And what better place to have one than Brick Lane in London, the curry capital of the UK and popularly known as Banglatown? The area has seen successive waves of immigrants down the centuries – French Huguenots fleeing religious persecution, East European Jews escaping murderous pogroms and, more recently, Bangladeshis seeking work in the sweat shops of the rag trade. There’s no greater symbol of this evolution than the Brick Lane Jamme Masjid, a Grade II listed Georgian building which has gone from church to synagogue and now to mosque. Forget the messy Brexit, for me, it represents what London is all about.
The changes are still a-ringing. Brick Lane is rapidly becoming a magnet for creatives and fashionistas, trend-setters and tourists, and the streets provide a canvas for some stunning wall art. We added to the chaotic throng, day trippers on a mission for ‘authentic’ South Asian grub and a catch-up with two old friends. We nattered so much, I hardly took any photos but I did manage to snap this quirky sculpture near Spitalfields Market as we meandered back to Liverpool Street Station to catch our train home. What’s it about? Beats me but I love it.
It can be reasonably argued that Indian cuisine began the transformation of the British palate from the drabness of the bread-rationing years to the all-corners-of-the-world flavour it is today. Liam and I love a bit of South Asian and Liam cooks up a mean curry (from a recipe, not a jar). Since our return to Blighty, we hadn’t actually stepped out for an Indian. Until recently. We decided to give the Merchants of Spice a go, a highly recommended eatery located in a fine old building on Colegate, a short stroll from our Weaver’s cottage. Did we enjoy the experience? Yes and no. Inside its antique shell, the restaurant was minimalist chic without a hint of the flock wallpaper and chintzy gilt of old and the mood was sophisticated and buzzy. The bhajis were disappointingly dry but the rest of the food was fine, plentiful and served up in elegant dishes. So why my reticence? Well, the set-price three course menu advertised on a board outside was off menu by the time we took our seats. But my main gripe was the service from the over-familiar waiters. They pestered us like wasps at a picnic, interrupting every conversation and force-filling our glasses. It brought back unhappy memories of certain Turkish restaurants we learned to avoid. The rapid-fire courses prevented us from making a meal of our meal and our gentle pleas to slow things down fell on deaf ears. If we’d wanted fast food, we’d have gone to McDonalds.