The Asia on Milkstone Road first opened its doors in 1981 and counts singing star Lisa Stansfield among its regular customers. But the family-run business is to shut at the end of the month and general manager Umar Nazir says it’s due to the decline in the area.
Umar, the youngest son of founder Mohammed Nazir, said: “Milkstone Road has deteriorated in recent times.
“Homeless people are popular on the street and we help them as much as we can - but it’s not the environment to run a business in.” The restaurant originally started as The International Cafe in 1974 on Milkstone Road, but due to its popularity soon moved to a bigger venue just along the street.
Mohammed, 86, affectionately known as ‘Uncle’ to customers, created the recipes and is still involved with the restaurant to this day. And Umar, who runs the business with elder brother Amir, 42, says the family atmosphere has been key to the Asia’s success.
He added: “We have seen couples who came in on their first date in the 1980s, getting married and having children and then seeing those children grow up to get married and so on.
“You can’t describe this place at times. To some it’s just a place for food, but to many it’s their home.” And even celebrities will miss The Asia.
Umar said: “Lisa Stansfield is upset we are closing. She was one of our original customers.
“When she finished the final vocals for All Around the World they ordered a curry to the studio to celebrate. That was in 1989 and she’s been eating our lamb and potato curry ever since.”
News of the closure was greeted with dismay by customers.
Becky Knox, 42, said: “The Asia closing its doors forever is so sad for our town. Yes, the food is amazing but it’s so much more than a restaurant, it’s a Rochdale institution.
“It’s so handy for jumping off the last train home from Manchester, it always seemed silly not to really. It’s never mattered if my husband and I arrived at 5pm on a Thursday evening with the kids or at 3am with our mates, the welcome has always been the same - we are treated as family.” Umar and Amir say they plan to spend more time with their father instead of working 12 hour shifts every day, before releasing a recipe book and starting a cooking school in the near future.
A closing party will be arranged for the end of January, with more details to follow.
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