A TAMESIDE curry house has found itself a northern star after being the only one from the area to reach the finals of the British Kebab Awards.
And if you see a man walking around pinching himself, that will be Al Noor’s owner Amir Iqbal after securing the spot in only his second year of running his first restaurant.
The eatery on Ashton’s Penny Meadow has reached the final in the Best Newcomer category and could walk away with the title in October.
In the list of 10, the nearest competitor is in Coventry – some 110 miles away – and in other categories, the closest anyone gets is Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire.
Little wonder that Amir, who took on the restaurant that has been there since 2016, is still in a bit of a daze.
He said: “I’m so proud, we only opened up in our current guise last May!
“For the first year, that’s not bad. I only took it on last May and completely changed the menu, so technically I suppose we are brand new.
“There were 20 in the semi-finals and only 10 got through to the final and there’s just us in the north of England, not just the north west.
“Before I took Al Noor on, I’d never actually worked in a restaurant. I’d only worked in a takeaway, where you just make it, wrap it and give it.
“The restaurant business has been all new to me.
“Seriously, I just tap myself sometimes and just go, ‘Wow, I did it.’”
Getting from the semi-finals to the final came as a result of a public vote, although Amir is not certain how many he received as results are not revealed.
Now the prizes are given out based on a combination of a public vote and judging based on visits by mystery shoppers.
Whatever happens, it is a huge thumbs up after Amir decided to change things after coming in.
He added: “Before I came in, Al Noor only did a few curries and things like paninis and wraps while I added a lot more varieties, both Asian and English.
“I’ve made my own customer base too because of it.
“And getting this far is a huge complement to the chefs that work here.
“Our menu is quite big but there aren’t many who actually work here, just four or five in the kitchen.
“They’re just very good at cooking everything we do.”