A restaurateur has been granted the historic honour of Freedom of the City of London.

Enam Ali, 51, owner of Le Raj in Fir Tree Road, Epsom, received the honour at the Guildhall in London last month, accompanied by his wife Ruby, daughter Justine and sons Jeffrey and Jahid.

The award was given in recognition of his enormous contribution to the Indian hospitality industry, including launching the British Curry Awards seven years ago.

The award is Mr Ali’s second major honour after he was awarded an MBE in 2009 and came just days before he was named business personality of the year at the first Epsom and Ewell Business Awards.

Mr Ali: “I feel humbled and privileged to be granted such an historic honour as the Freedom of the City of London, and joining a long line of Freemen going all the way back to the 13th century.

“None of what I have achieved would have been possible without the support of my loyal customers at Le Raj and I would like to thank them all for giving me the opportunity to serve my industry and community.

“It fills me with huge pride to see what our industry has achieved over the last ten years or so.

“We are no longer seen as just plain curry houses.

“Many of our restaurants now offer a fine dining experience as good as any in the UK.”

Since launching the Dine Bangladeshi campaign in 1992, Mr Ali has been on a mission to raise the status and credibility of the Indian restaurant sector helping to form The Guild of Bangladeshi Restauranters, which he has led for several years, and by publishing and editing Spice Business, a trade magazine giving a voice to the industry. Mr Ali has also been appointed a director of the Bangladesh-British Chamber of Commerce to help promote trade and relations between the UK and Bangladesh.

The Freedom of the City of London is one of the oldest surviving traditional ceremonies with the first Freedom believed to be presented in 1237 and affords the bearer ancient privileges, including the right to herd sheep over London Bridge.

Enam joked: “As I don’t have any sheep, perhaps I’ll drive a Le Raj lamb curry across the bridge instead.”