RESTAURANTS across Tameside are cooking up a storm in the 2021 British Kebab Awards (BKA), with three local hotspots being shortlisted for this year’s semi-finals.
Established in 2013, in association with Just Eat, the BKA recognise and champion the efforts of local kebab takeaways and restaurants across the nation.
In the running for the Best Regional Kebab Restaurant are the Istanbul Grill in Denton and Tokies in Stalybridge, while Ashton-based Al Noor Café is up for Best Newcomer Restaurant outside London.
Al Noor owner Amir Iqbal said: “It was quite a shock to learn we’d been nominated because I only took over the business in May last year. Al Noor has been here for a while, but I’m still quite new.
“Initially it was hard to gauge what kind of response we’d get from the community because the second lockdown happened just a few weeks after we took over.
“But with the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme we found we were incredibly busy for much of the time it was running, and since then we’ve had amazing support from our local community.
“I think if we were able to make it as far as the finals it wouldn’t just be a big win for us, but a big win for Tameside. It’s only thanks to all the people out there that we are in the position we are.”
Yusuf Ceyhan, owner of Istanbul Grill, said: “It was a nice surprise to learn we had been shortlisted for the semi-finals, especially considering we have not been able to open much the last 12 months.
“Our food is more suited to eating in than taking out and with the lockdown situation we were only able to reopen for a limited time between July to November last year.
“Since then, we have been closed but it has allowed us to do a bit of renovation on the restaurant and it’s encouraging for us, as a business, to know that the community thinks a lot of us.
“We are very much looking forward to welcoming people back to Istanbul Grill as soon as we are able.”
Raja Shef Yousef, who runs Tokies in Stalybridge as well as Pontefract, Didsbury and Royton, said: “The nomination came as a surprise because we didn’t receive any prior notice.
“We have had to implement changes because of the pandemic. We’ve introduced a delivery service and put extra resources into our website rather than have people coming to the shop if possible.
“We were worried trade wouldn’t be the same but we have managed to get a to a level where it has still been very busy.
“I think our success has been a manifestation of how Tameside has taken to us as well. We give back because we get respect and love from the locals.”
• Voting is now open for the public to shortlist their top 10 eateries in each category at
britishkebabawards.co.uk, with the finalists set to be confirmed in July.