The famous Newcastle Central to Corbridge Curry Train has been featured on Michael Portillo’s Great Coastal Railway Journeys this week.
What’s more the ‘Passage to India’, is celebrating 30 years of eloquent Indian dining thanks to the quality of service provided by the Aziz family.
The Raj style escorted train connection can also pick up passengers along the Tyne Valley line all bound for the Valley restaurant in Corbridge. Orders are taken on the train from their full à la Carte menu and will be ready on arrival.
There’s no need to worry about driving as uniformed staff will meet clients at their departure point and escort them to the restaurant. Drinks are served on the journey which takes around 40 minutes from Tyneside. They aren’t however, part of the package price.
Asian Standard understands the original idea of this unique service was encouraged by former Newcastle United Chairman Freddy Shepherd. Special guests across the years have included Frank Bruno, Chris Tarrant, Ian Botham, Alan Shearer and Brendan Foster.
Nabs Aziz, whose dad Daraz owns The Valley, said: “Dad was struggling with the business at first and Freddy said to him, Daraz, you’ve got the train right next to you, why don’t you do something to draw the punters from here?
“That’s when dad got the idea of dressing up in traditional Indian attire and providing this service from Newcastle. He did in fact, invite his friend Freddie Shephard to host the ‘North-East Yacht Club’ meet on the first ever Curry Train back in 1992.
The family also have restaurants in both Jesmond and Hexham promising a unique and pleasurable dining experience in luxurious surroundings. Superbly presented authentic dishes from Bangladesh and the Indian subcontinent are served with impeccable style by attentive waiters.
Nabs added: “As a family business we have been trading prominent establishments since the early 70’s, starting with the Moti Mahal. The Valley in Corbridge (host to the curry train) has recently celebrated its 30th Anniversary, The Valley Junction 397 in Jesmond is approaching 25 years and our latest addition, Cilantro in Hexham is approaching three years. The curry train, we could say, is about 40 – 50 percent of our trade. It’s massive.
It had been a while since filming and the family were only told recently the Curry Train would be featured this week.
Nabs explained: “Filming was supposed to go ahead in 2020, but due to the Covid restrictions it was put back to the summer. We were thinking a long time ago about reaching out and saying, we’ve got something different here. But they contacted us because Michael Portillo was going past us on his journey and said, ‘hey, we’d like to get the curry train involved.
“I wasn’t on screen, but I was helping out while they were shooting. It was a fun day with them. Michael was a pleasure to work with, polite and eloquent, as you would expect. It is years of hard work and a supportive team which is the key to our success & longevity.
“The pandemic has affected the availability and timetables of trains on the Tyne Valley Line, with staff shortages and cancellations on the trains having had a knock on effect on the Valley. “It’s always been popular, but we’ve had to cancel a lot of our parties because the train timetables don’t always line up, that’s something we’ve even suffered with the last few weeks. Sometimes return trains haven’t turned up and we’ve had to phone taxis – there have even been times where staff members give lifts home. But when it’s running, it’s great both for us and the customers. We’re just having to work our way around the restrictions.”
“What we have noticed is during the pandemic, even if we don’t run the train, we cover that business from local custom. Local customers who we can’t usually cater for have been able to book in on a Friday and Saturday night.
“And despite the disappointment of the Passage to India being cancelled, it’s meant that there’s been an upturn in custom from those who live locally.”
Michael Portillo travelled from the coast at Tynemouth taking in Hadrians Wall inland. Great Coastal railway Journey’s covering the region can be seen at 6.30pm on BBC2.
For more information on The Curry Train visit: www.valleyrestaurants.co.uk