The History (And Future?) Of ‘The Curry Mile’

October 2, 2017

As you travel out of Manchester town centre via Wilmslow Road you will encounter a sign welcoming you to the ‘Curry Mile’. This stretch of road through the heart of Rusholme is famous for its concentration of South Asian and Middle-Eastern restaurants. The nickname ‘Curry Mile’ was affectionately given to the street in the 80’s; but Indian and Pakistani cuisine has been served in the area for much longer than that.

During the 50’s and 60’s a large proportion of the work force around Manchester, especially based in the textile mills and factories, were Asians. From all over the sub-continent workers were recruited and resettled in Manchester. In its early days, Rusholme’s streets had very few Asian tenants: with only a few houses here and there being occupied with Asian tenants.

During this time, the area of Wilmslow road we now refer to as ‘The Curry Mile’ was filled with the usual high street shops of the time; banks, jewellers, hairdressers. The cafes in the area were used as meeting places for the Asian workforce’s of Rusholme to congregate and socialise.

As the 60’s gave way to the decade of 1970 Rusholme saw a boom in its Asian population. Where before, of around 80 houses on a Rusholme Street, only 4 or five were inhabited by Asian Families; now only about 4 or 5 houses were still occupied by white families. The Asian influx to Manchester had chosen Rusholme as their place to settle; and work quickly began on transforming it into the hub of restaurants we know today.

The area was initially dominated by Pakistani Restaurants; but as time went by, and the success of the first businesses inspired more business owners to set up shop in the area; purveyors of the finest Indian and halal restaurants Manchester has to offer became popular from this time.

Within the past decade we have also seen a large increase in the amount of Middle-Eastern and Turkish cuisine, as well as kebab houses and fried chicken shops in the area. The amount of Pakistani and Indian restaurants has dwindled over the years and it’s now easier to spot a kebab shop than the sweet shops and curry houses’ the road is famous for.

Shisha cafes have also become a staple of Wilmslow Road; with over 30 of them on this stretch of road alone.

The ‘Curry Mile’ thrives with people; whether it’s 3pm or 3am. As you walk the stretch of road, the restaurants you pass are still packed with customers digging into their Rogan Josh’s and piles of poppadum’s. It seems the Mancunian curry centre still has a lot to offer, and the locals love for curry is still lasting.