Earlier this year, in the depths of winter, I went down to Whitstable with the gorgeous Miss A. We went partly because I had had ambitions for a while of eating at The Sportsman, the tales of a run-down pub by a caravan park, wind swept with an outlook of marshes; romantic or desolate depending on your own personal outlook – was enough to get us wrapped up and on the train to the Medway. Being from Yorkshire, and with the woman of my dreams with me I was inclined towards the romantic, and it didn’t disappoint. It was one of those wonderful lunches, where space, time, food, drink and company coalesce – it’s an odd place, slightly surreal, but on a bitterly cold Friday in February, clouded by wine, and the blossoming of love it all made perfect happy sense.
Walking through Whitstable the next day, a once rather lost little backwater that has in recent years become rather chi chi, now dubbed ‘Islington-on-Sea’ (weekenders include Janet Street Porter) with foodie credentials to match (world famous oysters and a handful of well-regarded restaurants) – what struck me was the sheer number of Indian and Chinese takeaways – it all seemed rather incongruous considering the towns’ heritage, but maybe it shouldn’t – curry is really our national dish if we are honest with ourselves. It is a dish that manages to transcend the age old class system, perhaps because we ran India for so long – who knows? It is enjoyed up and down the country from Bradford to Bodmin, Leicester to Lerwick and everywhere in between by both the gentiles and the labourers – it is a truly democratic and honest food – and I’m all for that.
I think it’s important that every man knows a good local curry house, for eat in or take away, it’s a little reward on a Friday night with a few cold beers, or an inexpensive mid-week treat – it is soul food – it recalibrates the system. Last night I went back to Delhi Grill on Chapel Market, a little gem of a place which feels a million miles from the chain boutique / restaurant nightmare that is Upper Street (want a Starbucks? Well you’re in luck, there are about three within two minutes’ walk!). Chapel Market has pleasingly escaped the New Labour gentrification – there are smells, rubbish bags spilling into the gutter and the odd tramp – in short the detritus of a proper market – no overpriced sourdough, artfully presented carrots or ‘vintage’ clothing in site. Perfect.
Based on the traditional Indian “dhaba”, informal canteens where people from all walks of life come together to enjoy delicious street food, Delhi Grill is thus perfectly situated. The food was excellent, slow cooked and damn tasty – and it was good to see them doing a fine trade on a Wednesday night. It was a very nice place to spend my last evening (for a while) with Miss A who is going on holiday for a week – I will now be spending the next seven days moping around, a love sick puppy, so I may well go back at some point to cheer myself up a bit!