Crowds welcome William and Kate as royals celebrate Birmingham’s diverse culture
Birmingham city centre came to a standstill on Thursday (20 April) when a surprise royal visit drew huge crowds around the Indian Streatery in Bennetts Hill.
The Prince and Princess of Wales visited Birmingham via train to celebrate the city’s rich Asian culture and to highlight the city’s diverse businesses in the city centre and the Jewellery Quarter.
Police sniffer dogs were spotted at Moor Street Station, police cars and vans circled city centre streets, and police officers were seen conducting foot patrols around New Street.
It could only mean one thing for the unsuspecting shoppers in Birmingham city centre.
A royal visit was on the cards…
Sure enough, a section of the city centre was soon packed at lunchtime as police cordoned off parts of New Street and Bennetts Hill, and waved in a convoy of four black Range Rovers with flags emblazoned with the royal coat-of-arms.
Prince William, 40, and Kate, 41, were on a visit to the Indian Streatery which is situated in Bennetts Hill.
The management of the restaurant were only told of the visit a few days ahead of time and were sworn to secrecy.
The Indian Streatery is a family owned business run by Rakesh Sharma and his wife Meena, and their son Dhiraj.
Meena, who arrived to the UK from India in 1966, came up with the original vision to bring real Indian street food to the streets of Birmingham.
The restaurant, which is home to an all-female chef team, started life as a street food stall in the Digbeth area of the city and was a firm favourite at the city’s famous Digbeth Dining Club.
The restaurant, which opened in 2017, serves up a combination of authentic Indian street food, secret Sharma family recipes and British/Asian fusion dishes.
The royal couple – Kate dressed in a burgundy pleated midi dress, and William in a traditional brown blazer and blue chinos, were greeted by the Sharma family who related the history of the eatery from its humble street food beginnings in Digbeth to its current prime location in the city centre.
William and Kate were given a tour of the restaurant, including the kitchen, and met the all-female chef team. Some of the staff were former students at University College Birmingham who had also trained at the restaurant.
The visiting royals were given a chance to try their hand at making rotis under the watchful eye of the cooks. The couple were gamely pitted against each other to see who could make the best roti – an Indian flatbread which is served when eating a curry – and judge Meena crowned the Princess of Wales as winner with her authentic looking roti.
Meena later gave her opinion about the royal couple’s roti making skills: “Clearly Sir doesn’t have any at all. There were holes in there, and some of it was too thin. Some of it was too thick.
“But Ma’am’s skills were fantastic. I did say to her, you’ve got a job for life.”
She jokingly added: “I think clearly there was only one winner, and I think the person who knew they weren’t the winner admitted that as well.”
The rotis made by the William and Kate became part of the tasty Indian cuisine that was laid out for the royal guests.
The couple tucked into various dishes which included panipuri (a crispy puri stuffed with chickpeas, onions, potato, and flavoured with coriander chutney and sauce), black dhal lentils from the Punjab, tender pieces of methi chicken (flavoured with creamy tomato masala and fenugreek leaves), and bhel puri chaat from Mumbai (puffed rice, boiled potatoes, herbs, onions, chutney and puri).
During the visit Prince William mischievously answered the restaurant’s main telephone towards the end of the royal visit at 1:45pm and became a waiter for a few moments as he took a booking for a very surprised customer who booked a table for 2:15pm.
Speaking about the surprise visit by the royal couple to her restaurant, Meena said: “It was very surreal and not something you ever think about.
“You never think royalty will come to your humble abode but it’s been an absolute pleasure to have them here.”
The Indian Streatery took to the official twitter account and the management shared their delight about having royal guests visiting the restaurant: “Thursday 20th April 2023. The Indian Streatery greatest day in its 6 year history.
“Birmingham,we hope we made you proud!
“Flying the Brum flag high and proud always. But especially today.
“Honoured as a family, as a team and as a city to host such a wonderful occasion.”
The Prince and Princess of Wales also shared a tweet following their visit to the restaurant, saying: “The Sharma Family don’t just bring authentic Indian street food to the city but do so much in the community too, including their all female chef team training many better cooks than us…!”
The royal couple went out into the bright Birmingham sunshine after the dining session and met the crowds of cheering fans who thronged the streets waiting eagerly to catch a glimpse of William and Kate.
The crowds gave a warm and rapturous reception as William and Kate interacted with people, took selfies and received flowers from admiring members of the public in the city centre.
After the stop at the Indian Streatery the couple were taken to the Jewellery Quarter to meet Birmingham creatives, business leaders and enjoy some time at The Rectory where William and Kate hosted future leaders and local business owners from Birmingham’s creative industries sector.
William and Kate also met artists, designers and playwrights who are hoping to bring more projects to Birmingham.
This Morning’s Alison Hammond, from Birmingham, was also on the guest list and she cheekily heckled Prince William as he played darts at The Rectory.
She hugged Prince William and said: “Next time, you need to come to my house so I can cook you a big Jamaican dinner.”
After the royal visit the official Royal Family twitter account issued a statement which read: “The Prince and Princess of Wales have spent the day in Birmingham, celebrating the city’s diverse culture and heritage, as well as meeting future leaders in the creative industries.”
The royal visit to Birmingham is part of a nationwide tour ahead of King Charles’ coronation which takes place in May.
The streets of the city centre are already decked out in bunting as the nation prepares for the forthcoming historic event on Saturday 6 May.