A RHAYADER restaurant has won the accolade of Welsh Curry House of the Year 2010.

The Spice Cottage beat off stiff competition from three other finalists to claim the prestigious title at a glittering awards ceremony at the Norwegian Church in Cardiff Bay.

Muhamad Rab, manager of the Spice Cottage, said: “We opened the restaurant in Rhayader three and a half years ago.

"I started working in the industry in 1987 as an apprentice waiter and this is the first award I’ve won in the 23 years since I stared working!”

The four finalists were judged on their presentation skills, the taste of their dish and their ability to cope under pressure.

Incorporating Welsh ingredients in their cooking was an important part of the final round of the 2010 competition – with each restaurant being asked to create their own interpretation of a Really Welsh Curry for the judges.

“We enjoyed the experience of using really Welsh leeks as part of the competition.

"We’d never used leeks before in the kitchen but have now decided to start using them on a regular basis in some of our dishes. The Really Welsh Curry which we created especially for the competition using Welsh leeks, and lamb from the Elan Valley, will shortly be included on our main menu,” he added.

Nerys Howell, one of the national judges, explained the panel’s decision: “We as judges felt privileged to have discovered this unique gem in the heart of rural Mid Wales. The team at the Spice Cottage demonstrated a real understanding of food and the importance of using good quality ingredients prepared carefully and skilfully.

“We were impressed with Spice Cottage’s commitment to banning the use of artificial colouring and reducing the amount of oil and fat used in the preparation of dishes, showing sensitivity to today’s discerning costumer.”

The other three finalists were Asia Indian Restaurant in Llandudno, Sopna in Caernarfon and Koh-i-Noor in Newport. The award was presented by Wynfford James, the Welsh Assembly Government’s head of food, fisheries and market development.

“I’m extremely pleased that great curry houses in Wales are taking the opportunity to use excellent Welsh produce such as lamb and leeks,” said Mr James.

“Curry is, of course, hugely popular in Wales and it is important that Welsh produce is used – together they make a great combination.”