A much-loved Indian restaurant in Shoebury has thanked its customers as it has been shortlisted for a major restaurant of the year award.

The Asian Restaurant and Takeaway awards have revealed a list of finalists, with Shoebury’s popular The Polash in the running to be named the Essex restaurant of the year.

Their nomination marks yet another prestigious achievement in the family run restaurant’s nearly 45-year history - as it is a staple among the community in Shoebury.

So what is the much-loved restaurant's secret to success?

Our community reporter Louise Howeson met the owners on their anniversary last year to find out...

WHEN you are welcomed into The Polash restaurant by co-owner Sheikh Khalique, you feel like you are being entertained by a family friend.

The Bangladeshi and Indian restaurant in West Road, in Shoeburyness puts attention to detail and exceptional food at the centre of what they do.

For this reason, they have the loyalty of their regular customers who have visited monthly and weekly, for the last 43 years.

Sheikh Khalique himself is the face of the restaurant. Friendly and interesting, it is a pleasure to sit down and chat to him about his life and work.

“I am supposed to be semi-retired but I like it here, I have always enjoyed speaking with our guests,” said Sheikh, who does not look his 71 years.

“I know a lot of the people who come here very well, and the restaurant is like an extension of my dining room, I enjoy hosting.”

When The Polash, which is name after an orange-red flower popular in Bangladesh, opened in 1979, West Road was a bustling street filled, with independent shops, including two butchers, a confectioners, carpenters, hardware store, two vegetable shops and a florist.

“It was a beautiful shopping complex and a big draw for people. There was not the high street there is now, it was here people came to shop. From around 1985 things began to change, the independent shops started to shut. Only the original jewellers remain today. In 2000 the road was made into a one-way system and that really affected all the businesses down the road.”

How has The Polash remained when so many businesses have closed?

“When you have run a business for a long time, all times can be challenging, whether it’s the weather, the economy, you have to keep going and focus on what you are doing,” said Sheikh Khalique.

“For us, we have been able to continued because of our loyal, regular customers and the fact it is a team family effort.”

The restaurant has received awards such as British Curry Awards, Patak’s Curry Guide, County of Essex Excellence Award and more.

Sheikh Khalique grew up in a small village near Sylhet, in Bangladesh. His early childhood had a big impact on his life.

“I walked ten miles to school at 10 years old. I would walk through fields to get there and there was no proper road. Things like that from childhood stay with you.

“I would stay in lodgings with family and walk back at the end of the school week. I was a good student and I never remember coming second. I have a good memory, so does my mother, Lalbhanu, who is 88. Even now she remembers all the names of people from her childhood.”

In the sixties Sheikh Khalique’s father Haji Shieikh A Razzak and mother came to the UK from Bangledesh with their six sons Sheikh Khalique, Sheikh Harun, Sheikh Faruque, Sheikh Surath, Sheikh Shopique, Sheikh Motin and two daughters Anuara Begum and Shahna Begum.

They were based in London before opening The Polash in Shoeburyness in 1979 and in 1983 they opened a second restaurant in Burnham-on-Crouch.

With the help of the village community, the brothers created a high school in their home village which continues to thrive, with hundreds of students passing through each year.

“My father was alive when we opened The Polash and he instilled in us the idea to give back to the community and we have continued that legacy.”

Sheikh Khalique has documented many of the great achievements at the restaurant. We sit and look through the photo albums where a variety of guests are honoured including the late former Echo editor Jim Worsdale and Philip Miller MBE.

As we sit, delicious Indian tea and biscuits is served and later Sheikh Khalique invites me to chose some dishes for lunch. I got to see the naan being cooked in the incredibly hot tandoori oven and sit to eat the garlic naan with daal, basmati and tofu curry. It was the best curry I’ve tasted, so fresh tasty and the daal was melt in the mouth delicious.

Adorning the walls are celebrity photos of past guests as well an array of newspaper cuttings.

In the late nineties he travelled to Bangladesh with the Tonight With Trevor McDonald team to film a documentary about education and food.

Another milestone was the restaurants 30th anniversary they created the ‘world’s hottest curry’ and attracted journalists from all around the country came to taste it.

“The hottest curry in the world recipe was my son Hasnath’s idea. It took six months in the making, we wanted to get the recipe just right so it was hot but delicious as well. More than 40 journalists were all crammed in the room to try it, we got through five hundred litres of milk that month because they were drinking it to take the heat away!”

“At an event my son Hasnath started talking to Prince Philip about the curry recipe and how the dish was created without realising it was him. He said he was such a nice man and so interested in the curry and the spices.”

The Polash menu is studded with authentic and innovative dishes that are a delight to the senses.

“For us what sets us apart is quality of quantity. We have special dishes like Rosun E chicken Jall, Golda Chingri, Achari, chicken makhani. Shatkora with beef is a special party dish."

One thing is clear, the restaurant would not be a success without the dedication of the whole family.

“Without family none of it would work, it is a team effort and 60 family members are involved. Family and our regular customers make us a success.”

Armed with a bag of food takeaway food generously given to me to take home by the team I leave with a full stomach and happy heart.

Visit www.thepolash.com.