Page last updated at 15:21 GMT, Wednesday, 11 November 2009

'Curry King' dies day after award

Vijay Bhagotra (second from left) receives his award
Vijay Bhagotra (second from left) received his award at a ceremony in London's Battersea Park, which was presented by TV presenter Sir Trevor McDonald

A man dubbed the "curry king" died the day after he won a prestigious award which named his Indian restaurant the best in Wales.

Vijay Bhagotra, who ran the Court Colman Manor hotel in Penyfai, Bridgend, died last Wednesday, aged 65.

The night before he was at an awards ceremony in London where his Bokhara Brasserie won the Wales British Curry Award for the second year running.

Enam Ali, the awards' founder, said: "He was wonderful and so respected."

The event is considered the biggest in the curry calendar and for the past five years has honoured the best Indian restaurant in each of the UK's regions.

He was a wonderful man and was very well respected in the industry. We have lost one of our greatest caterers and restauranters
Enam Ali, founder of the British Curry Awards

At the ceremony in London's Battersea Park, which was attended by Conservative party leader David Cameron, Mr Bhagotra received his award from TV presenter Sir Trevor McDonald.

Mr Ali, who is one of the biggest names in the Indian restaurant industry, said he was "so sad" that Mr Bhagotra had died.

"He had been so happy to win the award as it's a big achievement, especially for the second year in a row. Our awards are tough - he was really proud to win and called his award an Oscar," he said.

"He was a wonderful man and was very well respected in the industry. We have lost one of our greatest caterers and restauranters.

Vijay Bhagotra at the British Curry Awards in 2008
Vijay Bhagotra at the British Curry Awards in 2008 with chef Heston Blumenthal

"It was a shock when I heard [of his death]. The night before he had spoken to David Cameron and invited him to Bridgend. He was a curry king - a champion."

Mr Bhagotra, who lived in Penarth, was credited with turning around the fortunes of the Court Colman Manor and its restaurant Bokhara Brasserie, winning numerous awards after he bought it in 1999.

He was from Jammu, India, and came to the UK in 1970, working in Harrogate, Sheffield and Manchester before settling in Cardiff with Crest Hotels.

Mr Bhagotra, who was married with two children, later set up his own specialist cafe in the the Welsh capital before taking over the Court Colman Manor.

Elinor Roberts, 21, said the businessman's dedication to his staff helped her work her way up from glass washer at the Court Colman to the hotel's assistant manager.

He ran this place like a family. He was extremely hand-on and was passionate about the business
Eleanor Roberts, Court Colman Manor

"It's such a huge loss and we're so sad," she said.

"Vijay taught me what I know now - and it's the same for a lot of people here. He made sure we were all properly trained and sent us on courses.

"He ran this place like a family. He was extremely hand-on and was passionate about the business. The family say they will carry on the hotel and we all just have to carry on because it's what he would have wanted."

Lee Lebreuilly, secretary of the Bridgend Chamber of Trade, said Mr Bhagotra was an "energetic, bubbly, driven man who will be sorely missed".

"He was a well loved local businessman. He took over the Court Colman when it was going through a difficult time and turned it into the place it is now," he said.

"He raised its prestige by winning all those awards, which also helped the area."

His funeral takes place at Coychurch Crematorium, Bridgend, on Friday at 1100 GMT.



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