Published: 06:00, 02 January 2020
A seaside curry house found to have a pigeon nest and droppings in its food store has closed down after becoming the worst-rated restaurant in the district.
Inspectors from Canterbury City Council made the shocking discovery at the Maharaja in Central Parade, Herne Bay, after receiving a complaint from a member of the public.
The Bandstand restaurant is the only eatery across the district with a zero hygiene rating – the lowest mark available – and was subsequently closed by its owners following the visit in order to carry out a deep clean.
Owner Rokib Ali later shut down the eatery - but insists it was because his lease for the site was coming to an end.
In their report, the inspectors wrote: “The condition of the food store is not suitable for the storage of food.
“This area is covered in pigeon faeces. There is a pigeon nest above stored onions.
“The only reason a prohibition notice has not been served is that all the food is [in] unopened packets and tins.
“All food has been removed from this area.”
The report stated that a “significant build-up of dirt and food debris” was discovered under and behind equipment, on work surfaces and ceilings.
Inspectors also found damaged electrical sockets, out-of-date trout, vents hanging from the ceiling in the kitchen, and fish curry and onion bhajis left out overnight.
The report continued: “Lots of food, including raw meats and salads, [was] left overnight in [the] kitchen in water at ambient temperatures. This is extremely poor practice.
“You must follow food packaging instructions when defrosting foods – and not leave food standing at ambient temperatures exposed to bacterial growth.
'The owners agreed voluntarily to close down straight away in order to begin putting things right' - Canterbury City Council spokesman Rob Davies
“There were poppadoms left in the hot plate overnight. The hot plate must be emptied every night to remove potential food for pests.”
The inspectors urged the Mr Ali to secure a pest control contractor and provide staff members with masks and gloves before cleaning the premises.
Local authority spokesman Rob Davies says the officers had contemplated shutting the seafront restaurant following the November 14 visit.
“However, the owners agreed voluntarily to close down straight away in order to begin putting things right,” he added.
“Our officers spent around four hours in the restaurant at that visit, staying well into the evening advising the owner.
“They were not prepared to leave until they had seen action being taken.”
During a follow-up visit seven days later, the inspectors noted that the level of cleanliness at the Maharaja was much-improved.
However, Mr Ali says the restaurant stopped serving food a week before the first visit as it was approaching the end of its lease with the council.
He said: “We’ve shut it down because the lease expired - it’s been about three weeks now.
“We were moving all the stuff and taking all the equipment out when they [the inspectors] came so it was all messy.”
More by this authorJack Dyson