The owner of a Birmingham restaurant beloved by celebrities has been fined over a major cockroach infestation.
The Maharaja in Hurst Street has served customers including former Prime Minister John Major, Sir Cliff Richard, Jasper Carrott and cricketer Wasim Akram over its 41 years in business.
In 1996 it was named the UK's Best Indian Restaurant in the Egon Ronay Awards.
But a court heard it was temporarily shut down when health inspectors found surfaces “littered” with cockroaches and decided diners’ health was at risk.
Now boss Nachhattar Batt has been fined more than £2,000 after admitting two counts of breaking hygiene regulations.
Tharan Biring, prosecuting, said inspectors were still finding cockroaches in the restaurant more than a week after it was first closed on health grounds in September last year.
“They were running along the bottom frame of the oven and cockroach faeces were in an open pot of yoghurt,” she said.
“A live cockroach was also seen on a sieve and another running along work surfaces.
“Surfaces throughout were littered with cockroaches and dirt and the officer perceived they posed an imminent risk to consumers’ health.”
She told Birmingham Magistrates’ Court that inspectors returned numerous times, only to find the cockroach problem deepening, while requests to “deep clean” the restaurant had gone unheeded.
The restaurant was closed on September 16, but when officers returned nine days later live cockroaches were found again.
It was finally allowed to reopen on October 4.
Naomi Gilchrist, defending, said Batt – known as Nat to friends – had been “seriously let down” by pest control firm Rentokil, which failed to sort the problem, despite paying the restaurant 14 visits between August and October last year.
She said managers called in Rentokil ten days before the first visit by environmental health officers and the firm also carried out a deep clean in the August, but not to a satisfactory standard.
She said Batt, 69, of Augustus Road, Edgbaston, had taken more of a back seat in recent years and it was mainly run by managers.
“I’m sure you know the reputation of this restaurant,” she told the court. “My client has worked very hard to develop that reputation.
“You can imagine it’s with considerable personal upset that he find himself here in court.”
Batt was fined £2,113 and ordered to pay £1,000 costs and a £15 victim surcharge.