Class finally shows after a slow start

Sir Clement Freud

Class finally shows after a slow start

LISSON GROVE runs from Marylebone Road north to Lord’s cricket ground and this Indian restaurant on the right of the road is very good, very inexpensive and quite quirky.

They wait a while before taking your order, but don’t worry; it takes time to get proper food and the first 10 minutes of nothing-much-happening fades into the overall 90 minutes you should allow for dinner.

You can tell the quality of the sub-continental eateries by the poppadoms – here they are excellent.

Also by the lightness of the naan: absolutely faultless. Cobra beer comes in large bottles, enough to fill four glasses.

I did not notice individual prices but our dinner for two cost £21 and I did not like to question the bill.

For a starter I ordered onion bhaji. The waiter shook his head. I repeated my order. He said: “All gone onion bhaji.”

Which is similar to a fish and chip shop running out of potatoes. Then I ordered chicken madras. The waiter said: “It’s hot.” I said I knew this.

“No rice with madras curry?” asked the waiter.

“No.” He shook his head in disbelief.

My wife chose a vegetable thali, which arrived – when it did arrive – boasting six assorted bowls of lentils, rice, something in a spiced tomato coating and surprisingly for a vegetarian dish, pieces of chicken breast in a korma sauce.

Even more surprisingly, there was an onion bhaji.

“I thought you had no onion bhaji?” I said.

“Had all gone; this fresh.”

It was a great onion bhaji, fried in the very best fat, nicely flavoured. We had on our table a four-bowl selection of accompaniments: yoghurt, pickled lime, mango chutney and sliced onion.

And I had also ordered a portion of potato and spinach.

At a table on the far side of the room – the restaurant seats about 35 and has a flourishing take-away trade – were three couples who spent the evening laughing like drunken hyenas, like neighbours put in by landlords when they want tenants to leave. Annoying, but I suppose it goes with the territory.

I’ve always been suspicious of Indian desserts, so we left, £24 poorer (they deserved a 15 per cent tip for the bhaji) and feeling as contented as one does after eating a really well-cooked meal.

Go there. There’s no need to book, yet.

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