Sunday, 2 September 2007
Lager lout meets trucker
In the two 24 hours I have stepped into the shoes of the lager lout and the truck driver, luckily without vomiting and and standard issue arse cleavage. On Friday night, in common with fans of Stella Artois across Britain, we decided to go for a curry. The main difference between me and the hoards of drunken City boys who fall out of the Tube stations after midnight (I'm hoping there are many but this is the most obvious) is that I didn't stagger into any old curryhouse willing to serve patronising middle class boys rogan josh at 2am. Instead, we went to Eriki on Finchley Road. Eriki sits in an uninspiring 1950s sweep of tatty restaurants, saunas and sports shops, just beside the dual carriage way nightmare at Swiss Cottage. Unless you're looking for a kebab, a takeaway curry or a happy finish, you're not going to be walk past Eriki. Which is a shame because inside it couldn't be further from a generic Indian restaurant. The hot orange facade belies a tasteful interiors more akin to an exotic furniture shop - dark wood tables and chairs, carved screens and weighty cutlery imported from Rajasthan (no kidding - check out their website). As usual I was seduced by the squid cooked with South Indian spices. It was tender and surprisingly delicate. I followed that impressive opened with Goosht Aloo Simla Mirch - lamb and potatoes cooked in paprika, peppers and garam masala - and a yellow lentil dal. For a butter-free option the lamb was rich and succulent. When I tried the dal I had call the waiter back to check for the sneaky presence of butter. It was so creamy and smooth that I couldn't quite believe my luck. The husband, however, proved that dairy and gluten don't always guarantee you the best dishes on the menu. Straying from his usual fish curry, he opted for the biriyiani. Suffice to say that he's going to play it safe next time. The fish is back on.
We found the same pattern asserting itself the next day en route to a family gathering. With time on our side and a rising hunger we decided to stop for lunch. The Fourwentways roundabout off the A11 isn't exactly known for its Michelin stars but it did boast the 'world famous Comfort cafe'. I'm not sure which world the Comfort cafe is referring to but it can't be this one. I'd never heard of it and after his slightly stale cheese and ham sandwich (Mother's Pride bread, three days old, sweaty packet) the husband doesn't want to hear the name mentioned again. I, on the other hand, with my limited choices, did well with the backed potato. I did, however, leave the accompanying salad untouched, despite the flourish of strawberries. Having seen the salad man picking a particularly stubborn spot on the back of his neck while we stood in the queue, the salad went straight back to kitchen and probably reappeared on another plate later. Still, the website says World War II veteran fighter pilot Douglas Bader and Beirut hostage Terry Waite 'have been known to pop in for a cuppa' (though I'm guessing Douglas hasn't been in for a while) so it can't all be bad.
As a picture of modern Britain, the Comfort cafe paints a depressing picture. Lone fathers shovelling chips into their reluctant children's mouths, lone truck drivers shovelling chips into their more than receptive mouths. And then the middle class father snapping at his kids for playing with their food. Frankly, faced with their food, I would have played with it too. You could have fashioned some bid church candles out of the coagulated lard on their plates. Needless to say we ate and left. Little did we know that things could get worse so quickly. With the call of nature urgent and a snaking queue of mothers and children staring pointedly at the single toilet door, we dropped into the Little Chef round the corner. It was my first visit, and hitting the wall of fry-up fumes as we nonchalantly tried to make our way to the toilets (unhelpfully situated right at the back of the room), I won't be going back soon. The Little Chef might be many people's guilty pleasure but I'm sticking to the chocolate.