BUSINESSMAN Urfan Munir has realised a 24-year dream with the opening of his own restaurant serving food from his native region of Lahore in Pakistan.
As a teenage apprentice engineer, he worked evenings as a trainee tandoori chef.
Although he went on to run his own successful business UK Sling and Tackle in Haslingden, he always harboured the ambition of being able to open his own restaurant.
Now, aged 44, the father-of- four has realised his dream opening Maza Lahori Grill and Spice.
In January he bought an iconic building on the corner of Haslingden Old Road and Burnley Road in Rawtenstall and 11 months and £350,000 later the former pub has been transformed into an 80-seat restaurant with three staff apartments on the first floor.
The premises was officially opened by Rossendale and Darwen MP Jake Berry and VIP guests including the Pakistani consul general and the commercial counsellor.
Urfan said: “By day I will still be running my crane business and each night I will be here in Maza running the restaurant.
“It is a new experience for me and we are all learning. It was important for me to get the restaurant open in time for Christmas and we have succeeded.”
As well as traditional curries, the restaurant sells steaks and burgers. Urfan even travelled to Texas, the States home of the burger, to source a specialised tenderiser and knitting machine to infuse the steaks with a secret spice blend.
“I am looking forward to introducing people in Rossendale to a new style of cooking,” he said.
The building used to be Madison Park Wine Lodge and Mellow function room and before that it was the Bishop Blaize pub. It is protected by a preservation order, which affected what could be done to the building.
“At the start I did have an architect but we changed his design to create what we wanted,” Urfan said.
“I project managed the transformation and the most challenging part was getting the water and gas supplies sorted. There was only one water feed, through lead pipes, and we had to close Haslingden Old Road three times to get the new gas supply installed.
“As soon as I got started with this project I was determined to see it through and I wanted to make sure that everything was right.
“We had about 80 people to the opening night from the local business community and my neighbours and the feedback we got was excellent.
“My head chef is my cousin Ali Raza who was head chef in the Glasgow chain Mother India and trained in Lahore.
“The biggest compliment is that we have had is that I know chefs from other restaurants have already been in to try our food and they approved.”
The business is open every day from 12 noon to 11pm, except Tuesdays.
To contact Maza call 01706 531474.