An award-winning south Belfast restaurant, whose recent social media post appealing to anyone facing spending Christmas alone to join them for a free dinner this December 25, has gone viral.
Bengal Brasserie on the Ormeau Road, which has been open for 27 years, touchingly launched the appeal for people who have no one to spend Christmas with.
The heartwarming invitation has caused widespread praise, with many supporters voicing the sentiment that the generosity reminded them of the ‘the real meaning of Christmas.’ Amongst the hundreds of supportive comments from both locals and fellow restaurants, Belfast Cathedral shared the event, commenting: “A wonderful gesture from the team at Bengal Brasserie Ormeau Road. Definitely what Christmas is all about!”
Owner Luthfur Ahmed told The Guide he is overwhelmed at the “amazing” response, explaining he came up with the idea after witnessing the tragic effects of loneliness first hand.
He explained: “Last year I really wanted to make this event happen, but because it’s Christmas no one wanted to work it. So this year, I have family coming in specially to help me out.
“Our restaurant is based near several nursing and care homes, many of whom often come in for dinner on their own. I make a point of sitting with them if they seem lonely, and they tell me that they are feeling down as they are always on their own and never get to talk to anyone or just go out for fresh air.
“My heart goes out to people on Christmas day who are living on their own. My parents lived back home in Bangladesh and were so happy together - but sadly my dad has recently passed away. My mum sometimes tells me how she often feels isolated and lonely, particularly during big festivals and occasions, which is heartbreaking. I thought this event would be a nice way of getting people together to talk and interact with one another who would normally be sitting alone.”
“I see so much loneliness. This will give people the opportunity to get out of the house and meet and talk to people who are in a similar situation. The response has been incredible, and I just want people to know we are open from 12pm until 8pm, and as many people who want to come are so welcome.
“We would love a rough idea of the number of people to expect as we are putting on a special Christmas dinner for the occasion.
“I am just so very, very happy that people want to come. People will realise that at least one person cares about them. That is really the main thing here.
“We all need company on such an important day. My mother is also hopefully coming from Bangladesh. I cannot wait.”
And whilst this is the first year of the event, Luthfur is already planning to make it an annual event, “We will definitely be so happy to do this every single year,” he said.
The restaurant will be open from noon until 8pm and if you will be alone on Christmas Day and wish to join the staff at Bengal Brasserie for dinner, you simply need to contact them to let them know before December 20. Call the restaurant on 028 90647516 to book your place.