A CHEF who opened one of the longest-surviving curry houses in the UK has died aged 88.

Sher Mohammed, who came to the UK from Pakistan in the 1950s, first opened what was then known as the Khyber Café in Whalley Range, Blackburn, in 1967.

It has been one of the most popular restaurants in the North West renowned for its authentic taste of Sher's homeland.

Small and with seating for less than 30, loyal customers helped to elevate it to legendary status.

In 2002 he handed over the reins to his sons, Salim and Faheem, whilst Qadeem, opened a Khyber takeaway in Clitheroe.

Sher started cooking curries when he was 12 – when he learnt how to make lentil curry. He cooked over a gas barrel in Karachi.

He learnt to perfect his recipes on his own because his mother died when he was born and his father died when he was 10.

And Sher, known as ‘Cha Cha’ (uncle), to his customers, said practice was the key to his success.

He later produced the keema (mince meat) curry with a boiled egg, which proved to be a favourite for his local customers.

In 2008 Sher said: "I look forward to meeting my loyal customers as well as the new ones. Seeing my loyal customers age during these years has been a pleasure.”

Blackburn councillor Suleman Khonat said: “He was one of the best people you could meet – a local legend. He was really good to see someone who started locally and stayed local and his restaurant attracted people from across the town.

“For many years it has been the standard-bearer for many others.

“He was a very nice approachable man and a gentleman.

“I met him first him in 1976 and I lived around the corner and we stayed in touch.

“Our thoughts are with the family at this time.”

Blackburn with Darwen Council leader Mohammed Khan said he first met Sher back in the 1960s.

He said: “He was a very good human being, always respectful and jolly.

“He was the first person from the Asian sub-continent to open a café in the area. He was making authentic Punjabi food for customers back in the sixties.

“There are a lot of restaurants now but I think many will agree that he was the original. It is a sad loss.”

Yamin Hussain, owner of fashion boutique Poshaak said: “My father first opened our shop in 1972 and we have been neighbours ever since.

“We became close family friends and Mr Mohammed was a great person and a pioneer for many other businessmen along Whalley Range. He will be sadly missed.”

Cllr Tasleem Fazal’s family owned a furniture store next door to the Khyber Restaurant for many years.

He said: “I called him Uncle Sher. He opened his shop in 1967 and he was good friends with my father.

“Uncle Sher used to come into our shop and he was very kind and approachable.

“Khyber is one of those few places people would trek across town to.

“Generations are loyal to the Khyber and this was due not only due to the food. It was also due to the warm welcome customers got from the family.

“The Khyber will and always be referred to as ‘Uncle Sher’s Khyber’.”