My parents (who I’ve always called Marion and Paul to the amusement and confusion of my friends) are both rapidly closing in on their 60th year on this planet, but are considerably cooler than I am or ever will be. You only have to look at their wedding photos to know it’s true. It must be the mid-to-late 1970s and there’s my dad looking wicked in an amazing blue velvet suit with a ginger afro of incredible proportions. My mum’s also pushing the sartorial boundaries in the photos; sporting the sort hippy floral dress that is probably well due for a comeback some summer soon.
The stories they sometimes tell only reinforce the fact they’ve spent their life wisely. Like when Paul talks about going on the first ski trip organised by LSE (while taking one of the first computer programming degrees on offer anywhere on the planet nonetheless). Or when Marion casually drops into conversation a tale about the time she got called up at 5.30 in the morning because the Today Programme wanted her to appear as an expert on the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (before she went on to win the amateur cooking competition that became Master Chef a couple of years later).
And then, just when I thought I was beginning to catch up with them; just when I was starting to fill my own life with interesting anecdotes and adventures, they go and trump me again by calmly announcing they’ve decided to spend the best part of six weeks backpacking around India. Now, more than ever, I’ve ended up feeling like the boring grown-up, worrying when they don’t email for a couple of days and losing sleep when I hear that Paul’s managed to fall down some steps somewhere in Katmandu on his way to watch the sun rise and break his nose (see they are even going to come back with cooler traveling stories than I have!).
Still, it doesn’t sound like they’ve eaten very well while away; in fact the only meal they’ve mentioned in their emails was a pizza they ate in Nepal when too tired to bother going to a restaurant they described as being “full of ageing hippies, young backpackers looking for a good time and trekkers who are about to tackle Mt. Everest”. Which I guess means I finally have one up on them. Because I’ve had at least one decent Indian meal in the last couple of months; and I didn’t have to go to the Golden Triangle to get it.
That it was good came as something of a surprise, as it was from Kingsland Curries; one of the restaurants I’ve been most wary of since I started this whole project. It’s not that the place looks terrible. It’s just that’s it’s always completely empty; and you already know how I feel about eating in under-populated restaurants. As a result, after walking into the restaurant one weekday evening and finding it completely bereft of customers, we chicken out and decide to order takeaway. What we end up with when we get it home (after declining a drink at their empty bar in favour of a swift pint in the Haggerston), is a surprisingly passable Indian meal.
The Saag Aloo is actually way better than passable. It turns out to be rather delicately spiced and wholly delicious. The daal, while unappealing runny in appearance, is similarly toothsome. Sure, this isn’t rocket science Indian cooking, but it’s better than lots of places in central London that charge twice the price and a massive improvement on anything you’ll find on Brick Lane.
Our meat choices are slightly less successful. But only slightly. The Chicken Karahi tastes great, but looks repulsive – the pieces of meat sliced up so that it ends up looking a bit like something that might be marketed as an extremely upmarket dog food. The Keema Naan is a bit dirty, but then again, when you order a bit of bread stuffed with what effectively boils down down to kebab-shop meat, you can’t really complain when it turns out to be less than gourmet. In fact, it actually tastes way better than most keema naan. There is some spicing there and the ubiquitous grease factor of the dish is downplayed.
All in all, the food is good enough to make me want to eat in the restaurant if only it wasn’t so empty. Maybe I’ll take my parents; they’ll probably have it heaving in less than a month.