Ian Lavery MP, talks about his nomination for the 2019 Parliamentary Tiffin Cup Competition – announcing the winner, this year from Morpeth! 

One of the lighter moments in our Parliamentary year – and believe me there haven’t been too many of those lately – centres around some friendly rivalry among MPs to choose the best curry house among our constituencies.

Annually we compete for an award known as the Tiffin Cup presented to the winner of a competition that was first started by my colleague Keith Vaz, the Member representing Leicester East.

Keith is a curry aficionado who decided about 12 years ago to put the debates among MPs as to who had the best South East Asian restaurant in our own areas, on a formal – albeit friendly – footing with the award of the very first Tiffin Cup in 2006.  The word tiffin means a light snack or a container for transporting such meals.

The way it works is that those MPs who want to take part, nominate a local restaurant as our entrant in the competition and 12 finalists are eventually chosen by a panel of Members and some celebrity judges, to go forward to a ‘cook-off’ at a restaurant in Westminster.

My approach to find our Wansbeck entrant is to run an on-line poll giving constituents the chance to nominate their own particular favourite restaurant.  Whichever one gets the most votes automatically becomes our Wansbeck Tiffin Cup entrant.

So this year the one you have chosen for me is the Manzil Tandoori on the Oldgate corner of Morpeth Market Place.  The restaurant has been a favourite with Morpeth diners since it opened in 1982 serving traditional Tandoori dishes as well as a range of house specialities.

Hopefully the Manzil will make it all the way to the London final of the competition where one of the judges will be celebrity and television personality Ainsley Harriot. The eventual winner receives a Tiffin Club chef’s jacket.

As I said it is very much a friendly competition but it does have a serious side and that is to promote and celebrate the cuisines and cultures of South East Asia which have become very much part and parcel of community life in Britain.

There are now, for instance, a staggering 10,000 curry houses in the UK but perhaps many will be surprised to learn that the very first one opened in London as long ago as 1809!  By the middle of the 19th Century military personnel and civic servants returning home from serving in India brought with them their taste of the local food which has since then had a huge impact on the way we eat in this country.

Indian food, of course, is very diverse reflecting the differences in diets and tastes across the various regions of the country and families arriving to settle in the UK from the sub-continent have introduced their own regional flavours to diners at their restaurants or take-aways as well as adapting the food they serve to suit British palates.

Add in the preferences some people have for dishes from other countries such as China, Italy with its pizzas and pastas, Greece and Turkey with their kebabs, and it is no surprise that we now have such a very cosmopolitan approach to food in this country which has also been influenced by opportunities these days to travel widely across the world.

Morpeth is very fortunate in the fact that all those cultures and cuisines are represented in the choice and variety of offerings in the town’s restaurants and take-aways.

The world on a plate can pretty well be found in the town which is one of the reasons why it has such a lively and vibrant night-time economy.  There are plenty of well-established and popular outlets catering for so many different tastes and it is encouraging to see that a number of new restaurants have also emerged on to the scene over the past few months and to learn that more are planned in the near future.

Add into the mix the number of excellent cafes and coffee shops in Morpeth and it is easy to see why the town centre is such a popular meeting place for local people as well as welcoming visitors into the town.

A town centre cannot survive on shops and services alone and the most successful ones have a variety of excellent places to eat, drink and socialise and Morpeth certainly has an abundance of such outlets and facilities.

As the town expands the way it is with some 3,000 new homes either being built or planned locally, those restaurants, cafes, coffee shops and pubs need to do all they can to promote themselves to the newcomers moving into Morpeth so they keep their custom in the town and not take it elsewhere.

In turn, the shops and other businesses can benefit from more visitors coming into Morpeth for a meal or a social outing.  Together the businesses need to do all they can to demonstrate that Morpeth centre truly is well worth a visit.

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