Diners sick, roaches found in popular Indian eatery


ONE of Brisbane's most popular Indian restaurants has copped a $16,000 fine for having a dirty cockroach-infested kitchen, after two customers got sick after eating there.

Punjabi Palace at South Brisbane was shut down in June last year, after Brisbane City Council inspectors found live and dead cockroaches and built-up dirt and grime on the stove.

Two Western Australian people had complained of suffering stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhoea, as a result of eating at the Melbourne St restaurant, Brisbane Magistrates Court heard.

The restaurant, which Magistrate Anne Thacker said was now "pristine'', had posed a risk to the public's health when its food licence was suspended on June 15 last year.

"Clearly the premises had reached a point where they were very dirty. The problems had been there for a considerable amount of time,'' Ms Thacker said.

Punjabi Palace owner Baljit Singh. Picture: Adam Smith
Punjabi Palace owner Baljit Singh. Picture: Adam Smith

Council prosecutor Roman Micairan said food was inadequately stored, with food on top of meat and meat on top of food, and juices dripping down.

He said the restaurant lacked basic cleanliness and maintenance, there was "dirt everywhere'', including on the stove, and cutlery was on the floor.

Mr Micairan said cooked rice and curry was found splashed on the kitchen wall and there was a "woeful'' lack of a cleaning system.

"Unsuspecting members of the public were exposed to a high risk of eating contaminated food and becoming very sick, or even worse,'' Mr Micairan said.

Baljit Singh, who has owned the restaurant for 18 years, pleaded guilty to seven charges of failing to comply with food business standards and seven of contravening food business licence conditions.

The restaurant, which had no previous suspensions, went from having four stars in BCC's Eat Safe rating system in 2015, to plunging to zero stars in 2017 and two stars last year.

Brisbane City Council inspectors found roaches in the flithy kitchen. Picture: File
Brisbane City Council inspectors found roaches in the flithy kitchen. Picture: File

Mr Singh, who had allowed a manager to run it while he was suffering depression over a court case, had it immediately cleaned, and it reopened within 24 hours of closure.

Magistrate Thacker commended Mr Singh, who sacked the manager and was now managing the restaurant himself, for his "very impressive work to bring the restaurant back to standard''.

But she said even while the manager was running it, he had been present and must have seen it was sliding into problems.

A remorseful Mr Singh, who lost $8000 through the one-day closure, has since installed a CCTV camera in the kitchen and is doing more regular pest control.

"I accept Punjabi Palace is one of the most popular and successful Indian restaurants in Brisbane. That's no basis to not comply with the law,'' Ms Thacker said.

Mr Singh was fined $16,000, with no conviction recorded, and ordered to pay the council $355 in costs.