Leicester - Curry Capital of Britain 2016

Sir Peter Soulsby

Shedding light on a great city for curry

Leicester attracts over 35,000 people a year to their Diwali celebrations – the Hindu Festival of Light, making it one of the biggest celebrations outside of India.

Leicester’s history, cultural diversity and curry dedication makes the city strong competition. City Mayor for Leicester, Sir Peter Soulsby, explains the city’s curry credentials.

What did winning the Curry Capital Awards in 2007 mean for Leicester?

Those who live here or feel an affinity with the city have always regarded Leicester as the curry capital but this award, the first time Leicester had won the title in the history of the competition, was a formal confirmation of what we all knew. Given that we were up against strong competition from larger cities like Glasgow, Birmingham and Manchester, we were proud and delighted to win the award and it was a fantastic reward for the city restaurants involved in the competition that year.

Leicester is always a strong contender for the awards, what makes the city so special when it comes to curry?

Leicester has a worldwide reputation for the diversity of our various communities and the ways in which we have all successfully worked to continually improve the cohesion between them all. The background and history of these communities provides a platform for a unique mix of tastes and ingredients to suit the palate of any curry lover.

Leicester hosts one of the largest Diwali festivals outside of India – how did it evolve to get this big?

The celebrations for Diwali – the Hindu Festival of Light – in Leicester are one of the biggest outside of India, with up to 35,000 people attending the switch on of the lights on Belgrave Road and even more attending Diwali day itself in the heart of the city’s Asian community. The celebration has always been warmly welcomed in the city and this welcome has been extended over the years to friends, families and visitors from outside of the city and even from India itself.

Leicester Indian restaurants have been awarded for their quality at the English Curry awards and the Restaurant of the year awards – what makes Leicester’s curry houses so award-winning?

The sub-continental cuisine and the restaurants in Leicester are a true representation of the diverse mix of ethnicities and Asian regional influences in the city. The influence of the vegetarian Gujarati cuisine is unique to Leicester, for example, and the quality of our restaurants showcases and celebrates this diversity.

How has Leicester helped combat the effects of the so-called “Curry Crisis” sweeping the UK?

There is no short-term solution to the so-called ‘Curry Crisis’. Ethnic cookery courses will help but there is no substitute for gaining experience of the different regions and cuisines first-hand. Leicester is fortunate in that our ethnic population includes several different generations and many of the important cookery skills can be passed down, but these levels of skills are not exhaustive and it’s vital that we continue to recognise, promote and encourage the profession to ensure the public desire for diverse and high quality curries continues to be satisfied.

Peter Soulsby interview originally appeared on Hungryhouse.co.uk

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Last updated September 2015