A Nepalese restaurant in Lewisham which delivered thousands of free meals to key workers during the pandemic has been recognised with the highest award for volunteer groups in the UK. 

After restaurants were ordered to close their doors in March, Panas Gurkha, of Lee High Road, stopped serving customers and instead, started delivering meals to nurses, paramedics, care workers and homeless people across south London. 

To date, the restaurant has donated over 5,000 meals, 8,000 alcohol-based wipes, 1,500 bottles of water and two industrial fridges to hospitals and community projects, something owner Sujan Katuwal is particularly proud of. 

Now they have been granted The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the UK's top honor for such work. 

“When the we were told we were going to have to close back in March my first thought was that we would have to close the restaurant,” Katuwal said.

“But when I got home that night I thought that this community has given us a lot since we’ve opened our doors and now they need us and they need our help.

“The good people who are working every day at Lewisham Hospital, putting themselves in harm’s way, needed our support so we offered to deliver them free meals and they’ve been really grateful.”

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It’s not just the NHS who have benefited from the restaurant’s charitable spirit, Panas have come to the aid of a number of local community groups including the Woolwich Common Community Centre and the Greenwich and Bexley Community Hospice.

Royal Borough of Greenwich Council Leader Dan Thorpe, described the restaurant’s response as ‘extraordinary’:

“On behalf of everyone in Royal Greenwich I’d like to thank Panas Gurkha for the extraordinary work they have done in this pandemic.

COVID-19 has brought out the very best in people and the contribution they have made to our communities in South East London has been extraordinary.”

And the restaurant has no intention of stopping, vowing to continue feeding those who need it even after the pandemic is over.

“My plan is to keep feeding people who need our help in our community forever now,” said Katuwal.

“It’s been a real eye-opening experience but also very rewarding seeing the local people so grateful.  

“We're just happy to do our bit during such a tough time.”