Marathon man: Ala Uddin of Lina Tandoori, Pangbourne, proudly displays his latest award, Best South Asian Restaurant London Home Counties in the Asian Curry Awards 2012 and (left) the keen marathon runner at the finish of last year’s Reading Marathon.
Lina Tandoori in Pangbourne is a restaurant of surprises.
Situated opposite The George Hotel, in Whitchurch Road, the business was launched in 1996 by chef owner Ala Uddin. The modest little restaurant belies the excellence of the cuisine.
It is probable that Ala Uddin is one of the most prolific award-winning chefs in Berkshire. Claiming his first chef competition accolade in June 1998, as runner-up in the Curry Chef of the Year competition staged by West Berkshire Council.
Since then Ala has was a local finalist in the same awards the following year and in 2001 he achieved the biggest accolade of his career, outright winner of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health CIEH awards, earning the title of National Curry Chef, and the awards keep coming, most recently he was nominated as the Best South Asian Restaurant London Home Counties in the Asian Curry Awards 2012.
Among Ala’s favourite dishes are chicken Dhansak with lentils (sweet and sour), vegetarian Rogan Josht, tomatoes and garlic. Some customers just ask him to bring the dishes he enjoys, Ala said: “The result can be very different, mixing garlic, chicken, dry chicken Shaslik, vegetable curry, chicken tikka masala and rice. Everything, even the samosas is made on the premises.”
Ala counts footballers, local dignitaries and many longstanding clients among his loyal clientele and one customer, who lives 150 miles away in Teignmouth, Devon, always makes a point of visiting Lina Tandoori when visiting Berkshire, claiming the food at Lina is better than he has had in India and Kerala.
Ala, from Bangladesh, is passionate about his work and even when he goes back to Bangladesh for holidays he continues to explore new methods and styles of cooking. On his last visit Ala participated in a large scale outdoor meal for 5,000 people, a gathering of respect to his late father. Ala is also very careful to choose the best suppliers for meat and vegetables and always buys the top grade spice. Ala said: “There are many chefs in the Bangladesh community who are natural chefs, from 12 years old I was always in the kitchen with mum. I loved to eat food, cooking is very important, my father was a chef in the UK for 35 years, he was a sous chef at the Dorchester Hotel. He said that if you become a chef you will always have a job and you will meet very different people.” Ala loves being a professional chef and working in Pangbourne. He has a great rapport with his customers, many of whom have become friends. He is involved with the local community and cooks extensively for the crowds at the Pangbourne Fete.
Many Berkshire people know of Ala Uddin not just for the excellence of his food, but as an accomplished athlete and marathon runner. Having recently competed in the Woking town marathon, the 2013 Reading Marathon on March 17 was Ala’s 11th marathon. Wearing shirt number 5281 Ala finished the course in a very creditable 2 hours 17.59 seconds, supporting the Berkshire Physiotherapy Centre. For Ala, keeping fit by running is very important. He is inspired by Gordon Ramsey and follows the master chef’s training programme. Ala’s best marathon time is two hours and four minutes. He said: “Running is a mindset, and it makes me feel content. I would now like to run the London Marathon and the Great North Run.”