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Inspirational ideas: Seven ways with curry

By Sheila McWattie

- Last updated on GMT

Balti pie: The Farmers Boy Inn, in Gloucestershire, marinades its chicken breasts for eight hours
Balti pie: The Farmers Boy Inn, in Gloucestershire, marinades its chicken breasts for eight hours

Related tags: Curry, Indian cuisine

Pub Food highlights seven unique ways in which caterers are making the most of the curry occasion.

1 Ruby Tuesday

Curry nights are ubiquitous, so owner Roberto Zeolla at Essex freehold the Chequers at Matching Green helps to ensure that his pub’s Tuesday curry stands out.

Facebook followers increase and new and repeat footfall rises by posting an image and description of each week’s dish on Facebook.

Chef Mastro Berardino serves a curry from a different part of the world every week, such as Thai, Indian or Indonesian. At £13.50 for a special curry and drink, the deal comprises naan bread and poppadoms plus a small glass of house wine or pint of IPA/Foster’s. Pan-fried salmon with south Indian curry is a popular choice.

Facebook followers like to share images of their favourites, adding to the rural pub’s reputation as a dining destination.

2 Street food pop-up

Bristol-based mobile vegetarian curry business Gopal’s Curry Shack finds its pop-up partnership with the Crofters’ Rights pub in the city lucrative and motivating.

Co-director and head chef Mel Taylor, with business partner Heather Simmonds, describes Gopal’s two separate week-long pop-up stints at the Bristol pub as “a fantastic opportunity to reach a whole new audience, while widening our offering from just Indian street-food snacks to main curry dishes”.

Taylor provided hot dishes at the Crofters’ Rights from 5pm to 11pm Monday to Friday for one week in December and another in March.

“It was terrific for sales and morale as we were able to invest in some badly needed equipment, raise our profile and attract new trade to both businesses,” says Taylor.

3 Big Eats challenge

At the sports-focused Old Shepherd in Keresley, near Coventry — a Marston’s managed house — the Big Eats challenge doubles usual early-week trade to about 60 competitors from 5pm on Tuesdays to attempt the Hot as Hell curry, just one of the weekly food-based competitions designed to increase trade on an otherwise quiet evening.

Only a handful of competitors have succeeded in finishing the curry, said to “make grown men cry” and receive their certificate, badge and a free drink.

Wet sales are boosted by at least a quarter by offering the ultra-spicy food. Loyalty from the competition and word-of-mouth publicity helps to spread the word about the pub’s Wednesday Curry Night offer, when a curry and a pint are on the menu for £5.40.

4 Richter scale

Taste-buds vary in sensitivity, so letting customers know what to expect from a curry can boost trade and loyalty.

Family-run freehouse the Greyhound at Chevington, Suffolk, offers an extensive Asian menu. Scores for Thai and Indian dishes are attributed on its Richter scale, from one for very mild to 12 for super-hot. Curries include Kerala prawn (£8.50), chicken Madras (£7.50), pork vindaloo and lamb masala (£8 each) and an extensive vegetarian selection, plus accompaniments.

To balance the heat with a mild dessert, the pub offers carrot halva, made with carrots and sultanas cooked slowly in milk and sugar (£4.75).

 5 Curry pie

Chicken balti pies provide a valued point of difference at Phil Kiernan’s award-winning Farmers Boy Inn, in Gloucestershire.

“Don’t undervalue pies — use them to showcase your diverse offer,” advises Kiernan, who has run the freehold pub for 14 years and adjoining Purple Cow shop for seven.

“We marinade chicken breasts for eight hours for our balti pies. A good pie attracts repeat customers of all ages: we sell about 1,000 in the pub weekly, of which about 12% are chicken balti (£14.95 with seasonal vegetables).

“About 100 sell every week in our shop in winter, at £4.95 each. Chicken balti pies are also an important part of our distribution to about 20 other UK pubs and restaurants which don’t have
time to make them, but want wholesome ingredients.”

6 Selective sourcing

Chef-proprietor Kiren Puri has listened carefully to existing and new customers since buying the lease of rural West Berkshire pub the Bladebone Inn. So when locals requested a takeaway curry night, Puri — of New Zealand and Indian heritage — started sourcing ingredients from an Indian supermarket in Reading, and Indian sweets and snacks from a specialist east London store.

Puri says: “My Indian grandmother grinds and blends the spices for our dishes, which reflect foods I ate growing up. They’re influenced by the Punjab region, infused with my family’s East London background, and not well-known.

“Our customers love the authenticity of our takeaways, especially in colder months, so we’ll offer this service again from October.”

A recent four-course Indian night (£27.50) was accompanied by mango, lychee and gin fizz (£8.50).

7 Snacking alternative

Award-winning Essex licensee Darran Lingley’s Saint Arnold pub group includes the Griffin at Halstead, East Midlands & East Anglia regional winner in the Best Cask Ale Pub category of this year’s Great British Pub Awards.

High quality, affordable bar snacks are key to the 95% wet-led pub’s success, with curried vegetable pie and balti spicy nut mix among the favourites.

“To push up bar sales, focus on home-made snacks and include curry flavours,” suggests manager Gilly Ryan.

“Selling around 200 bar snacks weekly, including 75 curry pies, at an average of £2 each, brings a GP of around 70%. People love combining curry and beer flavours, and we enjoy recommending matches. Curried snacks are always popular at our monthly ale-tasting evenings.”

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