Today marks a special milestone in the 21-year history of Downham Tandoori as it opens the doors to a further extension at its High Street premises.
The extra room has been created in response to continuous high demand by scores of customers who regularly want to dine out at the restaurant, set up in 1996 by brothers Anwar and Abdul Ali.
From 4pm today, the doors will swing open to reveal the new interior of the business which now operates from 52 to 56 High Street and has virtually doubled its seating capacity to accommodate up to 110.
Said Anwar: “Every Friday and Saturday we are packed. We have many customers from Downham, but we also draw in people from an extensive area, including Lynn, Heacham, Hunstanton and even Norwich. I don’t like to say ‘no’.
“We started off at No.56 and then in 2010, we extended into 54 High Street. I thought this would be enough, but then we had the same problem, so we have extended even further.”
It’s very much a family affair, with Anwar’s sons pitching in to help at the busiest times, and also his sister, who works in the post office.
Anwar owns Downham Post Office and the WH Smith shop along with a food business in London. He said: “Most of all I love Downham Tandoori. I don’t call customers ‘customers’ – I call them my friends. I have invited to the opening two very good friends, Alan and Yvonne Roberts, who have been married for more that 60 years and who every Monday, used to visit Downham Tandoori. They have now moved to Norwich, but are coming to the opening.”
One of the restaurant’s most famous customers is former Prime Minister John Major, who particularly enjoys a chicken curry. “Now when customers come in, they just ask for a ‘John Major curry’,” said Anwar.
In July this year, around 200 guests were invited to a dinner at Downham Town Hall to celebrate the restaurant’s two decades in the town. The special anniversary event raised more than £3,500 for East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices. Downham Tandoori has also raised thousands of pounds for Arthritis Research UK, the stroke unit at Lynn’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital, GOSH and Cancer Research UK by taking part in Lynn GEAR in 2015 and 2016.