Restaurant owner excited to open doors on Christmas Day to spread joy

Luthfur Ahmed will provide 150 meals at the Bengal Brasserie in south Belfast for those in need.

A Belfast restaurant owner has described his excitement about opening on Christmas Day and bringing joy to those who might otherwise be lonely.

Luthfur Ahmed said he is particularly pleased to open this Christmas after a coronavirus lockdown prevented him from doing so last year.

He has opened the Bengal Brasserie on the Ormeau Road on Christmas Day since 2016, with the exception of during the pandemic.

Although he was unable to open his doors on December 25 last year, he and his staff instead prepared takeaway meals which they distributed to those in need.

They also supplied hundreds of meals to health service staff at Belfast City Hospital during the pandemic.

Homeless at Christmas
Luthfur Ahmed of Bengal Brasserie in south Belfast will open on Christmas Day for those in need (Liam McBurney/PA)

However he said welcoming people into the restaurant and watching new friendships being formed is what makes the day.

Mr Ahmed, who is originally from Bangladesh, is from a Muslim background and Christmas is not a holy day in his religion.

This year he is planning 150 dinners in the Indian/Bangladeshi food style his restaurant is known for, as well as a Christmas pudding.

He told the PA news agency it makes him happy to help people.

“For some of those less fortunate we invite them to come here and spend Christmas with us,” he said.

Mr Ahmed has been the director of the popular restaurant since 2011, and started the Christmas Day opening in 2016.

“I wanted to do it because when people come here they are happy, they enjoy themselves, and I see people on their own struggling,” he said.

“I have seen people come on Christmas Day that do not have anyone else, and when they come here and sit down they are sharing memories and get to know each other.

“They always ask me will you do this again next year? That makes me happy.

“This is our small way of giving something back to the community.

“We want to ease the burden for some families and individuals who are really struggling with this terrible cost-of-living crisis.

“We want to feed those who are less fortunate than ourselves, but just as important is our desire to bring a smile to faces and give people some respite from these economic woes.”

Bengal Brasserie marked its 33rd birthday in Belfast in October.