AN Indian restaurant which has branched out to offer coffee, cocktails and Covid safe dining alongside its curries is in the running for a national award today.

Babul's in Barnard Castle has been shortlisted by the national Asian Restaurant Awards as the Innovative Restaurant of the Year in the UK.

The restaurant had just rebranded from Spice Island to Babul's, in honour of the owners' father, before it had to shut temporarily due to the covid pandemic.

At the time, along with a new restaurant, they also launched a hybrid menu of traditional curry favourites with new exciting street style cuisine, including new ingredients like jackfruit, and cocktails.

Investing in a new menu also saw innovation in the kitchen introducing state of the art ovens including a bespoke naan oven.

Needing to innovate to keep trading through the pandemic, the team quickly created it's own online ordering system for both the food and cocktail menus, both in Barnard Castle and Darlington, and established a new drive through system on the cobbles of Barnard Castle.

The online store allowed customers to bring the Babul's experience into their home with home cooking kits and BBQ boxes.

Once doors were allowed to be open again, Babul's launched its digital online ordering system at the tables in its Barnard Castle restaurant.

Trying to reduce contact with staff and customers, to ensure safety in the pandemic, every table receives its own tablet which customers can order drinks, request face to face service, order food and request the bill.

This was created by the restaurant's in-house digital team which also created a Point of Sale system, bespoke to Indian restaurants, which streamlines and schedules all food and drink orders.

Shuhel Ahmed, owner of Babul's said: "Like all businesses we had to really think of new ways to operate last year and to launch them quickly.

"But it's given us new and exciting ideas that are working and we'll continue to innovate and develop as a business, and we're thrilled to represent the North East in this prestigious awards."

And with new experiences for customers launched, such as Bottomless Brunch, that's already being received very well by the local community and more exciting offerings coming soon, there's no stopping this family run restaurant.

Results will be announced at an awards ceremony in Manchester tonight, as the restaurant competes against others from across the UK.

For more information on Babul's visit or call 01833-630575.