Biryani on pre-flight menu at Heathrow
The first Indian airport restaurant is to open in Terminal One next month, offering business people and holidaymakers a range of dishes, from spicy burgers and marinaded spring lamb sandwiches to chicken tikka and rogan josh.
The curry may have long been characterised as the meal to end a late night of revelling, but Heathrow's operator, British Airports Authority, decided it was a suitable dish to eat before take-off after a survey of passengers. It showed that they wanted to eat the classic spicy dishes of the Indian sub-continent before embarking for Paris, Barcelona and Rome.
The research, said BAA, also showed that travellers perceive Indian food to be as English as roast beef or fish and chips. The result: from September, Noon - The Taste of India, will open for business, from 6am to 10pm, seven days a week, alongside a branch of Harry Ramsden's, the successful Yorkshire chain of restaurants offering battered cod, mushy peas and fries.
Twenty-two million passengers a year, nearly half the Heathrow total, fly from Terminal One. "For European visitors, Terminal One provides their last taste of British food. We feel it's appropriate it should be an Indian meal," said BAA's spokeswoman, Alice Kavanagh.
The man behind Noon is Ghulam Noon, whose food factory in nearby Southall supplies 100,000 chilled Indian ready meals a year to Sainsbury's, Waitrose and Welcome Break motorway service stations. Mr Noon, who is credited with inventing Bombay Mix, the crunchy Indian snack alternative to the potato crisp, says the English have developed an insatiable appetite for pasanda, korma, tikka and biryani dishes. "Indian food is mainstream now. It's part of traditional English eating," he said.
Opening a restaurant after a successful career in ready meals catering is a personal triumph for Mr Noon. Opening it at Heathrow is a personal irony; he himself arrived at the airport 27 years ago when he came to Britain to make his fortune.
Mr Noon's knowledge of flying and of catering has convinced him of one thing; keep the hottest of meals off the Heathrow menu. "We had to adapt the meals, because some of our spices can make people dehydrated and flying can dehydrate you as well," he said. So for those who think that the English experience is several pints of lager and a curry fiery enough to make you weep, the news is bad: madras and vindaloo are off.
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