Food & Drink
I WAS VERY taken with the idea of having dinner at the India Club in the Strand. The name conjured up cool white marble, slowly turning fans, even the possibility of a chota peg being brought to me on a silver tray by the man in the old Air India advertisement with upswept moustaches and a turban.
I put on a suit, found my old Gridiron Club tie from Oxford days, and we arrived in the Strand punctually at eight o'clock. The Club was on the south side, just across from the BBC World Service at Bush House and the Indian High Commission.
My first real doubts came when I saw that the entrance was up a narrow flight of stairs with a hand-painted notice offering accommodation at the Strand Continental Hotel, above, at pounds 23 for a single room, and pounds 29 for a double. At the reception desk on the first floor we were asked if we were looking for the restaurant, and directed silently up another flight of stairs. Looking through the glass-panelled door I realised I had allowed my imagination to run away with me.
The India Club is India now, not India then. How such a corner of authentic India could have survived so near the centre of London, untouched by economic pressures, and, it must be said, by the culinary fashions which have swept over other Indian restaurants here in the last 30 years, is nothing short of a miracle.
It could be a canteen for foreign students, and several parties of young Indians were having supper, one of them quarrelling stridently with a waiter about the quality of the chapati, a segment of which he was sending back to the kitchen. There were also a few bearded English intellectuals of hang-dog appearance, talking in muted tones to slightly exasperated-looking women.
The restaurant has white distempered walls, some of them hung with photographs of Indian politicians and scenes from Indian folklore, purple velvet curtains - in one corner of the window there were the remains of last year's Christmas decorations - metal-framed chairs upholstered in the same colour, and the floor is covered with a reddish-purple linoleum.
The real marvel of the time-warp only becomes obvious when you open the menu. There is a set lunchtime menu ranging from pounds 5.40 to pounds 5.60 a head. There is no wine list, but customers "are welcome to bring alchoholic drinks" or can alternatively buy them from the bar downstairs by taking out membership of the Club. The annual subscription - members of the Garrick please note the position of the decimal point - is pounds 1.20.
Having cast an eye over the evening menu and observed a slight hardening of my wife's jaw-line, I decided to go downstairs and become a member.
The bar is looked after by the rather severe, henna-haired Doris. It has several glass shelves with quite a lot of near-empty gin and …
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Publication information: Article title: Food & Drink. Contributors: Not available. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: September 11, 1994. Page number: Not available. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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