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.