Hampstead head chef Abdur to spice up India

SELLING British curry back to India might seem like taking coal to Newcastle, but one Hampstead chef has been selected to put his best of British to the test during a food festival on the sub-continent.

Abdur Rob, head chef at Hampstead’s Fleet Tandoori, is one of only four UK curry chefs chosen to display their wares at the Taste of Britain festival in India this month.

Festival director Syed Belal Ahmed said: “We advertised saying ‘are you ready for this challenge?’ It was a three month selection process and 1,100 applied. We shortlisted 30, then looked at their cooking skills, presentation and hygiene. I tasted all of them.

“Abdur is brilliant because he is very creative and with a lot of bright ideas about what he wants to do.”

Mr Rob, who was voted curry chef of the year by Curry Life magazine, has been commended for his own creations, including the marinated Lamb Shahi Monipuri.

He said: “It is my own creation – it was my own idea and I mixed the spice myself.

“I have been here for 12 years as head chef – I was 25 when I started. I developed the dishes about six or seven years ago and they have become very popular.”

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The restaurant, on Fleet Road, has become a favourite of local celebrities Russell Brand, Chris Moyles and Alistair Campbell, who apparently enjoys a takeaway almost every week.

Though Mr Belal Ahmed has been running Taste of Britain since 2002, this is the first time a London chef has been selected.

He said: “There are posh and expensive restaurants in London, but for some reason we don’t find anything so great or interesting. Traditional British curry houses are often in the suburbs and the villages. We haven’t brought anyone from central London before.”

The four British chefs will each take their specialty dishes to the nine-day festival in Bhubaneswar, state capital of Orissa, where they will create a menu for customers at the five-star Hindustan International hotel.

Mr Ahmed says the idea of promoting British curry in India is not as mad as it sounds.

“They are all crazy about the kind of curry they see in Britain – the Balti cuisine and chicken Tikka Masala, but last year also lots of fusion dishes,” he said.

“For example, shepherd’s pie Indian-style or roast beef and Yorkshire pudding twisted into a fusion curry – everyone wanted to give it a try. “More than 3,000 came last year – people were queuing up outside and journalists flew in from Delhi.”