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Posts Tagged ‘Indian in London’

Delhi Grill in Chapel Market, Islington

Like most city dwellers, Jon and I receive a lot of unwanted takeaway menus dropped through our post slot.  And like most people, we recycle the vast majority without a second glance.

Unusually, though, back in August, I saved the Delhi Grill‘s takeaway menu from the recycling bin because of (1) its limited, focussed menu options; and (2) its statement that they wanted to bring Whitechapel to the ‘hood.

A few days after I saw Delhi Grill’s menu, I was walking through Chapel Market and spotted an outdoor grill set up by Delhi Grill — clearly a cosmic signal that I ought to try out the stand’s offerings of custom-order kati rolls and potato-onion pakoras.

lamb kati roll at Delhi Grill's Chapel Market stall on Sundays (£3)

potato-and-onion pakoras

I ordered a lamb kati roll, which was basically sheekh kebab hot off the grill, wrapped in warm, soft roti.  It wasn’t as deliciously-dense and flavorful as the ones I’ve had at the Kati Roll Company, but it was pretty darn good.  At £3 a roll, it’s a filling lunch, especially if you add an order of pakoras, which you should do.  Somehow the pakoras retained their crispiness despite not being fresh from the fryer, and I enjoyed the hint of sweet spiciness from the paprika and chilli mixed in.

Despite our positive experience with Delhi Grill’s Sunday grill stand, it took me months to finally return to Delhi Grill for dinner.  Last Saturday, we gave it a go.

sheekh kebabs (£2.50 for two pieces)

chilli chicken wings (£1.95 for 4 pieces)

grilled lamb chops (£2.95 for 2 pieces)

Grilled items as starters were generally very good.   Sizzling, juicy, well seasoned.   The lamb chops could have used more marinade and fat, but I say this as someone who always prefers a wet marinade to a dry rub.

fish pakoras (£3.50 for 4 pieces)

Fried foods were very good, too, though you could accuse all the fried dishes of tasting the same because the chilli-paprika seasoning in the batter seems to stay the same, whether the pakoras are fish or onion.

biryani (£7.50)

Chicken biryani was a special of the day, and this was the low point of our evening.  The biryani had wonderfully-fragrant flavoring and texture, striking a nice balance between being moist and fluffy, but the dish was inexplicably served lukewarm.  Considering how hot and straight-from-the-kitchen everything else tasted, we were surprised that the biryani had been allowed to cool off before being served.

roti (£1) and naan (£1.50)

Overall, our dinner at Delhi Grill was delicious and cheap (£30 for two, including beers), and I’m thrilled that it opened in the ‘hood.  Special shout out to the guy making the rotis right in the dining room.  The set-up is saved from gimmick by the simple fact that the rotis are excellent.

Delhi Grill, 21 Chapel Market, N1 9EZ; 0207 278 8100; closest Tube station:  Angel

To read about other restaurants I like in Islington:

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Dishoom

The Dishoom PR deluge started innocently enough – a small blurb at the bottom of a Daily Candy email. But within 48 hours of my seeing that email, Dishoom was mentioned seemingly everywhere (try googling Dishoom + London).

While I was tempted to dismiss all the hype and ignore Dishoom for a while, my friend J, who grew up in south India, was immediately drawn to Dishoom’s concept of a vintage Mumbai cafe.  This enthusiasm arose even before any generally-positive reviews like this one in TimeOut had been published.

For starters, there’s the name:  Dishoom! is an onomatopoeia for gun shooting in old Bollywood movies and shows, and anyone who longs for old Batman TV episodes (packed with Ka-Pow!’s and Bam!’s) can understand the nostalgia and fun promised by a place so named.

interior of Dishoom

Happily, Dishoom lives up to the hype.  For now, the restaurant doesn’t take reservations, but when Jon and I arrived on Saturday night with our party of five, we waited only ten minutes for a comfy booth to open up. And while waiting, we were each served a glass of warm, spicy chai. The little things go a long way.

Jon and I were slackers and let our friends from India, J & N, order everything for the table:  keema pau, pau bhaji, chilli cheese toast, desi fish fingers, Dishoom roomali rolls to start, and a lot of grill items, black dal and biryani for our mains.

pau bhaji (£3.90)

I think the risk for restaurants selling nostalgia is that if the food isn’t served exactly the way someone grew up eating it, you’re sunk. For example, Jon and I really enjoyed the keema pau (a spicy minced lamb topping accompanied by rounds of buttered toast) and pau bhaji (mashed veg stew with the same rounds of toast). Both dishes were deliciously spicy and fragrant, but N didn’t like the pau bhaji because she preferred the veg to come in bigger chunks instead of mashed.

chilli cheese toast (£2.90)

"desi" fish fingers (£3.90)

Chilli cheese toast was more interesting than tasty. The layer of cheese was thick and a tad congealed, and overall it tasted dry.  But I loved the thought of all these kids in India growing up on, effectively, spicy grilled cheese. Ditto on the desi fish fingers, which were just, you know, fish fingers, the term ‘desi’ notwithstanding.  I guess it’s the tamarind sauce that distinguishes it from regular fish fingers.

Dishoom chicken roomali roll (£6.50)

My favorite of the starters was the “Dishoom chicken roomali roll,” which had a great mix of textures and flavors: moist chicken, crunchy nuts, cool crisp greens and a sweet-tangy sauce. Minor quibble was that the roti tasted pretty dry, especially at the ends where the roti bunched up, but if Mooli’s sold kathi rolls like these, I’d be there every day.

spicy lamb chops (£9.20 for three pieces)

Spicy lamb chops “rubbed with crushed black pepper and chillies” were fantastic.  I love that the kitchen didn’t hold back on the spice rub, and the chops were thick and juicy.  Our table devoured two orders of these.  Murgh malai (£6.50), a mild grilled chicken dish, was also a hit.  The beauty of chicken thigh marinated in cream before grilling is not to be underestimated.

black daal (£4.50)

Black dal (aka dal makhani) is always a treat to see on a restaurant menu because the number of hours it takes to cook up a good one is something beyond most home cooks’ schedules.  Dishoom’s dal makhani was wonderfully smoky and rich.  Try not to think about all the cream and ghee in there, of course.  We ordered two of these, as well.

chicken berry biryani (£7.50)

I’m the only one at our table who enjoyed the chicken berry biryani.  I hate when biryanis are too wet and weighed down by fillings, so that would explain why I enjoyed Dishoom’s version, which was comprised of fluffy, fragrant basmati with just a sprinkle of oil and spices.  It’s true there weren’t many berries or chicken pieces in it, but for me the joy of biryani comes from the crunchy bits of rice off the bottom of the pan, of which there were plenty in our serving.

The dining room was lively and ready-to-be-franchised attractive.  Our servers were attentive and fast, and prices were low, especially given the touristy theatreland neighborhood.  Assorted extras like raita, roti and naan were all priced under 2 quid, and most of the wine list options were less than 30.  Unlike other bloggers whose reviews I’ve seen so far, I was perfectly happy to pay £1 for large bottles of filtered water, and the fact that 20p of each bottle goes to charity was icing on the cake.

Our table of five ordered two bottles of wine for £60, so the cost of our dinner per person was £29.   Great value for the food, service and location.  I’ll be back.  The lamb chops and black dal are already calling to me as I type, and if Dishoom becomes as ubiquitous as the Cheesecake Factory, I won’t hold it against them.  They’ll have earned their popularity.

Dishoom, 12 Upper St Martins Lane, WC2H 9FB; 020 7420 9320; closest Tube stations: Covent Garden and Leicester Square
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cooks at Needoo Grill, hard at work

It’s taken me months to get to Needoo Grill, mostly because it’s located just around the corner from its famous sibling, New Tayyabs. In other words, if I’m in Whitechapel craving tandoor, I usually end up at tried-and-true Tayyabs despite its brutally-long queues.

Two Fridays ago, Jon and I finally willed ourselves to forgo Tayyabs and try out Needoo Grill, which is owned by the former manager of Tayyabs (Needoo is apparently his nickname).

Having apparently forgotten that we were merely a party of two, Jon and I ordered veg samosas, seek kebabs, grilled lamb chops, karahi lamb, a special of the day (haleem), aubergine dal, peshwari naan, regular naan and rice pilau. Frighteningly, we ate it all.

lamb chops (£5) and seek kebabs (80p each) at Needoo Grill

Needoo Grill’s seek kebabs were as juicy and spicy as they are at Tayyabs, but Needoo’s lamb chops varied from tough to top-notch.  A few of the chops were covered in too much marinade, though I realize some people don’t believe you can ever have too much marinade.

chili paneer tikka (£2.50)

Paneer was wonderfully smoky and spicy.

dal baingun (aubergine dal) (£4.50)

I’d hoped to eat a dal makhni, which is the dark, buttery lentil dish that takes ages to make at home. But Needoo had run out (really?), so Jon and I ordered the aubergine dal (dal baingun) on the strength of Food Stories calling it “one of the best I’ve ever eaten”.  The smoky, silky aubergine added great texture and flavor to the yellow lentils, and it is indeed a delicious dish.  But it’s no dal makhni.  Sniff.

Karahi lamb (£5.50)

Friday's special of the day: haleem (£5.50)

The special-of-the-day was haleem, a thick, meaty paste.  Apparently you make haleem by braising meat (here, lamb) for hours with lentils, and then you puree the whole thing.  For me, eating pureed meat brings to mind unpleasant visions of living in an old person’s home, so Jon and I mixed our haleem with the karahi lamb dish we’d ordered, and that worked out better for us.  Haleem seems like it’d be an acquired taste.

peshwari naan (£2)

I’m a sucker for the sweet nuttiness of peshwari naan, but ordering an entire portion for myself was too much.  I liked that Needoo’s version was studded with fennel seeds to add a light fragrance to the sugary filling, but fennel seeds or no, the peshwari naan was too heavy for me to eat it solo.

Overall, eating at Needoo Grill was a pleasant experience.  Our servers were a lot less harried than they are at Tayyabs, and they took the time to make recommendations and answer questions.  The lamb chops might not be as consistently good as they are at Tayyabs, but everything else we tried was comparable.  And you definitely can’t beat Needoo’s prices.  Our tab for enough food to feed three was £35.

Needoo Grill, 87 New Road, E1 1HH; 020 7247 0648; closest tube station: Whitechapel

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Shilpa south Indian restaurant

Shilpa south Indian restaurant

Last Friday, Jon and I met our friends at the Lyric Hammersmith for a performance of “Punk Rock” (which, by the way, was pretty forgettable). The show ended at 9:30 pm and I needed food, stat. Thank goodness for Tamarind & Thyme’s July post on Shilpa Indian Restaurant. The restaurant is near the theatre, and as a bonus, Shilpa is running a promotion of 40% off your food bill when you eat in.

I’d already been to Shilpa a couple of months ago, soon after Su-Lin’s post (I love south Indian food and so was willing to schlepp across town to Hammersmith). At that first dinner there, while a few of our dishes were winners (e.g., prawn moilee and Kerala paratha), there were also a few extreme clunkers such that I didn’t envision another destination-dining journey to Shilpa. Exhibit A of a totally inedible dish at Shilpa: the “squid pepper fry,” which turned out to be tiny, rubbery O’s of (allegedly) squid.

That said, at 10 pm on a chilly Friday evening near the Lyric Hammersmith, Shilpa seemed ripe for a re-visit.

masala dosa at Shilpa

masala dosa at Shilpa

Masala dosa is a must at any south Indian meal, and Shilpa’s version was a filling and tasty way to start our dinner. The pancake was hot and crispy, and the spicy potato filling was well complemented by spicy sambal and soothing coconut chutney.

king prawn moilee

king prawn moilee

At £8.50, the prawn moilee may be the most expensive dish on Shilpa’s menu, and both times I’ve had it, it’s been worth every penny. I loved the curry’s fragrant turmeric and ginger mellowed by the sweet coconut milk, and the dish’s seven or eight prawns were beautifully cooked (i.e., not overcooked to toughness).

The Kerala fish curry (£6.50), in contrast, had an appealing tomato-based sauce, but seemed to include a flaky, slightly-dry fish that tasted like tuna out of a can.

kerala paratha

kerala paratha

I love Kerala paratha (and its Malaysian cousin, roti canai), and at £1.75 per generous portion, Shilpa’s version is a steal. Hot, flaky and crispy – what’s not to love?

okra, saag paneer

mango pachadi, okra, saag paneer

The four of us ordered up a storm, at some point caving in to our love of paneer and ordering saag paneer (even though my friend from Bangalore points out that no self-respecting south Indian resto should have paneer anywhere on its menu), and happily, there were no awful dishes this second time around.

In the end, the dishes were so inexpensive that I felt mildly guilty taking advantage of the 40% off deal, but the beauty of saving on the food is that you get sucked in to ordering a lot of beer at £4.50 per (large) bottle. So then I didn’t feel as guilty anymore.

The service was attentive both times I visited; and tap water was never a problem. The restaurant’s decor is utilitarian save for earnest posters of the Stuart Smalley variety and a flat-screen TV on mute showing Bollywood films.

Despite all the food and beers ordered, our tab on both our visits came to a wallet-friendly £13 per person.

If you live within 30 minutes of Shilpa and are prepared for a few misses on the menu, it’s a must-visit place for a quality, great-value curry. But if you live further afield (say, in Angel, Islington), then drop by the next time you’re catching a show at the Lyric Hammersmith.

Shilpa Restaurant, 206 King Street, W6 0RA, 0208 741 3127; closest tube stations: Ravenscourt Park or Hammersmith.
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Moti Mahal downstairs dining area (photo from www.Londontown.com)

Moti Mahal downstairs dining area (photo from http://www.Londontown.com)

Two Saturdays ago, Jon and I were craving Indian food and saw that normally-pricey Moti Mahal was offering a £20 dinner menu, so we decided to try it out.

When we arrived, we were happy to find a sleek, warm-colored dining room buzzing with conversation.  The upstairs room was not for us, though.  Instead, we were led downstairs, which was also an attractive space, but seemingly full of families with kids.  I’m not anti-kids at restaurants, but as a sans-kid adult, I wished we could’ve stayed upstairs.  (When we asked to switch tables, our server super-politely told us the upstairs tables were already fully booked, and I didn’t have it in me to be bitchy about it – surprise, I know).

So because we’d had to let the restaurant know in advance that we were interested in the £20 menu, our server immediately handed us only that “special” menu.  And really, it was comprised entirely of dishes from your local Indian takeaway (i.e., tikka masala, lamb vindaloo).  Where were all those creative, modern takes on Indian food that we’d read Moti Mahal specializes in?

So we asked to see the a la carte menu, which seemed to take our server a while to find, and when it arrived, we saw there was no overlap at all between the a la carte and the £20 menu .   I’d expected Moti Mahal to showcase some of its tastiest, most creative dishes on the £20 menu in an effort to get diners to return and try the more comprehensive a la carte menu, but instead, it seems Moti Mahal is operating two restaurants in the same physical space.

khargosh ki seekh (rabbit kofte) at Moti Mahal

khargosh ki seekh (rabbit kofte) at Moti Mahal

So, a la carte it was.  Jon’s rabbit kofte (khargosh ki seekh) was spicy, moist and flavorful.  We liked it, but at the end of the day,  it’s minced meat on a stick, so £9 seemed a bit steep.

bhalla papdi chaat at Moti Mahal

bhalla papdi chaat at Moti Mahal

I was much more impressed with my bhalla papdi chaat, which included crisp pastry bits, yoghurt, chili, tamarind, pomegranate seeds and assorted fritters.  Although I’m pretty sure this is a cheap street dish in India, I enjoyed the variety of textures and flavors – chili heat and cooling yogurt is one of my fave food combos.

allepy konch (roasted prawns in a seafood-coconut broth) at Moti Mahal

allepy konch (roasted prawns in a seafood-coconut broth) at Moti Mahal

Jon’s allepy konch (two enormous grilled prawns in a creamy veg stew) was delicately perfumed with coconut milk.  The two large prawns were perfectly cooked (i.e., sweet and on just the right side of firmness).   The stew wasn’t visually appealing, but it was tasty.  Overall, though, an additional prawn and a smaller portion of the thick stew would’ve been ideal.  The dish was, after all, £19.

sorpotel (boar stew) with poached egg at Moti Mahal

sorpotel (boar stew) with poached egg at Moti Mahal

Our server recommended the sorpotel, which is a boar and okra stew, and while I loved the poached egg with masala seasoning (spiciness + creaminess = tastiness), half the wild boar pieces were tender and sweet, and the other half were a bit dry and stringy.   And then there was some additional puffy/spongy thing that didn’t add flavor or texture.  Disappointing for £18.

Overall, Moti Mahal as a mixed bag.  The decor, vibe and service were pluses, and the food had its promising moments, so maybe for £20 a person and an expectation for curry takeaway classics, I’d return.  But with wine and a couple of extras like rice and dal makhani (which was deliciously rich and creamy), our tab for two was £100, making our dinner a pretty mediocre value.

Moti Mahal, 45 Great Queen Street, WC2B 5AA; 0207 240 9329; closest tube station: Covent Garden
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exterior of New Tayyabs restaurant

In February 2005, when Jon and I visited London for the first time (as tourists), a reliable London source insisted we try New Tayyabs for great, cheap, “Indian” food. Over three years later, we’re still hooked. (And we now know it’s Punjabi food).

Though Whitechapel is kind of a schlep, Tayyabs’s food is reliably fresh and tasty; tap water is forthcoming; and service is efficient. Jon and I love bringing out-of-towners to New Tayyabs because it’s so much better than anything we’ve ever found on Brick Lane, so whenever we get a request for “Indian food in London,” Tayyabs is where we head. That’s what happened this past weekend, anyway.

While New Tayyabs isn’t as cheap as Lahore Kebab House around the corner (which I also like a lot), its sleek interior is a major step up from the decor of most other restos in the neighborhood.

seekh kebab and lamb tikka at New Tayyabs

I’m not offering any original advice when I say that you’ve got to start your meal at New Tayyabs with a big selection of grilled goodies from the tandoor, but you know, this piece of advice is a rare example of how it pays to follow the crowd. The seekh kebabs are spicy and juicy (and 80p per kebab!), and the lamb chops are oh-la-la smoky and hot from the delectable garam masala spice rub. After polishing off the lamb chops, you’ll no doubt be licking spicy goodness off your fingers. Who says the American south has a monopoly on amazing barbecue?

Other starters I’ve had include the paneer tikka (creamy and firm and def worth ordering for vegetarians) and the samosas (fine, but nothing compared to the grilled dishes).

Karahi king prawns special at New Tayyabs

In addition to offering a regular menu, New Tayyabs likes to mix things up with daily specials, and the Saturday special, karahi king prawns (photo above), is worth the relatively-pricey £12. The prawns are huge and juicy, not overcooked, and served in a refreshing, spicy sauce.

From New Tayyabs’s regular menu, I always order a “meat and spinach,” and specifically, I like to choose lamb as my meat (making it saag gosht, I guess). The lamb is always tender, and I can’t get enough of it when it’s covered in spicy spinach puree. The tarka dhal (£4.50 for a large bowl) is another of my faves, partly because I love the big, yellow lentils used in Tayyabs’s version. They’re so perfectly round and tasty that I think they’re split peas, actually.

The various naans are always hot and fluffy, though if I had to change one thing about them, it’d be to go easier on that dollop of ghee that goes on right before serving.

It’s pretty hard to go wrong at New Tayyabs (though I don’t enjoy the chicken dishes as much as those made from other meats – the chicken usually tastes a bit dry to me). Most main courses are about £5 for a small bowl and £10 for a big one.

New Tayyabs, 83-89 Fieldgate Street, E1 1JU, (0)207 247 9543; closest tube station: Whitechapel

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Veeraswamy restaurant exterior, London

One of the many great things about living in London is the (for lack of a better phrase) Indian food. Jon and I eat a lot of it, and because of the large number of Indian restaurants in London, we’re lucky that the restaurants really run the gamut in price and quality (if only the same could be said of Italian food here). We’ve also learned that there are so many differences among Indian regions that the phrase ‘Indian food’ isn’t very meaningful, but I’m American, so I’ll stick with that label for now.

Jon and I have our favorite dives (Lahore Kebab House, New Tayyabs) and mid-rangers (Masala Zone, Vijay, Rasa), which I’ll motivate to post about the next time we visit any of them. But since we moved to London, we haven’t tried any of the high-end ones, mostly because the quality at the dives and mid-rangers is so good.

Well, on Friday night, we were walking along Piccadilly and passed Veeraswamy while on our way to Yoshino for sushi. It turned out Yoshino was closed (seriously, it was only 10 pm and they’re closed?!?) so we figured, why not give Veeraswamy a try. As tourists in London in February 2005, we’d loved our meal at Chutney Mary, and because Veeraswamy and Chutney Mary share an owner, we’d always meant to try Veeraswamy anyway.

Veeraswamy’s decor and prices put it in the category of high-end Indian restaurants. Appetizers are £6-10, and most mains are £15-25. Compared to, say, high-end French places in London, Veeraswamy’s prices aren’t eyewatering, but compared to prices at most Indian restaurants, Veeraswamy’s prices do make you think twice.

Well, I was glad that the food was very good, especially the main courses and breads. Our sides (saag, Mumbai dal) were kind of comme ci, comme ca, so I’ll skip them the next time around.

The service was friendly, but not super professional. For example, one waiter had to demonstrate to our waitress how to pour a glass of wine and twist the bottle to avoid drips, and nobody filled our water glasses during the hour and a half we were there. That sort of thing is amateur hour, especially at a pricey restaurant sporting the plush-carpet-chandelier look.paneer tikka at Veeraswamy

But back to the food. The paneer tikka (“grilled cheese”) was incredible. The cheese was creamy and firm like a good tofu with a pan-crisped exterior. Jon and I haven’t had paneer that good since eating in India.  Ours was served like a sandwich filled with something spicy and sweet, and we happily dipped our paneer in a yogurt-coriander sauce

main courses of Nihara lamb (from Lucknow) and Kerala chicken stew were also delicious. The lamb had been braised until it was tender and falling off the bone in an aromatic tomato-based (I think) sauce. I’m not a good enough Indian cook to identify all the spices in different sauces, but I’m enough of one to tell you that it’s hard to get all those dozens of spices to blend together in a flavor as smooth and rich as what was in my Nihara lamb.

appams at Veeraswamy restaurant, London

The Kerala chicken tasted like the perfect Malaysian dish – a blend of cultures. A little bit of spice, a little bit of sweetness (from the coconut milk). The chicken was tender breast meat, and the sauce was light but packed with delicate flavors. Two appams (rice flour pancakes – see photo above) arrived with our chicken, so we used the appams to scoop up as much sauce and chicken as we could and went to town

a bottle of a riesling (Blue Slate – way too sweet for me) and all the little extras (breads and rice, etc.), our tab for two came to £100 (£99.56 to be exact). Enough to have invited ten friends for a hefty dinner at the Lahore Kebab House, but then again, it’d be unfair to compare a bistro experience to eating at L’Astrance. So I guess I have to work harder to move past my food racism.

Overall, I’d love to go back to Veeraswamy, perhaps with ten friends in tow.

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I couldn’t resist: Happy 4th of July to all my American readers!

I spent my Independence Day at work, trading jokes with Brits about how things went completely downhill for them after 1776. Not very original. Actually, not very funny, either. But a nice change from talking about the weather (which really has been rubbish, by the way).

Envious of reports coming back from the U.S. about barbecues, fireworks and summer weather, I still managed to enjoy myself today.First, several coworkers and I met a former colleague (wow, I’ve been here long enough to have former colleagues) at a Keralan restaurant near Oxford Circus. The place was a true dive, right down to the dirty, unattractive bathroom in the basement. How do I know it was Keralan cuisine? Well, it just so happens the place is named “The Keralan Restaurant.”

I’d stop by only if I were on Oxford Street and craved dosas, which were pretty tasty at the restaurant – a crisp crepe outside and a tasty mushy potato inside. The parathas were also good, reminding me of the best type of oily, hot bread you get when you order roti canai at a Malaysian place. The other seven or eight dishes I tried were so-so. Probably more appealing are the 1L-size bottles of Kingfisher available. Total tab for lots of food and drinks was £24 per person.

After dinner, I hopped on the Victoria Line back to my neighborhood and met Jon and our some of American friends for drinks at Desperados. We couldn’t think of anything more American than Tex-Mex, so margaritas it was at £17 per pitcher. Good times.

The decor is total kitsch, but what puts Desperados on the map is the fact that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown struck their infamous deal inside this very restaurant. Obviously nothing could be more July 4th than dinner at an Indian restaurant followed by drinks at a sub-par Mexican restaurant.

And what could make me more proud to be an American than I already am? Definitely the news that an American 23-year-old beat Kobayashi in today’s annual Nathan’s Hot Dog eating contest.

Happy 4th!

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Yesterday, I went with four friends to dinner at this divey Indian place on Brick Lane whose claim to fame is decent food (pretty good by Brick Lane standards, anyway) but which I love because it’s decorated with what must be the weirdest murals in London.

Most of the murals look like they’re painted by a Dungeons & Dragons porn afficionado – the scenes are all variations on the theme of scantily-clad women looking orgasmic. In the middle of the room is a large mural of Princess Di, with slightly Indian features, wearing a beatific smile. Clearly, nobody should miss this place, Cafe Bengal, 128 Brick Lane, E1 6RU.

I should have brought my camera, but of course Jon has it with him to take pictures of *real* Indian sights. Here’s a photo of the restaurant that I just found on-line that sort of shows the murals I’m talking about.It took us forever to get served (why is it on Saturday nights, restaurants in London never seem to have more than two servers for a room of 100?), but the food was cheap and good. For example, lamb rogan josht for £7 was tender and simmered in a sauce made with fresh tomatoes. Dishes here are better than they have to be for Brick Lane, which is like an Indian restaurant Disneyworld.  You have this sense that nothing on Brick Lane can be authentic given its popularity among roving bands of birthday, bachelor and bachelorette party celebrators.  All those touts lining the street trying to convince you to try different restaurants by offering “deals” on alcohol don’t help Brick Lane’s image for cheap, careless food.

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