This restaurant was founded by Glasgow’s ‘curry king’ known for inventing one of the world’s most-loved Indian dishes.

Shish Mahal turned 60 years old this week and is celebrating in style, with a special anniversary menu showcasing some of the Ali family's most-loved dishes. 

The team have plenty to look back on, with six decades of award wins, stunning dishes, introducing new cuisine to Glasgow and developing a loyal customer base.

READ MORE: Beloved Shish Mahal owner Mr Ali dies age 77 as tributes pour in

But what is the story of Shish Mahal?

From the outside, the restaurant Park Road looks like any other eatery in our city’s incomparable food scene.

Inside, a talented chef created magic on a plate when he took a customer’s advice who said ‘I’d take sauce with that’ when he served him chicken tikka.

So legend has it, Shish Mahal was the birthplace of chicken tikka masala. But before this culinary revolution took place, what is the origin of Shish Mahal?

Glasgow Times:

It started in the late 1950s when a young boy named Ali Ahmed Aslam came to Glasgow from Pakistan.

The family had no money to their name and yet their determination to run a business, something to call their own, prevailed.

By day, Mr Ali worked at his uncle’s haberdashery business and by night, he worked with his father Noor Mohammed in the family’s first restaurant – and some argue, the city’s first Indian restaurant - Green Gates Café on Bank Street.

READ MORE: TikTok bloggers try 'world's best' tikka masala in Glasgow

Meanwhile, Mr Ali remained determined to make his mark in the West End food scene and he opened the first Shish Mahal in 1964. It was located on Gibson Street – just down the road from Green Gates Café.

The unveiling of Shish Mahal came at a crucial time in Glasgow’s hospitality landscape when curry houses began to pop up across the country, and it was instrumental in popularising South Asian cuisine in Britain.

The cuisine proved exceptionally popular with Glaswegians, with curry houses open until well after the pubs shut at 10pm and many customers piling in to continue enjoying a bevvy alongside a tasty dish.

Gibson Street became a bit of a hub for this and was known as the ‘curry canyon’ with Koh-I-Noor, the Maharajah, the Himalaya and the Shalimar all on the same street.

But how did the now-iconic restaurant end up on Park Road, with neighbours including lovable pub The Doublet and the Kelvinbridge Subway station?

It had to relocate after the Gibson Street building became affected by subsidence in the 1980s, and it has been in the same place ever since.

Glasgow Times:

Customers come from far and wide to try the dishes at Shish Mahal, but one stands out as a regular favourite – chicken tikka masala.

Foodies travel across the globe and loyal regulars pop in every week for the humble dish in its birthplace, where according to legend, it was invented using a tin of tomato soup.

READ MORE: Lost Glasgow: Here's one 'Super Ali' all Glasgow loves

Explaining the origin of a now-adored dish that has become a British staple, Mr Ali revealed it all started with a customer who thought their tikka was too dry.

He previously said: "We used to make chicken tikka, and one day a customer said, 'I'd take some sauce with that, this is a bit dry'.

"We thought we'd better cook the chicken with some sauce. So, from here we cooked chicken tikka with the sauce that contains yogurt, cream, and spices.

"It's a dish prepared according to our customer's taste, usually they don't take hot curry, that's why we cook it with yogurt and cream."

Countless chicken tikka masalas later, Shish Mahal has lasted almost a whole 60 years in Glasgow and remains firm in the city’s Indian cuisine scene.

Glasgow Times:

Sadly, the one who started it all is no longer here to see it continue. Mr Ali died on December 19, 2022, at the age of 77.

In a touching tribute to him, his son Asif said Mr Ali was not only a gifted restauranteur, but a generous man who worked with charities and who was proud of his city.

Asif said: “He made Glasgow and Scotland his home, he did not look back.

"He was Glaswegian and Scottish first. He was very, very proud of being Glaswegian, very very proud of being Scottish, and it was very important to him."