Thursday, 28 December 2006


On Jacob Marley, Ebeneezer Scrooge observed there was more gravy than the grave about his ghostly guest. Likewise this belly ache was a nocturnal visitor induced by a dodgy meal. This post came to me in flashes during the night, as I drifted between dreaming and wakefulness.

Every so often my partner and I venture down into the bowels of Stoke to visit our favourite balti house. After last night it was probably the last.

We've been going there for almost as long we've been together. We had work socials, postgrad meet ups, birthdays, nights out with friends and even our engagement do there. In that time it has seen owners and staff come and go but overall it has maintained a well-deserved reputation for a decent curry at a price that's hard to beat. It has enmeshed itself in my experience of the, erm, Stoke experience, I once put pen to paper and gave them a very favourable review for an (allegedly) trendy free local mag for bright young things.

Now I'm doing the opposite for my blog.

Originally there was going to be five or six of us heading to the balti place but for a variety of reasons they couldn't make it. I'm glad they didn't now. My opinion on curry matters would have been reduced to nought if they'd sat through our meal.

That we were the only people in the place should have acted as a portent of things to come. Out came the starter. Not wanting to smell offensive in the morning I passed over the onion mix and solely topped my poppadum with mango chutney. Or rather I should say mango water. The thick rich spicy fare of old had become a bland and runny imitation. But still, one cannot judge a place on the basis of the free appetiser. Unfortunately it turned out to be the best thing about the meal.

I went for a mushroom and spinach balti madras and a peshwari naan while Cat ordered a mushroom and spinach chana (chickpeas) with egg fried rice. The culinary accoutrements arrived and I was immediately struck by my naan. It was, well, shiny. I don't know what had been done to it but its look and consistency had more of the deep fat fryer about it than the oven. And then, the curries. Sad to say the balti itself was by far the worst I've had. Okay, I can almost forgive the oil slick the curry sat in. Sometimes it happens. But since when is a balti ever too salty? I can think of one occasion and that's when the patrons have earned the chef's displeasure. But I've no reason to believe we are or have done anything deserving of his special "seasoning".

All in all it was a bad balti. Very bad. Out of politeness I ate about half but that was it. We paid up, left a tip for the waiters and busied ourselves home.

It doesn't take a Marxist to realise nothing ever happens in a vacuum. Lately our take aways from the same place have not been upto standard. One of the guys tells me it has something to do with the new owner. When he came in the curry quality made a leap forward but behind the scenes his petty authoritarianism drove staff away. This has proved to be his undoing. Now most nights the restaurant sits silent as the kitchen staff can't be bothered to make an effort any more. Who can blame them? Why should they when the boss treats them like dirt?

We're not a charity either. Next time I'm flushed with curry money we'll be heading round the corner.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps the problem isn't the outbreak of class struggle in the kitchen, but the breakdown of the market system: to whit, diners are served horrible food but still eat it and tip afterwards, leading the producers to conclude that their product is satisfactory.

Of course, the sociological version sounds a lot sexier, so feel free to dismiss the common sensical approach. It's your curry, after all.

Edie said...

Thank you for leaving a comment on my blog. Yours looks interesting and I'm looking forward to a long perusal. Take care.