11 February 2010

Heading back East for a curry

For two years in the early naughties I worked in Aldgate just as the city of business men, grey suits, coffee bars and Harry Potter rubs shoulders with the East with its colourful clothes, ethnic shops, students, housing estates and some of the best curry houses in London.

I enjoyed my time there and took advantage of my eastern posting to explore at lunchtimes by foot, bus and the driver-less DLR train. Favourite haunts then included Shadwell Basin, Stepney Green and Limehouse. A curious jumble of water, parks, faded industry and housing old and new, small and large, rough and posh.

And, of course, Brick Lane. Too many of the curry houses there have gone up-market for my liking but it is still, rightly, one of the most famous roads for food in Britain. The only real problem was making a selection and that problem was addressed by going there regularly and trying most of them.

Sitting somewhat on it's own in the lifeless desert of offices between Aldgate and the river, Cafe Spice Namaste made a brave stand for good food.

I went there a few times too as it was conveniently nestled between two offices that I worked in.

Perhaps it was because it had to work hard to pull the punters to a such drab part of town but Cafe Spice was extremely colourful in decor and cuisine.

I had the opportunity recently to turn the clock back a few years and turn a dull meeting in a nearby office to a good night out with a friend. It was with some trepidation that I suggested the relatively long and bleak walk along Prescott Street in case the restaurant had changed as much as a lot of the Aldgate area has since I worked there.

My worries were eased when I saw the familiar vivid colours and vibrant furnishings. The menu pleased too with a wide choice of things that I had never heard of described temptingly. Picking food was a mixture of judgement, experiment and adventure that conjured up something beyond our expectations in originality, taste and (thankfully) genuine spicy heat.

The only negative point was the unbelievable price we were charged for two large bottles of Cobra. Next time I'll look at the wine list instead of just making the quick and obvious choice.

But the beer incident did little to detract from what was a real culinary and cultural joy. I will go back there again and I just hope that it is not another seven years before I do so.

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