London update (owner-operated curry shops & stereotypes blasted during final week)
Updated: Jul 5, 2022
Last week, we posted a blog about our favorite things in London, and I mentioned how strangers did not engage in small talk. During our final week, we ticked off our list a few things we hadn't gotten around to doing, and my stereotype was blasted!
But first, Curry update: after we posted the blog about our search for London Curry, a local friend said we had to go to Drummond Street, near Euston Station, for curry. There, she said, we would find lots of mom and pop curry shops - small, independent restaurants rather than chains. She assured me it was a "must" before we left. So off we went.
Drummond Street has restaurants lining both sides for several blocks, and most of them offer East Indian cuisine. We arrived mid-afternoon, and several of them were closed until supper. Happily, we ended up walking into Drummond Villa.
We were warmly greeted and served by the owner, pictured here.
He shared that he is from Bangladesh, but has lived in London 16 years. While the Pandemic has made his business challenging in many ways, he has come out of it still intact and offering fantastic food. We couldn't have asked for friendlier, more professional service. We ordered a thali and Lamb Jalfrezi. A thali meal includes several smaller dishes served on a round tray. The menu offered a meat thali and a vegetarian thali. I asked if I could have the vegetarian thali, but with one chicken dish instead of the potato dish (I wanted mostly vegetarian, but wanted to try one meat dish) and the owner said "yes" straight away. I appreciated the flexibility. We rounded the meal with Kingfisher beers, garlic naan and raita.
Service was prompt. The food was delicious. My thali had a mushroom dish with a pronounced and very focused flavor, medium-spicy. It was perfect with naan. The okra dish was mild and perfectly cooked, offering a different set of spices. The chicken tikka looked like it had only a modest amount of spice coating it, but each bite offered a burst of flavor and the chicken was very tender. The dal was the best I have ever eaten, anywhere. It had a roasted garlic flavor. The raita with cucumber was perfect. Paul's Jalfrezi was excellent. Just the right level of spicy for him (I had to eat raita with it and just had a few bites). He said he loved that the spicy level did not prevent him from tasting all the flavors of the sauce. The naan was crisp and flavorful. After we finished, we shared some pistachio ice cream and sipped coffee and tea. I had the Masala style tea and it was wonderful. Coffee and tea came with lovely chocolate mints.
If we had more time, we would definitely return to Drummond Street. There were so many restaurants on the street, we'd love to explore some others, and also return to this one.
Now for the stereotype blasting. Our final week, in addition to Drummond St. curry, included seeing Much Ado About Nothing in the main venue of the New Globe, High Tea on Regent Street, and seeing The Mousetrap in the West End.
We had center front seats at the New Globe - in the highest balcony. I was a bit nervous at first, until I put my sweater over the rail, which helped me avoid seeing down. A few minutes later, two women arrived and the one next to me said, "I think I'm going to be ill." I put my sweater over the rail by her and said, "Maybe this will help." It did help, and we chatted for about 7 or 8 minutes, and then, again, during intermission. During the final act, there was a "showstop" - something had happened back stage and they had to stop the show (it turns out one of the actors had hurt his ankle jumping off the stage in a chase scene). The usher behind us started chatting. We discussed theatre, his volunteer work and how the Pandemic had altered that, his former career, our nomadic lifestyle, and other things. And, he started it!
The Mousetrap was very, very English and fun, no blasted stereotypes here. We did enjoy it.
The following day, we had a late lunch at Andy's Taverna, a Greek restaurant we'd been wanting to try across from our flat. The food was fantastic. The only other patrons were two older guys (yes, I think even older than us!) chatting across the room. They were almost characters out of an English book - clearly good friends, discussing the politics of the day. They turned to U.S. politics. After hearing most of their conversation (they were pretty loud), I finally couldn't resist joining in. When they heard we were Americans, at first they were surprised and worried they might have offended us. But when we assured them they had not, they continued the conversation with us, for about 10 minutes. The restaurant owner sent all of us complimentary liqueur shots and we toasted! Strangers, sharing discussion. Claire said it doesn't count if they were drinking, but I didn't sense that they were inebriated, though Paul disagrees. Finally, Friday afternoon we booked "High Tea" at the Oscar Wilde Lounge in the Cafe Royal Hotel off Regent Street. And yes, it, too, seemed the epitome of English culture. Food was delicious and beautiful - a Van Gogh theme, from the "bespoke" teas to the edible art. The pianist was amazing and the ambiance lovely. Then, at the end, our waiter started a conversation. He chatted with us for several minutes. Stereotype blasted, again! So much for the keeping-their-distance English!
Just goes to show, you never stop learning! Good-bye London!