Ashoka curry king expands empire to Edinburgh

Competition from the Ashoka chain is worrying rival curry businesses. Picture: AP Photo/Alastair Grant
Competition from the Ashoka chain is worrying rival curry businesses. Picture: AP Photo/Alastair Grant
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A CURRY turf war could lead to bad korma after Europe’s biggest Indian restaurant chain moved east to the Capital.

Scottish curry king Sanjay Majhu opened a new Ashoka restaurant two months ago – offering a world buffet – in Hanover Street, which has been described as a “pilot move” to the east as he believes the time is right to expand his business from his Glasgow stronghold.

Mr Majhu has been ­delighted by the response from Edinburgh residents – which he says now paves the way for further expansion.

But the move has left some restaurant owners hot under the collar amid fears the chain could put a strain on existing traditional eateries.

Mr Majhu, who purchased Harlequin Group in an 
£8 million acquisition deal from Charan Gill in 2005, said despite the difficult economic climate, he feels the time is right to ­allow his business to grow. He said: “The new restaurant in Edinburgh is our pilot in the city. We’ve used it as a test bed to check what appetite the ­Capital has for Ashoka.

“The restaurant has been open for two months and ­although it is early days it has been very well received.

“In this economy people are looking for three key things when they dine out – excellent food, fantastic service and value for money. This is the premise of our business and the three pillars we have built the Ashoka empire on.“

“Ashoka World Buffet restaurant is our first venture into the Capital and our east coast expansion has definitely ­whetted our appetite for further growth throughout Scotland.

“I’m looking forward to ­making as much of an impact with Ashoka in the east as we have in the west.”

In partnership with his wife, Indian author and chef Jiggy Majhu, Mr Majhu said he has diversified the Ashoka’s ­offering beyond its traditional Indian restaurant roots.

Its world buffet concept combines Indian favourites with speciality Italian and Chinese dishes under a set-price menu.

But Matin Khan, owner of the award-winning Itihaas restaurant in Dalkeith, said: “These chain restaurants are putting a strain on individual restaurants. There’s already an over provision of Indian restaurants in the Capital – it’s not going to do anything to improve the quality of the dishes.

“In the past five years I’ve seen many more spring up.

Ashoka has been a huge success in the west where five of the chain’s 14 restaurants are.

But chairman of the Bangladeshi Catering Association Scotland, Asaddar Ali, said: “It’s a very hard business climate in Edinburgh at the moment. All the restaurants in Edinburgh are suffering, particularly those in the West End affected by the tram works.

“Ashoka might have a lot of money to spend but it’s just going to be another restaurant.

“I’d be surprised to see them ­become very successful and ­expand, but I wish them all the best.”

Industry feeling the heat

THE curry industry is already mired in controversy as earlier this year it was revealed one in three curry dishes are fake.

A leaked report by food watchdog the Scottish Food Enforcement Liaison Committee said cheap beef was passed off as lamb in popular bhuna and korma dishes served at 46 of the 129 restaurants tested.

But curry chefs said they were “dismayed” by attempts to link them to the horsemeat scandal.