Mind you, the fact that Rochelle doesn't usually do the cooking for her family may have made a bad situation worse. The look of horror on her children's faces when served a week's worth of liver rations, overcooked, cold and leftover from lunch, was superb. And the relief when, mid-way through the 1960s episode, spaghetti bolognese hit the menu, was palpable.
With that sort of post-war culinary history, I think Gaylord's Restaurant, opened in 1966, hit a sweet-spot where people were ready for a bit of novelty and were starting to develop more of a culture of eating out. I'd love to see a menu and maybe some of the recipes from those early days, to see how they have changed with time. Even with all those years of British colonisation, Indian food must have come as quite a surprise. I was invited with a group of other bloggers to try their new menu though, not the 1966 version.
We started with Sharabi Saffron Thandai, a very rich and very sweet (and reading the ingredients very strong) cocktail of rum, saffron-infused gin, Malibu, saffron and Thandai, a mixture of almonds, spices, milk and sugar. The saffron provided a very necessary bitter edge to the rose, cardamom and coconut sweetness. I'd drink it again, but as an alternative to dessert - it didn't exactly stimulate the appetite.
Much more to my taste was the second drink, a virgin paan mojito. The rose, mint and lime was very refreshing.
We had a series of canapés, which General Manager Sameer Berry explained were examples of the sorts of food they serve when catering parties. I thought they were mixed successes. The Golgappa shots (the Northern Indian name for what I've usually seen called pani puri) were very tasty, but anything requiring detailed instructions in order to eat them - pouring the shot glass of tamarind water into the crisp shell (while leaning well over a plate) and putting the whole thing in your mouth at once - seems like an awkward party canapé.
|murg malai tikka|
|Lamb kebab tacos - cute gimmick but not for me|
|Lamb chops Anardana|
I was very pleased to see my second favourite aubergine dish, Hyderabadi Baingan on the table, but I didn't think it was as good as mine. It was very mellow, whereas I prefer a sharp prickle of intense tamarind. Both the Lamb Chops Anardana and the Lamb Shank were wonderful, and the Dal Bukhara was extremely good - rich and thick. I particularly enjoyed the fluffy bhatura bread, which Sameer recommended we eat with the Chana Peshawari, and the garlic naan was excellent as well.
I had a very pleasant meal. I assume that they chose the most-likely-to-please options instead of taking too many risks: there were several items on the à la carte menu which I thought sounded more interesting (black pepper calamari, rabbit seekh kebab, kid goat keema). As befits the restaurant claiming to have brought the tandoor oven to Britain, their strength seems to be the items cooked on charcoal. The curry house favourites were done very well, but weren't the choices I would make. I would also have enjoyed more variety in the heat levels of the dishes, although a couple of people sitting near me were struggling even with quite mild chilli heat, so I suppose safer not to kick it up more!
Many thanks to Sameer Berry and his team for their hospitality, and to Sarah and Jenny from Salt PR for the invitation.