Calmac Spices things up

From “The Daily Record” 8th August 2010:

It has to be said that the hand-shelled scallop pakora was a little cool when it finally arrived at the table…But curry lovers Iain and Sophie Isaacson weren’t complaining.

For their spicy treat is probably the only Indian takeaway in Britain delivered by bike, then ferry, after a 50-mile journey over land and sea. Iain and Sophie received their treat on the Hebridean island of Tiree at 6.30pm on the dot – eight hours after placing the order with the Cafe Kisimul restaurant on neighbouring isle of Barra. They are among a growing band of customers on Tiree and the isle of Coll waiting for their weekly chicken bhoona, lamb rogan josh and even monkfish jaipuri when the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry docks on Thursday nights.

Youth worker Sophie, 20, said: “The food is absolutely incredible. It’s the only way to really enjoy it, here on the beach with the waves lapping against the shore. “It’s our special treat. Every couple of weeks, we get a hankering to savour the curries and we phone in our order. “My father Peter and little brother Olaf live on Coll and they order them all the time. Once you’ve tried them, you’re smitten. The guys at Cal-Mac deliver right to the pier.”

Iain added: “Usually we can’t wait to get home. The beach is better than any fancy restaurant. It makes the curries taste even better, if that’s possible.” The speciality curries are created by chefs Rohail and Pauline Bari. Glaswegian Rohail, 48, who arrived on Barra in 2002 with wife Pauline, 50, and children Harris, 16, Adam, 12, and Fahria, 19, opened his restaurant two years later.

And within a very short space of time, word spread around the islands. Rohail said: “One of the Cal-Mac staff called to ask if we could do takeaway for the islanders because they didn’t want to be left out after hearing we had opened up shop. We said yes and the rest is history. “Now we get orders most weeks during the height of the summer season, often 30 dishes at a time. “The feedback we get is tremendous and the secret is using all local produce.”

Rohail and Pauline order as many as four sheep a week from Barra crofter Archie MacLean and his son Angus, as well as all their beef. And they use only the freshest of scallops, prawns and fish caught in the Minch by local fishermen. Pauline said: “I was taught to cook authentic Punjabi food by Rohail’s late mother Rashida, his sisters Shazia and Nazia and my sister-inlaw Furhat. “They taught me the family secret recipes, the special blend of spices that go into each dish that has been handed down through the generations. Now people come from all over the world to taste our family curries.” Archie MacLean is proud to supply Cafe Kisimul with the very best produce.

He said:”Rohail is my biggest customer and everyone says the lamb just melts in your mouth. “There’s no doubt he’s done wonders for the island economy.” One couple sailed their yacht from the North Atlantic paradise of Bermuda right into Barra to taste the famous monkfish jaipuri. Celebrity customers include Men Behaving Badly star Martin Clunes, chef Russ Burden and actor Tony Robinson. As well as preparing for their night-time customers, Pauline and Rohail are always hard at work cooking, packing and cooling the takeaway orders ready to be handed over to the ferry staff. Pauline said: “We conform to strict food safety rules and have to ensure the food is properly cooked and packaged for the journey.”

When the Cal-Mac ferry arrives at 3pm in Barra, staff are on hand to pass the precious order to the ferrymen. The package then travels to Tiree, a three hour journey from Barra pier. If an order is also on board for the island of Coll, it takes another hour for the ferry to dock there. Rohail said: “It has got to be the longest-travelled take away in the world. “But even so, the scallops in our pakora would still have been taken from the sea only a few hours before.”

Rohail and Pauline have become local celebrities on Barra. As well as running the Kisimul, named after the MacNeil clan castle which sits in the bay just yards from the restaurant, the couple have their own local radio show Two Of Us four times a week. Rohail also teaches guitar to local children and is recording an album of his own songs with artist Pauline on vocals. Cal-Mac spokesman David Cannon said: “I think a baby is about the only thing we haven’t delivered yet to one of the islands.

“Our staff have a very long and proud tradition of not only delivering passengers to the far-flung corners of Scotland, but we also ensure the islanders get delivery of all the items they require, from furniture to whisky, wind turbines to curries.”

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