Once final excursion to the Chapel Market Cheapo Curry Club up at Islington ahead of the Great Escape later this year. Expectations were high, wallets were low in value, as @richardgallon, @AnnaJCowen and myself navigated our way up to the wastelands of North London.
The bonkers N1 curry house use to be a way of life for us during our formative London years. We dined there out of financial necessity, stocking up on body fat reserves for the week. The return for the Last Supper on Saturday was one taken more in the spirit of irony.
Not much has changed in N1. Chapel Market was as bustling as ever, as we wheeled our bicycles from The Angel end towards the badlands of Barnsbury Road. For all the talk of Granita Pacts being sealed at Islington back in the day, I couldn’t but help think that our conversation and cuisine was a very different N1 experience.
Much like the food, the green livery of the Indian Veg has remained unchanged in the fifteen years since we first set foot in the place. In the minimalist world of Less is More, Indian Veg is the inverse of this.
The restaurant front is plastered with what appears to be placards from an animals rights rally attended by very hungry veggies. The More is Less theme continues once inside, with second, third and even fourth helpings from the sitting, all served up for less than a fiver.
Ah, about that price. I was enticed into a rare excursion north of the river under the firm understanding that only £3.50 of my South London currency would be required. I have memories of paying £2.50 back in the day, and was slightly alarmed at this 40% price hike.
But blimey – I almost headed back to my SW8 base when the shock of the £3.95 signage caught my eye amongst the all the veggie lifestyle placard platitudes.
Something had to give.
“A drink for you Sir?” asked our maitre ‘d. I had no shame in ordering the finest tap water in the house.
Using the Alan Partridge technique of choosing the largest buffet place, I then set about the task of piling up the veggie produce with a stack ’em high attitude that the traders back down the Chapel Market would have been proud of.
If you’re concerned with the quality of the cuisine at Chapel Market, then you’re missing the point. Essentially you eat to add energy. I made no mistake in making sure that my body reserves would see me through the rest of the weekend.
There’s a selection of five curry dishes, all as rich in stodge as they are as beneficial to your bank balance. The rice was tender, and the onion bhajis although rather basic, somehow came to life when topped up with one of the cream sauce dishes.
I sat down and gave my stomach a stern test. The conversation turned towards the many enlightening posters that adorn the walls. It’s the same Eastern hippy s*** that dear old George Harrison use to espouse, whilst somehow still taking the practise of yogic flying seriously.
It was around this time that I confused Eat as Much as You Like with Eat as Much as You Can. A second helping wasn’t necessary, but I needed to justify the price hike.
I piled my plate up high once again, only to realise than the poster promise of an “orgasmic veggie experience” would probably be taking place in the toilet, rather than on the chef’s palette.
Persistence paid off, as well as a mid-meal break. The second plate was cleared, and soon it time to settle up. The £3.95 price at Indian Veg is the exact amount expected.
You’re not dining in a poncey Soho restaurant, and so there is no expectation for a service charge price hike. We scrambled around for change, and left a tip adding a further 40%.
I’d had my fill – for the weekend, the next week and probably for the following year. Which is just as well, as we plan the Great Escape over the coming months.
And so fifteen years of living the veggie lifestyle up in N1 comes to an end. To be honest it was more an economic argument than a humanitarian statement. It’s another item on the Farewell London list ticked off, and one which will probably keep my energy reserves up, all the way up until we actually reach Wivenhoe.