When Mohammed Zamir Hanif opened his new restaurant in Keighley town centre in 1994 he asked a special VIP to cut the ribbon.

“I could have asked a dignitary or a celebrity but to me there is no-one more important than my mother so I asked her.”

He believes it is his mother’s blessing which helps the Balti House restaurant go from strength to strength.

The restaurant has won a whole raft of awards including a Customer Excellence Award, Most Loved Business in Keighley Award and has a five-star food hygiene rating. 

Zamir, 50, said: “Our emphasis is on honest, tasty, fresh home-cooked dishes. We grind our own masalas and spices and use all fresh ingredients. And we run any new recipes by our mum who gives her opinion and seal of approval.”

Zamir was born in Pakistan and came to the UK when he was 15 with his mother; his father was already here and working in the mills.

“I left school at 16 and did a diploma in business at Keighley College. I also worked in a restaurant as a waiter and my brother was working in a restaurant in Staffordshire. I thought why not work in a family business so we can all help and support each other?”

His first restaurant was in Russell Street and ran it for 12 years before moving to Albert Street.

It has a commanding presence in the centre of Keighley and the restaurant is attractive in its design especially when lit up with coloured lights at dusk.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: “There were very few restaurants at that time especially ones that used real clay ovens to bake nan breads and authentic Punjabi recipes.”

The restaurant flourished and soon it was time to find larger premises. 

“We needed a bigger restaurant with disabled access and more space.”

Two of his brothers are trained chefs and Zamir looked after the front of house. 

And it is clearly popular.

Even midweek there is the gentle hubbub of diners coming in and settling down to enjoy their favourite curries.

The menu caters for both western and eastern tastes. There are the usual curry house familiars like dhansak, vindaloo and jalfrezi as well as the more authentic Balti/ karahi dishes that we have grown up with.

“About 70 per cent of our customers are English and we get people coming from Skipton, the other side of Hebden Bridge, but we also have Asian families who come regularly. It’s a mix.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

Big-hearted Zamir is also involved heavily in charity work after suffering the tragic loss of his young son at the age of 11.

Ibrahim died from a rare metabolic disorder but his distraught father didn’t want his death to be in vain, instead using his memory to help others.

He set up the Ibrahim Trust in 2006 to help orphans and widows from the village of Jabbar, near Gujar Khan in Pakistan, where Zamir is originally from.

“We wanted to do something to help the people who don’t have anyone to help them. Ibrahim was such an inspiration for me to do something to help the less fortunate.

“We provide financial help to those who need medical care, paying for their medicines and hospital treatment.”

And it is not just overseas. Zamir supports many home-grown charities including Sue Ryder, Cancer Support, Mencap and Keighley Outreach Project among others.

He has also been involved in various groundbreaking initiatives to help youngsters in the community, including arranging intensive revision classes for local schoolchildren with free curry as an incentive.

Youngsters have also been encouraged to help in the kitchen and cook up a feast to raise money for disasters such as the Pakistan earthquake appeal and Bangladeshi acid attack survivors.

“As far as I’m concerned we should do our bit to help each other as we are all part of the same community.”

Meanwhile there are plans to expand the business with the creation of a stunning banqueting hall at the restaurant.

“We want to be able to cater for up to 300 people so people can host their weddings mehndis and special occasions at the restaurant.”

So what’s the verdict on the food?

I opt for traditional a mixed grill starter of yummy fried fish, juicy seekh kebab and chicken boti followed by lamb karahi and chicken masala and warm nan breads and handmade chapattis.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

The food is fresh, tasty and moreish and everything is wolfed down. Dessert is a delicious mango ice cream with a biscuit base.

It’s a sweet ending to a lovely meal and proves that old adage is true: Mums really do know best.