Spicing it up

Spices, Chapel Market

This evening, we didn’t feel like preparing food so we decided, as we often do, to go for a ruby. If non-British readers are puzzled as to what that might be, the accompanying illustration might provide a clue. It shows Spices, our favourite Indian restaurant in Chapel Market.

If you are still at a loss, I should explain that “ruby”, from the name of singer Ruby Murray, is London rhyming slang for a curry.

Of the many national cuisines available in London, I think Indian is our favourite. It is bound to be a hit with a vegetarian because India is homeland to some of the oldest vegetarian culinary traditions. There are a number of pure vegetarian Indian restaurants in London (in fact, there is one opposite Spices) but even non-vegetarian ones offer menus replete with vegetarian and even vegan dishes.

Like most Indian restaurants, Spices provides takeaway meals as well as meals served at table. They will deliver your order to your door but I always go to the restaurant to collect mine.

I phone first. These days, I only need give my name. In fact, I don’t even need to do that as the manager immediately recognizes my voice. There is no need, either, to say what I want. He knows because it is always the same: two motor ponir and two portions of vegetable rice. He adds a couple of complimentary poppadoms or “big crisps”, as Tigger calls them.

“That will be ready in 25 minutes,” he tells me, but I always go straightway and am there in 10 minutes.

“It will be ready in 1 minute,” he says. And it is.

There are at least 5 Indian restaurants in Chapel Market and even in London that is quite a lot for a modest-sized street. We have patronized all of them at one time or another but always go to Spices for our takeaway.

Spices is what I would describe as a traditional British Indian restaurant. There is nothing “modern” about it. (I do so deplore the current trend for “modernizing” Indian cuisine and venues. It is simply an excuse to serve minute and over-decorated portions at inflated prices.)

We do sometimes “eat in” at Spices but if we do, we avoid the weekends when it is crowded. The owner has worked hard and built the business up to the point where it gets glowing reviews on the foodie Web sites. I was sufficiently inspired to write one myself.

The extraordinary love affair between the British diners and Indian restaurants shows no sign of cooling. I am glad about this because it means we have a reliable vegetarian food source wherever we go.

Even the French have become to succumb to the charm of Indian cuisine as we discovered during our visit to Paris. On our last night we had dinner at an Indian restaurant we had noticed earlier. It was rather fun carrying out the negotiations in French, though I suspect that the manager-waiter, who was Mauritian, would have been as fluent in English as in French.

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About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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7 Responses to Spicing it up

  1. You are a Tiger after my own heart with your love of cheese and curries (not together though eh?). I have a takeaway curry every Thursday night with my sons (tonight!) and we all love them. And we adore the big crisps too.

    You’ve made me feel very hungry now!

  2. SilverTiger says:

    Funnily enough, we do combine our love of cheese with our love of curry: one of our favourite dishes is ponir (or panir, spell it how you will), which is soft curd cheese cooked with peas or spinach.

    Of course, I would not eat a nice Camembert or Brie with curry. Then again… 🙂

  3. Ed says:

    Neither would I mix Camembert with curry !
    But since I brought back a few recipes from my year in England (1981/1982), I have become the specialist in curries among my friends. We have two Indian restaurant in my town, but they are so dull in comparison with yours…
    On new year’s eve 2006 I cooked an “Indian” Buffet for our “rĂ©veillon” and my friends enjoyed the samosas, dahl, pakoras, chicken curry, chicken tandoori, etc.
    You’re right the French have become civilized and are now able to eat Indian food. So why do Indian restaurant only mild curries ???

  4. David says:

    I was in London as a young man in the late 1980’s. I fell for the “Ruby” in a big way. Although I never heard it called ruby until just now, and I love the rhyming way.
    Got me hungry and thinking for a curry dish big time.
    Thanks for this

  5. SilverTiger says:

    To Ed: I can answer your last query and illustrate it with a story.

    When we were in Ireland a couple of years ago, we visited Galway. We went into an Indian restaurant there. The menu items were labelled “mild”, “hot”, “very hot”, etc. As “hotness” is somewhat subjective, we asked the restaurateur whether we should choose “hot” or “very hot”. He asked “Are you from Galway?” When we said no, he replied “Then you will need very hot!”.

    In other words, the restaurant knew that the good citizen of Galway were not yet ready for the full power of Indian food!

    I imagine they must think the same of the French. I remember once eating a pizza with chilli on it that none of my French relatives would touch, finding it “trop relevĂ©”.

    To David: I don’t think Spices delivers to Whitby, Ontario, otherwise I’d suggest you call them!

  6. Ed says:

    I guess I knew the answer. But I’m convinced the French just need to be educated. My friends have learnt to learn my curry !

  7. SilverTiger says:

    I am sure the French will come around to Indian cuisine. If it takes a while, who can blame them for being slow to venture outside their own splendid culinary traditions!

    I am glad you are such a good ambassador for Indian food in France!

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