...By Judah Olanisebee for TDPel Media.
If you’re craving a curry in Swansea, you’ll be spoiled for choice with the variety of restaurants available.
However, one street stands out from the rest: St. Helen’s Road. As you walk down the street, the tantalizing smells of delicious, made-to-order meals packed with spice and flavor will make your mouth water.
This street is a melting pot of Asian and African cultures, home to a mosque, several long-running restaurants, and bustling international supermarkets.
Despite being notorious for antisocial behavior in recent years, such as discarded plastic bags and graffiti on abandoned buildings, St. Helen’s Road is still renowned for being the go-to place for curry lovers and a home-away-from-home for hundreds of immigrants to the city.
The roots of St. Helen’s Road’s famous curry houses can be traced back to the 1950s and 1960s when scores of young and middle-aged men emigrated to the UK from Bangladesh.
While their wives stayed behind to take care of their families, the men settled in industrial cities like Birmingham, Liverpool, Leeds, and Swansea, among others.
Aftab Meah was one of these immigrants who moved to Swansea in search of a better life.
He worked in a factory but soon began to miss the food he was used to in Bangladesh.
This led him to open his own Indian restaurant, The Taj Mahal, on Mansel Street in 1970, which became a popular go-to restaurant in the city for decades.
In the 60s and 70s, Indian restaurants were particularly popular after a night out, especially among patrons of The Kingsway’s late-night venues.
The tradition of going out for a curry after a night of dancing and partying continued well into the 80s, 90s, and Noughties, with The Taj Mahal and restaurants on St. Helen’s Road being the go-to places.
Over time, as the Bangladeshi and Indian communities in Swansea grew, so did the number of restaurants and businesses serving dishes from their native countries.
In 1978, Swansea’s first tandoori restaurant, The Anarkali, opened on St. Helen’s Road. It has been run by the same family ever since and has become one of the street’s most well-known Indian restaurants.
Today, St. Helen’s Road is also home to international supermarkets like Exotica, which has become a community hub for Swansea’s African and Asian communities.
Takumi sushi and noodle bar, an independent Japanese restaurant, also opened on the street in 2020, despite being hit hard by lockdown restrictions.
However, business is now going well, especially on Fridays and Saturdays.
St. Helen’s Road has become a haven for foodies, with a variety of restaurants and cuisines to choose from.
Despite its ups and downs, the street’s love affair with curry is still going strong.