On a neighbourhood street corner in Islington, London N1, a particularly fine Indian eaterie has come to town. Thirty years ago it was a popular pub, the Huntingdon Arms; about 15 years ago it was a very good Indian restaurant, called Roots N1; five years ago it was a not so popular pub, The Cuckoo. Now its prospects look to be very propitious indeed.
Today it is the The Tamil Prince, the creation of Prince Durairaj, the former chief executive of Roti King, who hails from Tamil Nadu (one doesn’t need to be a genius to figure out the genesis for the place’s name), and Glen Leeson, a widely experienced front-of-house operator. While this is unquestionably a restaurant, and a very good one, it is also a pub which serves a fine selection of beers and has some ‘snacks’, like the okra fries, which go down particularly well with a pint.
The bottom photo here shows the magnificent channa bhatura, which brought to (my) mind the prized snitch in the Harry Potter game of quidditch. The menu also included lamb curry, which `I had, and chicken curry, which I didn’t. On another occasion (yes, I have been back), I sampled the pulled beef masala uttapum, which like everything here was spectacular. And, yes, I will be going back again. It’s pretty packed most nights.
Talking of the two ‘curry’ dishes on the menu at The Tamil Prince, I am (vaguely) aware of the criticism the use of that word has attracted in some quarters, saying it’s used so often in Britain because we are too lazy to learn the correct words for Indian cuisine. Which may be the case; I don’t know. According to a piece in The Times about 18 months ago, the word ‘curry’ is probably an anglicised version of the word kari, which means ‘sauce’ – in Tamil! I’m not going to be taking up the issue with the owners. Other people complain that using the word ‘curry’ is a form of ‘cultural appropriation’ (according to an issue of Private Eye last March, The Times and Sunday Times had referred to this subject at least 20 times in the previous five years), which is a topic I am familiar with in general but, like when some people moan that no one should not be allowed to write fiction outside their own lived experience, it’s something I largely regard as bollocks.
A final comment. I recently also went to Chutney Mary, an Indian restaurant in central London. A photo of its Afghan chicken tikka appears on the home page. The dish cost £27, which one may have a view on, but that was earlier this month. Last April it was priced at £12.50. Steeply rising food costs – either in supermarkets or restaurants – are one of the ongoing costs of the post-lockdown recovery. For example, a croissant at Pret a Manger cost £1.70 during the pandemic. It got to £1.99 by the autumn. It’s now £2.10. I dread to think where it might be come Easter. Hey, but the government says it’s getting inflation under control…