Nominated For Best in the south west
An Indian restaurant in Crewkerne has been named as one of the best in the South West at this year's British Curry Awards.
Bengal Raj took home the prize at the prestigious awards ceremony in London on November 28. It was also the only Indian restaurant in Somerset to be nominated
The most important thing people will want to know is how the food tastes and if you can guarantee a good meal when you are there. I went along to Bengal Raj this week to speak to the manager, Jahangir (Hank) Alom, and try their food.
The chef served up a special dish that was going to be part of the new menu (more on that further down the article).
He served up a King Prawn Goan curry beautifully presented with a portion of rice. The dish was mild and creamy but very tasty. The chef wouldn't divulge to me what his secret ingredients were that made the curry so delicious.
The great food added to the pleasant setting in the restaurant and friendly staff who work there makes it a winner.
The judges at the British Curry Awards certainly saw something special with what Bengal Raj are doing and it is hard to argue against them.
The Indian restaurant has been around Crewkerne since the 1990s in various different locations originally set up by Shah Alom.
Around two years ago his son, Hank, took over running the business full time and turned their fortunes around.
Hank admits there were some dark times, which included being given a zero food hygiene rating, and it has been a long road to get where they are.
He said: "If it was not for my customers I would not be here. We have been through the darkest of times but we are part of the community and they have stuck by us.
"I had to prove myself and had to prioritise business over everything else. Getting the award and the recognition just shows what we have done here.
"I have been running the business fully for two years now. I thought this deserves better and a lot more could be done with it. It was just being wasted.
"My dad opened up his first restaurant in the South West in 1983 and he is still around. He is semi-retired now but still does oversee things. He has so much experience and if it wasn't for him I would not be doing what I am today."
This is just the start, according to Hank, he wants to grow the business from strength to strength and expand into other areas.
He is also looking to introduce a new menu in the near future to keep bringing fresh ideas to his customers. Plus there are a lot more things to come from Bengal Raj that Hank was keeping to himself for now.
He said: "In the UK everyone is working hard so people deserve to spend their money on the best food possible. When someone sees there is a quality place then people want to come.
"I have a lot of things planned for the future and a lot of surprises for our customers.
"This is just the start for the business. I'm a really ambitious person and I want to be able to open ten restaurants."
Hank also said is starting to work more behind the scenes in the kitchen learning from his chef so he knows the food served in his restaurant is the best.
He added: "I have always wanted to work in the kitchen and have been spending more and more time there learning recently. Our chef is absolutely amazing and a lot of credit must go to him.
"We have now got the right front of house team in place where I can feel confident about going into the kitchen.
"I want my customers to know I care about the food and service I give them when they come here and when I'm in the kitchen I can be 100 per cent sure the food I'm sending out is the best."