Exposed: The rogue Norwich takeaway still taking orders, even though it has closed down
- Credit: Archant
It looks like a normal, everyday takeaway transaction.
But this meal comes with a twist, as the premises the food has been ordered from has actually closed for business.
Today, we can reveal how a Norwich takeaway is operating illegally in the city, despite the establishment having closed a month ago.
Our reporter was able to order takeaways on two separate occasions from Delhi Spice, even though its Magpie Road store closed in March.
Our efforts to track down where the food was being cooked proved fruitless, which means potential customers have no way of knowing what conditions food is being prepared under and whether they are meeting strict hygiene standards.
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Norwich City Council today confirmed Delhi Spice was not registered with them to sell food, an offence which comes with a maximum two-year prison term and large fine. It is also investigating the matter.
We were notified to the issue by a woman who claims two of her party suffered food poisoning after eating a takeaway ordered from Delhi Spice through the delivery website Just-Eat.co.uk, but could not subsequently track down the firm to complain.
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The woman, who did not want to be named, said: 'It makes me really cross that there is unregistered premises supplying food and no one has any idea where that is being cooked. For all I know the food could have been cooked in someone's kitchen at their house.'
The woman said that when she phoned Delhi Spice's landline number, it clicked through to a mobile answer machine service. Her efforts to track down the company proved fruitless.
Our investigation also found Delhi Spice was claiming to operate from three separate addresses on various websites.
It opened in 2013 at 61 Magpie Road, but closed in March and there is currently a notice from bailiffs on the door saying the property has been repossessed.
Its account on Just Eat gave an address as 121 Magdalen Street, which is actually Marmaris Kebab and Pizza House, where the owners deny any knowledge of what was happening, or of Delhi Spice's operation.
Just Eat has subsequently closed the Delhi Spice account down, but until yesterday the firm was still taking orders through its own website and another major online delivery service HungryHouse.co.uk. Hungry House has since suspended its account.
Hungry House and its own website list the firm as being based at a separate property on Magpie Road, which is in fact a flat.
Anyone wanting to sell food in Norwich needs to register with the city council 28 days before opening and failure to do that is a criminal offence. 'The council is responsible for checking food for public consumption is prepared and cooked under acceptable conditions.
A spokesman for Norwich City Council confirmed it had no such registration from Delhi Spice.
She said: 'We have received a complaint from a member of the public in connection with this business and are investigating the matter. We have been in contact with Just Eat and it is now reviewing its website.
'Delhi Spice was previously registered as a food business, and was last inspected in February 2015, when it scored three stars. However, it is not currently registered with us as a food business.
'We would urge customers to always check the hygiene rating of their chosen restaurant on our website before ordering through an online agent.
'If the business isn't on our list, it's not registered within our boundary.'
It is not the first time online delivery services have found themselves in the news as two years ago investigation by BBC Watchdog uncovered misleading listings on Just Eat for restaurants that didn't exist.
The findings included an Indian restaurant in South East London that was actually an industrial unit and the address for a Manchester fried chicken outlet that was a field.
Just Eat said it had suspended the restaurants identified and was 'tightening the registration process' to prevent others using fake addresses.
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DELHI SPICE RESPONSE
We rang Delhi Spice and a man, who gave his name only as Mr Miah, initially confirmed it was a takeaway service.
After we explained our story to him he then said the takeaway was no longer operating and had closed.
Upon being informed our reporter had twice ordered from them in the past week, we were told the owner would be contacted and would call us back. He refused to say where the food was being prepared and cooked.
We have not heard from the owner.
A spokesman for Hungry House said of the Delhi Spice and the Queen's Road delivery services: 'All restaurants on hungryhouse are required to register with their local council. New restaurants have to provide registration documentation during the on boarding process and our Restaurant Operations team is currently working through our 11,000 restaurants to ensure all details are correct and standards are being met.
'In light of this information we have taken these restaurants in question offline permanently and with immediate effect.'
Just Eat confirmed Delhi Spice was removed from its website on April 4.
BUSINESSES DO NOT EXIST
Our investigation also found another city takeaway which appears to have registered non-existent businesses to a popular online service.
The website, HungryHouse.co.uk advertises USA Chicken, on 216 Queen's Road, in Lakenham. This business is registered with Norwich City Council.
However, Hungry House also lists three other takeaways, namely Queens, Marmaris and Bodrum to 216a, 218 and 218a Queens Road.
Each of these carries the same telephone number and identical menus to USA Chicken – but are not registered with the council. The properties themselves are, in fact, flats. For the takeaway it means they have four chances to pick up custom, but for the customer it means that if they order from Queens, Marmaris and Bodrum they have no way of knowing what their hygiene rating is or if that business has received poor customer reviews.
Owner Tahsildar Niazi said the multiple addresses had been placed on Hungry House prior to him taking over the firm in December and that he had asked the site to remove them.
He added: 'We told them five months ago but they have been very slow to remove them.
'We don't get any custom through them anyway.'