The first Indian restaurant to open in Market Harborough is celebrating its 40th birthday – almost four months late.
The Shagorika on St Mary’s Road had planned to mark the occasion in May, but lockdown restrictions came into force.
Owner Muhit Munir said customers often remind him the restaurant has not long turned 40. Some even remark how the eatery was considered ‘ground-breaking’ when it opened in 1980, incidentally, the year Muhit was born.
He added: “People come up to me all the time and say they had their first ever curry here and that before this time there wasn’t a great deal of choice in Market Harborough.
“To reach 40 years is very good. One of the biggest things we have learned is people don’t like change with the restaurant.
“Last year we were planning a refurbishment but some of our customers told us to leave it just how it is. They want to keep the place the same. We only did a bit of decorating in the end.”
According to Facebook group Market Harborough in Old Pictures, Kelly’s Greengrocers traded from the building before the Shagorika opened.
The Harborough Mail covered the transition of greengrocers to curry house in some detail. On the Shagorika’s opening night, assistant editor Bob Hemingway was among 58 guests invited to feast on curry and chat with other curious locals.
In his review Bob described the food as ‘a real treat’ while owner Ala Uddin said business lunches would be served if there was sufficient demand.
Head chef Anhar Ali, who has worked at The Shagorika for almost three decades, said the restaurant has moved with the times using more daring spices due to customer demand.
He added: “It seems peoples’ taste for spice has changed. What was hot 30 years ago is considered mild now.
“One thing that has always surprised me is how much people here [Harborough] love Indian food, they want to know how to cook it. If I had a pound for every time I am asked how to cook a certain dish, I’d be rich.”
As testament to how popular Indian cuisine is in Harborough, The Shagorika ran a workshop at the start of 2018 called ‘Cook like a Curry King’. They received more than 250 enquiries from people wanting to take part. After running a handful of sessions, the restaurant had to put the scheme on hold.
“We never knew it would be so big, we couldn’t cope with demand,” continued Muhit, “I tell you, people really want to know our secrets on how we cook, but we can’t give them all away, only some.
“We are so thankful to the people of Market Harborough for the last 40 years though, hopefully we’ll be around for many more years to come.”