Monday, 17 October 2011

Tears on my Pilau

This blog is continued from here, where you can read about the gig I'd just been to, if you like. You really don't have to, though. I won't be upset. This kitten might be, though.

So we've decided to go for some food with Bob and Jacqui, and after much umming and ahhing, the Kismet Indian restaurant directly opposite the venue is chosen, in what may very well prove to be the best culinary decision of my adult life. (The best culinary decision of my entire life obviously being to upgrade from sludge to things you can chew.)

"Have you eaten here before?", asks the Maitre D'. Um, no, but I think I can manage to order a curry without instructions, I think silently. "No, we haven't", I say. This is obviously the signal for our new friend's A-game to kick into play, and he begins a barrage of sales patter of the kind not heard since the last series of the Apprentice left our screens. I couldn't possibly hope to remember everything we were told, but the general gist is this:

Eating at the Kismet is a unique Indian dining experience, the likes of which cannot be found anywhere else in the Warwickshire area, in fact they've been named the best curry house in Warwickshire by the Warwickshire curry club. In case we don't believe him, he brings over a small plastic stand in which an article about said accolade has been cut from the North West Warwickshire Bugle (or something) and proudly framed. This will remain on our table until at least halfway through our meal, as if taking it away will suddenly break the magical spell and we'll realise that we're actually just eating a curry. In the other side of the stand is an article where he is pictured next to the smashed front window of his restaurant and discussing what should be done about the state of youths today. Apparently he is equally proud of both his moments of fame.

Ha! I actually found it online...

Anyway, in amongst the sales patter he explains to us about the very special starter on their menu which he personally designed and will cook for us. We seem sceptical that he is also the chef (or I do anyway, I can't tell if the look on Bob's face is scepticism or lager), and he explains that he owns and runs the restaurant with his twin brother, and they are both chefs but he does more of the front of house work. He makes the starter sound so delicious and explains with such great enthusiasm the process of designing and cooking this dish that we feel duty bound to at least give it a try, despite it costing £3 more than any of the other starters (in an odd coincidence). He suggests that we leave ordering mains until after he's delivered the starters so that we can decide afterwards how much, and what we want to eat that will complement the flavours of his starter.

In all honesty, I'm not sure about the sound of this starter - he describes layers of chicken, pork, prawn and potato stacked ontop of each other and deep fried and I have a vision of some kind of giant mutant samosa, dripping with grease. The Indian equivalent of a deep fried Mars Bar, if you will.

While we wait, there are drinks and much bizarre discussion (Bob: "So what's Sweden like? I heard that even the clouds are interesting." - James: "Even the clowns are interesting?" - Bob: "CLOUDS!" - James: "Oh, ok. That makes much more sense.")

Some interesting clouds, in Sweden.

And then, out come the starters. The plates are enormous. The food itself, to my slight relief, is not a giant greasy battered monstrosity, but a neat little stack about the diameter of a jaffa cake and the height of a roll of sellotape (turned on its side.) It looks like something you'd see on Masterchef - from one of the really pretentious contestants, not the housewives who cook big, tasty, hearty portions and then get told off for it looking like actual food. We eye our plates even more suspiciously. Our new friend's credibilty is teetering on the brink and it's looking like we've been had, but there's nothing to do but give it a try.

Of course, it is absolutely delicious, albeit ridiculously tiny. I'm not any kind of food critic so I won't attempt to describe the tastes but safe to say it's one of the best things I've ever eaten in an Indian restaurant. From this point on, we're ready to order and eat and pay whatever we're told to. During his initial sales patter, the owner has been talking about "The Indian Experience" set menu, and being naturally keen to do the opposite of what I'm told, I've ignored him and decided on something fairly boring from the a la carte, however we're all now completely in his hands and when he suggests that he brings us a selection of dishes of his choosing, designed to complement the flavours of the starter we've just had, nobody puts up too much resistance.

Not only that, but he actually asks us in turn what we would normally order, how spicy we like our food ("Very", says Bob, perhaps unwisely), and then suggests something for each of us, along with some of his standard favourite dishes, including a beetroot and prawn hot salad and an amazing chicken and paneer dish which comes to the table in a sizzling pan over which our friend then throws a shot glass of something alcholic and nearly sets the whole restaurant alight.

Everything is absolutely delicious and each dish really does complement the others, leaving us in no doubt that this really is a meticulously thought out banquet experience and not just the restaurant's way of using up whichever surplus ingredients they have lying about, oh no, not at all.

To thank us for letting him take us on his culinary journey, he even throws in a free dessert, which looks a lot like a deep-fried banana fritter with ice cream, and pretty much is, but with hints of garlic and spices in the batter of the fritter. Sounds disgusting, tastes delicious.

With everyone completely stuffed, there's only one part of this consummate showman's spiel which is as yet unverified, so Bob asks if we can meet his twin brother. He heads off into the kitchen, and I think we're all expecting him to put on an apron and come back out again with a cheeky grin, but no, he re-emerges followed by someone who looks exactly like him but with substantially less hair and a good deal less swagger. I can see how they came to the decision of who would spend more time working front-of-house. We thank them profusely for a great meal, and suggest that maybe they'd like to make all our life decisions for us from now on, at which they suggest that maybe the gents would like to stay and have some more drinks while the ladies accompany the two of them out on the town. Ah, the comedy...

Instead, we ask for the bill and I wonder whether we are about to encounter a new experience in bill-getting where they tell us what we might like to pay and we blindly do so, but thankfully not. Everything comes to a very reasonable £75 for 4 of us, so we gladly pay up and make our way out.

"Please come back soon", we are urged, but explain that we live hundreds of miles away. No matter, he says, even if we come back in a year's time he will remember us, as he never forgets the faces of the people he serves. What a waste of memory, I think. Why not forget a few faces and make some room for useful stuff like times tables, or the lyrics to "This Charming Man"?

His parting advice to us - to look out for him on the TV. Why, is he going to be on it? No, not yet, he says but he will be one day. I actually don't doubt it.

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