Regular readers of this blog will know that I suffer from a shameless weakness for anglo-asian dishes. Done properly, curried cauliflower cheese, masala-ed up mousakka, tandoori fried chicken– all of the above are pretty much guaranteed to make me come over ever so slightly herbal essences. So when Richard Vines, his adorable aunt and sister in law suggested trying out the City branch of Bangalore Express one blustery evening I was in.
As we descended into what can only be described as a visual migraine, the huge geometric black, red and white designs ensconced us like the wet nightmare of some coke addled 80’s interior designer.A gaggle of staff sweated anxiously into the bowl of papadoms placed before us – I was deeply impressed. Garlic is my MSG and this was the one and only highlight for me. The combination of a home made pickled garlic dip, all seductive smoky sauce and crisp greaseless papads was champion.
When we were kids my mum would try to recreate those picture perfect dishes of Christmas lunch that she would see on the telly, in between the ad breaks for In Sickness and In Health or Mind Your Language. She would optimistically deep fry whole raw potatoes and sprinkle them with curry powder before putting them in the oven with the chicken (she always found turkeys crude – why on earth would anyone want to eat that much meat?). She’d beamingly serve them to us as if to say “Ha! Piece of pakora”. Being a precocious little brat I declared them to be quite inedible and more importantly, nothing like the stuff I knew my best friend Louise down the road was tucking into. (I still can’t believe I used to sometimes turn my nose up at her efforts in favour of Findus Crispy pancakes). For all things Bengali her cooking was faultless, but her forays into English food were culinary pile ups.
I’m afraid to say that Bangalore Express took me right back to those rank tatties. I’ve blocked most of what we ate from memory as it was so many hues of wrong. Masala fish and chips, was grease-ridden curried batter cloaking flaccid, putrid grey flesh. An Indian calzone came next. I mean really. If ever there were two words that ought to be legally segregated…Think thick, stodgy coriander flecked pastry shamefully concealing an insipid scraping of tomato puree and the sort of mozzarella that makes Saino’s basics pizza cheese look like La Fromagerie’s finest. Then a smelly crab dish that delicately combined essences of mud and stale Patak’s and not very much else. Some miraculous dhal was apologetically placed before us. Miraculous because I have no idea how it’s possible to render this dish so completely and utterly tasteless. We passed on dessert.
As I fled home to Whitechapel and breathed in the heavenly scent of Tayyabs wafting down my street I very nearly kissed the ground.