In a first of sorts, a planeload of spicy Indian food from an Indian restaurant in Portsmouth – dishes such as Bangal Naga Chicken, Paneer Korai – flew from south of England on Saturday to an airfield in Bordeaux to meet the needs of curry-craving British expatriates in France.
The unique long-distance delivery – the brainchild of France-based British aviation trainer James Emery and Faz Ahmed of Akash restaurant – included 89 meals, 70 side dishes, 75 portions of rice, 100 papads (better known as poppadoms in Britain) and mango chutney.
Priced at £32 per person, orders were accepted only from France, with a choice of four curries: Chicken Tikka Masala, Lamb Balti, Bangal Naga Chicken and the vegetarian Paneer Korai.
The consignment was flown in a six-seater Socata TBM700 aircraft from the Solent Airport in Lee-On-The-Solent to the Saucats Airfield in Bordeaux. The Akash restaurant tweeted: “We have arrived at customs in France with our curries.”
The project evoked much media interest in England. Emery told journalists before taking off: “I am a chilli addict and an aviation geek so I thought I would combine my two hobbies to get my favourite meal delivered to me in France.
“I have been getting withdrawal symptoms, they do lots of good things in France but you just can’t get a good curry. Every time I popped in for a meal, I would complain about the bland and uninspiring version of Indian food we get in France.”
Ahmed said: “We thought about it for a long time, he has been coming into the restaurant for 20 years joking that the curries are really bad in France and asking for me to deliver one to me.
“We have done nothing like this, our delivery radius is three to four miles and we are doing 500 miles, so it is something to be proud of.”
The Indian food industry has come a long way since the days of Patna-origin Sake Dean Mohamed, who opened London’s first Indian restaurant Hindoostane Coffee House in Marylebone in 1810. The industry is worth £4 billion today.
In Britain, curry is used in a generic sense and stands for dishes vastly different from that known back home. At least one “Indian” dish is a purely British invention — the chicken tikka masala, which was endowed with the status of “national dish” by former foreign secretary Robin Cook.