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28 October 2014
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Sitab Khan
Sitab Khan of Bilash

Michelin man

by Chris Osborne
Anyone from the Black Country will tell you that the perfect curry is not easily found, and less easily made. Now even the powers that be at Michelin have recognised the quality of one Wolverhampton restaurant's cuisine.

Bilash, in Wolverhampton city centre, is the only restaurant in the Black Country to be mentioned in the Michelin Guide Great Britain and Ireland 2007.

But rather than basking in his own glory, head chef and owner Sitab Khan hopes that his personal success will rub off on the city.

While the restaurant has not achieved a Michelin star – there are little more than one hundred of these in the country, and only a handful are added each year – it is still one of 1,787 restaurants and pubs to be featured from the UK and Ireland

Sitab in his kitchen
Sitab in his kitchen

Launched at the end of January the guide describes Balish as: "In a pleasant square and easily established by its bright yellow façade and modish interior. Family owned; well established, locally renowned Indian/Bangladeshi restaurant."

It may only achieve two sentences in the guide but Bilash is now inked onto the pages that dictate the elite among the nation's restaurants.

You have to travel to Birmingham to find the nearest restaurants mentioned in the guide, they include the starred Simpsons and Jessica's.

Put simply, if you are in the Michelin Guide then your food is good; which is a useful asset for a restaurant to possess.

Phone call

Despite the distinction of the restaurant’s inclusion, the news of the success spread to Sitab in the most unofficial of ways. A phone call from a local newspaper was the first he heard about it.

"We had a call from the Express and Star telling us we were included. We never knew the inspection had even happened. It was a dream come true," Mr Khan said.

Bilash in Wolverhampton

The restaurant's achievement has not come through a lack of hard work and family commitment. Mr Khan's brothers are regulars in the kitchen and his son, Mohammed, helps run the business.

"We are popular because we are very authentic and we provide the food that reflects our own pallet. It is purely authentic Bangladeshi food."

"You shouldn’t try and be everything at once. When you are calling yourself a certain type of restaurant make sure you serve the quality and authentic food that you say you are going to serve."

Local pride

Talking to Sitab you get the impression that he is as proud of his restaurant as he is of his home region. Brought up in the Tipton and Wednesbury area he is looking forward to helping Wolverhampton grow in the future.

"I am a Black Country boy, we've been here 26 years and I always wanted to become an ambassador of Wolverhampton. I am proud of this city."

"Wolverhampton has a future. We just have to be patient. I want people to invest in the city because there will be plenty more accolades for other businesses. We are becoming more contemporary, the night-life and the restaurants here are excellent.”

Spices in the kitchen
Spices line the kitchen walls

"We are a small city but there will be many changes over the next two years and restaurants have to take some of the burden for moving the city forward."

Celebrity fans

With 26 years of cooking under his belt some might think that Sitab will be considering hanging up the chef’s hat. "No chance", he says.

"Cooking is my passion. I still do it everyday because this is my kitchen. I can not be happy until all of my guests go home happy, it's as simple as that."

Balish boasts a list of celebrity fans – Ian Wright, Steve Bull and Suzi Perry to name a few – but it is the regular visitors from the local area that mean the most to Sitab.

"I have to thank all of my guests because our success over the last 26 years is purely down to them, I am simply a host and without my guests we would not have achieved anything.”

So, surely a celebration is in order then?

"Yes most likely. We are planning to celebrate with our guests in the next couple of weeks."

And you can guarantee that the food will be of Michelin Guide quality.

last updated: 22/02/07
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