeured guests be greeted by a red carpet and the flashing bulbs of eager photographers. The glamorous entrance set the tone for a glitzy evening that wouldn’t have looked out of place as a Bollywood film set. From sparkling gowns and saris to sharp tuxedos, guests were instructed to wear black tie and all dressed to impress.
Following the red carpet moment, a drinks reception kickstarted the night although this part of the evening was optional and people were offered the opportunity to be immediately seated if this was their preference. Given the times, the evening was peppered with similar precautionary measures so that guests could feel safe whilst enjoying themselves.
All guests were then seated at their tables to be served a hearty spread of the finest South Asian cuisine. As anticipated, given that we were at the Leicester Curry Awards after all, the curry was exquisite. As the three courses were served, guests were kept entertained by some of the county’s most talented acts. Winner of Leicester’s Got Talent 2019, Lena Bettles, received a rapturous response for her performance which included a rendition of Etta James’ ‘At Last’ and dance group Creative Edge shimmied their way across the stage to cheers and applause. There was also a lively performance from the ultimate crowd pleasers, The Dhol Enforcement Agency, whose live punjabi folk music brought people up off their chairs and to their feet.
And then began the evening’s main event: the awards ceremony. Finally, after being postponed for a year, the winners and runners-up were going to get their special moment. In an especially touching moment, there was also some new awards given too titled after the ‘Always in Our Thoughts’ charity which recognises victims of the pandemic. The special awards recognised the efforts of establishments and individuals who had worked to help the community during lockdown.
The winners who were announced across the seven categories were:
Best Takeaway – Anika Balti Express
Best Street Food – Mumbai Sandwich Station
Best New Restaurant – Saffron Ivy
Best Vegetarian Restaurant – Chai Paani
Best Pub Restaurant – Paddy’s Marten Inn
Best Fine Dining Restaurant – SOI Indian Restaurant
Restaurant of the Year – Indian Fusion
The recipients of the Always In Our Thought’s Awards were:
Chutney Ivy (restaurant)
Alex Hannam (photographer)
Priti Raichura (event planner)
The show was hosted by ITV reporter Rajiv Popat who also served as one of the judges on the panel. On the experience, Rajiv said:
Rajiv quote: “It was an honour and privilege to host the Leicester Curry Awards.
“I’ve been a judge since 2017 so it was a real honour and privilege to host the Leicester Curry Awards this year. The last 18 months have been incredibly difficult for everyone so last night was a great opportunity to meet friends, relax and celebrate the contribution of all the brilliant Indian takeaways and restaurants in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland.”
The remaining four judges were Parveen “The Spice Queen” Ashraf who has presented her very own ten part cooking series for ITV, titled ‘Parveen’s Indian Kitchen’; Becky Jones who is writer of Leicester Mercury’s ‘What’s On’ feature; David Young TD DL, Deputy Lieutenant and Chairman of ABF The Soldiers’ Charity and BBC Radio Leicester’s Ben Jackson.
This was the fourth annual curry awards but it was undeniable that there was something extra special about this night. Perhaps it was the gratitude felt, to be able to celebrate together again or the feeling of hope that was in the air, because for many, this was a glimpse of life pre-pandemic and a promise that things were moving back to some semblance of normality.
By Gita Sarasia