South Belfast restaurant lays on free Christmas meal for the lonely
The Bengal Brasserie catered for the needy with the help of large numbers of volunteers.
A generous South Belfast business owner threw open his doors to the lonely on Christmas Day in the biggest event he has staged yet.
The Bengal Brasserie laid on a meal free of charge with the help of large numbers of volunteers.
It was part of a now-annual philanthropic tradition which the restaurant’s director, Luthfur Ahmed, felt was about displaying humanity at Christmas time.
He said: “Company is important, Christmas Day comes only once a year.”
All the tables were placed in a line to encourage people to talk to their fellow diners.
The Ormeau Road premises were decked out in Christmas decorations.
Mr Ahmed, who is originally from Bangladesh, is from a Muslim background so Christmas is not a holy day in his religious tradition.
He said: “This is my community, I have to do something.”
He has been the director of the popular restaurant since 2011 and began the Christmas Day initiative several years ago.
He lost his father in 2005 so his mother knows about loneliness and is proud of her son.
Mr Ahmed said: “Money is not everything, money comes and goes but that day it was so happy.”
We are all one, that is important to me, we are all human beings Luthfur Ahmed, Bengal Brasserie
“We are all one, that is important to me, we are all human beings.
“If I cut my hand the blood comes out red, if you cut your hand the blood comes out red.
“Religion makes us divided and that is not good.
“We have to believe we are all human beings and we all support each other.”
Mr Ahmed has been working in Northern Ireland for almost two decades but said he does not open on Christmas Day for business.
He said: “Money is not everything for me.
“People want love. I love the community, I love to be part of it.
“For the rest of my life I want to be here, I feel proud.
“I need business and money but at the same time I want to serve the community.”
On Christmas Day 2017 more than 80 people took him up on his offer, and more than 100 attended last year.
The meal was a traditional Christmas menu featuring turkey and roasted potatoes with all the trimmings.
Mr Ahmed said: “That day everybody should relax and enjoy and know that someone is thinking about them.”
He added: “This is not for my business promotion, it is for my heart.
“I will continue for as long as I live, as long as I am in business.”