When you have missed the homeward bus, the shops have brilliant windows but locked doors, and the pavements are greasy black with rain a Northern city can be an inhospitable place. Once there was nothing to do and nowhere to go: now there are Indian restaurants.
In the middle of every night, Sunday or weekday, when the cafes and steak houses are shut and their waiters asleep, egg pilao and Madras chicken curry, Bhuna Gosht, Kofta, Jelabi, and Poppadum are coming to birth, filling and astonishing the mouths of those who always miss buses, all over Britain. Provision, naturally, is made for the few who dislike being astonished at table: they can order fried eggs or cups of unsuccessful white coffee tinged with charcoal, but the cooks, temperamentally, cannot put their hearts into a chip. The number of Indian restaurants in this country is hard to discover. There must be about a dozen in the Manchester district. There are certainly at least a hundred in London, and they are spreading over the rest of the country fast, to towns as unlikely as Northampton.
Indian restaurants for the British public began in London with Veeraswami’s, which opened in the late twenties. The first Koh-i-Noor followed in 1929. In those days the clientele was limited mostly to the homesick prince, or the lover of the exotic: at one time or another most of the Indian rulers called and fed, with their retinues. Running up accounts with these private armies of secretaries and musicians and doctors was a nervous business, for occasions arose when master and retinue would refuse to pay, both arguing that it was the other’s responsibility. At such moments the proprietor of the Koh-i-Noor would call upon the services of a solicitor in full morning dress, with silk hat.
Other moments of tension accompanied the dealings of customers on leave from the Indian Army or Government with waiters who were sometimes political refugees. One famous row broke out between a Major Blank and a waiter who refused, whatever the major might claim to be normal practice in India, to clean his shoes at the end of the meal. “Why am I freer in your country than in my own?” The manager took the waiter into the kitchen and soothed him. The major left with his shoes dirty.
War is the time when Englishmen sincerely prefer their mother’s cooking to a restaurant and when small restaurants do well Disconsolate men in uniform crowd the streets in the evening looking for food, and are given beans. Indian cookery took its chance, profiting from its advantage of flexibility over the English kitchen.
The useful curry
Rice was replaced by boiled barley or chopped macaroni. Seamen off the supply fleets provided the necessary pool of labour for an expansion.
Abroad, in the Far East, a vast new clientele learnt about biriyanis and sambals, and once back home was unwilling to let the experience lapse. Indian independence brought back others, and now three-quarters of the excellent business which the restaurants do is done with the English. An Indian meal is a normal part of pleasure in several Midland cities, which surprises the Continental visitor.
The proprietors are at once troubled and delighted by a class of gourmets who raise an instant fuss if they are given Italian rice instead of Siamese first quality, who know and are angry if the spices have been added a minute too late in the frying stage. The patrons, some of whom come in every day for lunch, are usually in their middle thirties. They are liberal in their ideas: one proprietor, when I asked him to account for the success of Indian restaurants. answered surprisingly: “It is because, since the war, English people know each other better.”
As I went out I noticed a woman standing at the spice counter. She wore a headscarf and an ancient grey over-coat, and her bare legs were red with cold. In a sharply Lancashire accent, she was insisting upon one kind of “dhal “ (lentils) rather than another. The man went to fetch her order: she turned her head to watch him and suddenly, twinkling above her left nostril in the rainy light from the window, I saw a little diamond.
- Why are candy-coated fennel seeds served at Indian restaurants?
- TOP Paris International Restaurants: BEST OF 2018
- Jamie Oliver's empire collapses as 22 UK restaurants close
- 5 upcoming Tata SUVs in the Indian market; From Blackbird to H7X
- The Rise, And Fall, Of One Of Gaming's Finest Ever Studios
- Contrary to Popular Belief, Susan Boyle Was Never 'Slow'
- The many counterfactual histories of Nazi Britain – Catherine Gallagher
- Denny's Comment-Card Archive Offers Glimpse Into Decades Of Poor, Fair, And Excellent Service
- Dhaba vs fine dining: A $60 meal at a Michelin star restaurant or a $2 meal fit for a Mughal emperor?
- NextEra Energy’s rising fortunes
- Jamie Oliver’s UK restaurant chain collapses into insolvency
- Britain's 1960s Transport Minister Drove Straight Into A Canal
- Former Indian PM Vajpayee dies after illness at age 93
- So You Want to Teach Some Indian Philosophy?
- Bjorn Lomborg Is Wrong About Bangladesh And Sea Level Rise
- The Next Overwatch Archive Event is Called Storm Rising Set in Cuba
- Overwatch announces its upcoming Archives event, Storm Rising, with new lore teasers
- Tata Tiago, Tigor, Nexon & Hexa prices to rise from January 2019
- Britain's best-selling cars – April 2019
- Britain's best-selling cars – May 2019
Rising popularity of Indian restaurants in Britain - archive, 1957 have 927 words, post on www.theguardian.com at January 24, 2017. This is cached page on Talk Vietnam. If you want remove this page, please contact us.