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How two Indian restaurants have made Elgin Scotland’s curry capital

Either Panache or Spice Tandoori have been named Scotland's Asian Restaurant of the Year in four of the last five years.

Awards in amongst plates of Indian food.
Just some of the awards Panache has won in recent years. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

Panache and Spice Tandoori are just yards apart and between them they have undoubtedly made Elgin Scotland’s current curry king.

The two businesses have incredibly shared the crown of being the best Asian Restaurant in the country in four of the last five years.

Despite going up against large firms from the big cities, the duo have consistently served up meals to impress the judges.

Between mystery diners, cook-offs and intense questionnaires, they regularly come out on top with prizes covering the walls at Panache and filling a trophy cabinet at Spice Tandoori.

So what makes Elgin’s Panache and Spice Tandoori the best Indian restaurants in Scotland? The Press and Journal visited both to find out.

Panache passion begins at young age

Panache is currently Scotland’s reigning Indian restaurant of the year at the Asian Curry Awards.

Dubbed the “Curry Oscars” by chef Jabir Hussain, the establishment also took the title home in 2021 and 2019.

Jabir’s passion for Indian cooking started when he was a child with his mum and sister, and grew after he started working in the family restaurant in Birmingham.

Panache staff sitting at table with Indian food and awards.
The Panache teams says attention to detail makes the difference. Pictured back row: Ma Alarm Hosen, Morgan Riddell, Charlotte Mackie, Sandra Gryc, Kuba Kosinski, Adeela Asif. Picture sitting: manager Anne Townsley, chef Jabir Hussain. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

After moving to Elgin in 2009 he started working at Akash, changing the name to Panache in 2018 after he took the reins.

Very quickly he wanted to put his own mark on it to help make it one of the best restaurants of its kind in Scotland.

Just this month they also added to their honours list with the Best Curry Restaurant of the Year for the north of Scotland at the Scottish Curry Awards.

He said: “It was a fresh start. We had a new team, some experienced chefs, new menus, so I wanted a new name too.

“I just wanted to change the things we did very slightly. We changed the curry spice we were using to still give it the taste without as much heat for those who don’t like it, we added some mango to our korma to give it more flavour.

Curry close-up
Goan curry from Panache. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

“I’ve worked in restaurants here a long time. You get to know what people like and don’t like.”

It wasn’t just the food that got an overhaul. New plates, cutlery, glasses and cups were brought in to create a unique atmosphere with the attention to detail extending to customised mints and carrier bags for takeaways.

Manager Anne Townsley said: “It isn’t necessarily that we do anything different with our service, we just make sure it is consistently good.

Exterior of Panache
Panache is on South Street in Elgin. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

“We train up a lot of local people and give them the knowledge of the food and spices so they can talk to the customers, they work really hard at it.”

Spice Tandoori a landmark building in Elgin

Just around the corner is Spice Tandoori, Scotland’s Asian Restaurant of the Year at the 2020 Asian Curry Awards.

They also claimed the Scottish crown at the Asian Restaurant Awards in 2020 and 2023, meaning there isn’t much space left in their trophy cabinet.

Manager Hussain Zakaria has assembled a team of three chefs that each have almost 20 years of experience.

Spice Tandoori team holding awards.
Spice Tandoori also have an enviable selection of awards. Pictured: Head waiter Ashraful Hibban, Charlie Sutherland Waiter, manager Hussain Zakaria Manager, assistant manager San Peterson, Finlay Bacon. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

It means they’re able to serve up an enviable menu of house specials to cater to a range of tastes.

Mr Zakaria said: “Everybody’s different. We try to do our own specialties alongside the common curries everyone knows.

“We have the Shannanda, which has strawberry sauce. It’s our mix of Indian and Scottish, it’s something different.

“We work hard on coming up with new dishes. We try them out, put them to the test, and if people like them then they go on the menu.”

Exterior of Spice Tandoori.
The Spice Tandoori building is an Elgin landmark. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

Spice Tandoori is the largest Indian restaurant in Elgin and is hard to miss being in a former church on a prominent town centre corner.

Mr Zakaria said: “Everybody knows the building. You can’t drive past it and not know that we’re here.

“It’s a really excellent building inside though too. I think it creates an atmosphere everyone likes.”

Does Elgin curry success surprise judges?

Spice Tandoori and Panache regularly fly the flag for Elgin against Indian restaurants from some of the UK’s biggest cities.

Hundreds of businesses come together for award ceremonies in London with some requiring intense cook-offs as part of the judging process.

View of Panache table from above.
Service is everything for the Panache team. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

So, do Panache and Spice Tandoori find themselves having to explain where Elgin is to the judges when they get there?

Mr Hussain said: “It doesn’t matter where you’re from. It comes down to your food and the service, it doesn’t matter where you’re from.

“The community in Elgin gives us a lot of support, which makes a big difference when it comes to awards because the judges see that.”

Indian food from Spice Tandoori viewed from above.
Meals at Spice Tandoori are regarded as some of the best in Scotland. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

Mr Zakaria said: “At the start you maybe got someone asking where Elgin is, but when you tell them about Speyside and whisky then they know.

“We’ve seen though that people are starting to recognise Elgin though. It’s getting a good reputation.”


  • Address: 21 South St, Elgin IV30 1JZ
  • Telephone: 01343 544000
  • Online menu: HERE

Spice Tandoori

  • Address: 9A Moss Street, Elgin, IV30 1LU
  • Telephone: 01343 540932
  • Online menu: HERE