• Spurs would be a popadom… gets everyone excited by them at the start but is never there at the end. • Southampton would be a Bombay Potato… no-one dislikes it and everyone else nicks the best potatoes. • Manchester United would be a Korma… a lot of people adore it but everyone else hates it. • Chelsea would be a Chicken Tikka Masala… there’s no denying it’s delicious but a lot of people say the dish only has recent history. • Manchester City would be a King Prawn Karahi… ridiculously expensive but it still doesn’t completely deliver the goods. • Leicester City would be a Jalfrezi… came from nowhere to become unexpectedly popular. • Arsenal would be a Fish Curry… one week it tastes great but the next week it’s rubbish. • West Ham would be a Phall… eat it and you’ll be forever blowing bubbles. • Sheffield United would be a Keema Muttar… underrated but a lot tastier than you think. • Aston Villa would be a Ceylon Curry… some older people remember when it was good. • Burnley would be a Tandoori Mixed Grill… ridiculously tough to eat. • Bournemouth would be Chicken Tikka starter… small but very impressive. • Liverpool would be a Biryani… a dish that takes for ever to come good but when it does it’s fantastic. • Everton would be a Basmati Rice… forever wanting to be as tasty as the Biryani. • Newcastle United would be a Vegetable Curry… a lot of people keep ordering it every week no matter how much it disappoints them. • Brighton would be a Bhoona… it’s ok if nothing else is on the menu at lunchtime. • Watford would be a Vindaloo… capable of causing an upset. • Wolves would be a Chicken 65… been around for years and still golden. • Crystal Palace would be a Sizzling Lamb… fans of it make a lot of noise considering the dish rarely does anything. • Norwich would be a kulfi… usually at the end of the menu.
Often called Britain’s “national dish”, some people refuse to order anything else but Chicken Tikka Masala on a visit to an Indian restaurant. Chunks of Chicken Tikka are cooked with green peppers and tomatoes and simmered in a mix of Base Curry Sauce, Tikka Marinade, yoghurt and cream.
What you need… For the Chicken Tikka… • 800g chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized chunks • juice of 1 lemon • 1 recipe Tikka Marinade
For the Masala… • 240ml Base Curry Sauce • the leftover Tikka Marinade • 2 Tablespoons yoghurt • 2 Tablespoons tomato ketchup • 0.5 green pepper, cut into thin strips • 1–4 chillies, depending on how hot you want your curry, chopped • small handful fresh coriander (chop up the stems to add to the curry and set aside the leaves for garnish) • 2 tomatoes, cut into segments • 100ml double cream • salt to taste
How to make it… 1. Squeeze the lemon over the chicken, rub it in well and leave for 15 minutes. This will degrease the chicken and also helps the chicken absorb the marinade. 2. Shake off the excess lemon and coat the pieces in the Tikka Marinade. Leave for at least 15 minutes but preferably 24–48 hours. 3. Preheat your oven to 170 C. Place the pieces on a baking tray (keep the remaining marinade), ensuring all the pieces are kept well apart and cook for 12 minutes, turning once. The chicken should be mostly white on the inside but not fully cooked. Set aside and cover to keep warm. 4. Heat a pan to a medium heat and add the Base Curry Sauce, the leftover Chicken Tikka Marinade, the yoghurt and tomato ketchup and mix well. 5. Add the pepper, chillies and coriander stems and cook until the peppers start to soften. This should take about 5 minutes. 6. Add the chicken, tomatoes, cream and salt and cook until the chicken is fully cooked. 7. Serve, garnished with the coriander leaves.
In the glory days of Oxford the Cowley Road was rammed with Indian restaurants. Indian restaurant, Indian restaurant, pub, Indian restaurant, that’s how it went. Which was perfect for us.
I should explain. The glory days were the late 1980s when we were students in this fine scholarly city. Us is four friends who used to live together in those glory days who have met for a reunion. It’s 30 years on.
We meet in the New Inn, at least that’s still there. Blimey, the prices have gone up Roger. The Indians have been invaded by Mesopotamian skewers and forced from their land. And then, as if to plant a warning flag to any counter invasion the Mesopotamians have inserted huge chunks of lamb and chicken in the windows, continuously dripping fat and spice from their bulky masses.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a kebab as much as the next half-drunk person who is wildly hungry at 11.30pm. Don’t diss a kebab, it does the trick. But Turkish food, eaten with friends as you stumble along the pavement dribbling into the pita as you search for another bit of sliced meat while dodging people looking at their phones, doesn’t do much for a shared dining experience.
Indian food does, however. It’s all sharey is Indian food. The saddest Indian casualty along the Cowley Road, says Jon, is the Jomuna. He’s right. The Jomuna was our second home in the late 1980s. We must have eaten there three times a week at least. Ralph was the wonderful manager. We once turned up with a (very small) handful of change as the pubs were shutting and asked, “what can we get for this?” He picked up the change without counting it and replied: “whatever you want boys.” He worked for Oxford council in the day and in the restaurant at night and, if my memory serves me right, was studying part-time as well. For someone who thought getting up for an afternoon lecture was commendable I was in awe of the man. That night, out of respect for Ralph and being well brought up young men we opted for a basic curry and rice despite him repeating the all-in-offer.
But what we really wanted was a Chicken Tikka Masala. This glorious dish had just been invented (although we didn’t know that at the time) and the Jomuna had it on its menu. My goodness it was wonderful. But as it was a couple of quid more than the other dishes it was most certainly only ordered on special occasions, such as birthdays or when we’d found a pound note (yes, it was that long ago) on the pavement.
The only other time we had a Chicken Tikka Masala was when Rob (you’ve met all of Us now) returned home from a weekend triumphantly waving a £50 that his grandad had given him above his head. “Beers and a Jomuna?” he asked.
We eked out a couple of games of pool at the Bricklayer’s Arms and Britannia and squeezed in a pint at the White Horse, but frankly there was nothing else on our minds other than visiting Ralph.
Chicken Tikka Masala was better in those days. And I know it is not my memory playing nostalgic tricks with me because I still make it using a recipe from Pat Chapman’s iconic book, Favourite Restaurant Curries, which was first published in 1988. It was before the phrase British Indian Restaurant (BIR) curries had taken hold, but this book was exactly that: curries how the Brits liked them. The recipe in the book is an amalgam from the Oakham Tandoori in Leicester, Dilruba in Rugby, and Koh-i-noor, in Newport. This is how Ralph’s Chicken Tikka Masala tasted and if you want to know what this and other 1980s curries were like then this is the book for you.
But Jomuna is gone so we head across Magdalen Bridge and up the High Street to the Shezan. They look somewhat surprised to see us, even though it has just passed 10.30pm. That’s another thing that has changed: Indian restaurants are much more respectable now and a lot don’t even bother with the after-pub crowd. Leave that to the Mesopotamians.
But we are just in time to order says the young waiter, who is friendly enough but wasn’t even born when they were inventing Chicken Tikka Masala. The decor is all contemporary Mogul style and the snappily dressed owner Salim has the story of the place. This superbly located restaurant has been a dining room since 1915 and he has been here since 1978, when he started out as a pot washer and general this-that-and-the-other type helper. He’s a nice guy and advises me to have Lemon rice (£3.95) with my main, which is a winning recommendation.
Tonight we are also ordering Paneer Tikka (£5.95) starters, Goan Chicken (£10.95) mains, Peshwari nans (£3.95). But, I am delighted to say, there is still one Chicken Tikka Masala (£9.95) on the table.
It’s lovely to know that not everything has changed.
Goan Chicken Curry (very good with Lemon rice) and Paneer Tikka.
Shezan, Ist Floor, 135 High Street, Oxford, OX4 1DN. Tel: 01865 251600. Open: Mon–Thurs noon–2.30pm and 5.30pm–late. Fri–Sun noon–3pm and 5.30pm–late.
Scores on the tandoors
Food 8 Decor 8 Service and friendliness 7.5 Vibe (late Friday night) 5 Value 7.5
This smart, modern (yes, it really does live up to its name in style) is situated on the High Street as you head away from the historic centre of the city. The subdued lighting, faux leather chairs, minimalist black tables and Art Deco wallpaper give the restaurant a wine bar feel.
However, apart from a couple of unusual sounding house specials (Delight, a dish garnished with thin crispy potatoes, and Phonier, a dish topped with melted cheese) the menu sticks firmly to the traditional side of things. And what in the modern sense comes more traditional than Chicken Tikka Massala (£6.50)? This was declared, as the plate was wiped clean with the remnants of a keema nan (£2.50), to be the “best ever”. Now, while such wild claims needed to be taken with caution from a man who’s a late-night-after-the-pub curry eater, the food really was up there with the best of them.
The Chicken Dopiaza (£5.50) was also given praise, although not such elevated esteem as from the CTM muncher, and although the order of Prawn Balti Bhuna (£6.50) with an accompanying Green Salad (£1.75) raised eyebrows but it was perfect as a light-style curry after a night in the pub.
A Prawn Balti with Green Salad is an unusual but refreshing choice on curry night
The Modern, 370 High Street, Lincoln, LN5 7RU. Tel: 01522 534202. Open: daily 5.30pm–11pm (11.30pm Fri–Sat).
Get your Sat Nav primed and ready if you want to visit Welling’s award-winning Shampan 3Indian restaurant.This hard-to-find success was rated Best in London Suburbs in the prestigious British Curry Awards this year, and will have curryholics flocking there to see what the fuss is about.
The restaurant – which opened in 2006 and is part of a small group – is situated in a dense residential backwater somewhere between the A207 into Welling and the A2. Believe me, it’s a pig of a place to find!My expedition party from Greenwich consisted of my wife and I, plus our two teenage children.
The restaurant itself is situated in a small parade of shop and the welcome we received on a cold December Wednesday wasn’t the greatest, even though we had booked. It was hurried rather than warm. With a bar by the entrance, the decor is smart, understated and relaxing, with pretty murals.
The menu is extensive with all the usual staples, but also with plenty of ‘recommendations’ as well. Starters range from £3.90 to £5.90 and for the main course you can have your traditional chicken favourites for £6.90. The priciest items on the menu are sea bass and ginger king prawns, both at £13.90.
I chose Chicken Vindaloo (£6.90), She Who Must be Obeyed (SWMBO) the Barbecued Lamb Achari (£8.50), with the lamb cutlets cooked in the tandoor. My son went for the Chicken Tikka Masala (£7.90), and my daughter Chicken Tikka (£7.50).
SWMBO loved her lamb, my son rated the CTM up there with the his favourite at Charlton’s Viceroy and my daughter enjoyed her tikka. We also had Bindi Bhajee (£3.90), plain rice (£2.50), coconut rice (£3.90), nan (£2.50), and peshwari nan (£2.90).
I was disappointed with my vindaloo. Maybe I was expecting too much because of the recent award, but I have had better at two Greenwich favourites: Chutney and Gurkha’s Inn. The bindi wasn’t the tastiest either, although the coconut rice was fragrant and delicious.
The friendliness of the place did warm up when the restaurant manager came to take our order and realised straight away that we weren’t regulars. He was happy to chat (even he uses a Sat Nav).But enough about food; loos tell a lot about a restaurant and the ones at Shampan are outstanding with five-star luxury. Curiously though, I had to ask for a soap dispenser because there wasn’t one – maybe it had been nicked?
One or two minor quibbles (they’re award-winners – they can take it). Shampan uses oversized plates and bowls so our table felt very cramped, so much so that a salad – part of the lamb dish – had to be put on an adjoining table. I also felt the waiters were a little too quick to pounce to sell more drinks. I had to stop my daughter, 13, ordering a third pineapple juice from a waiter who had asked her directly as soon as her empty glass hit the table.
So, would I go back? Yes, I would, although I do think you are hard pressed to beat the food and friendliness of our Greenwich favourites. Still, don’t take my word for it. Go for yourself… just don’t forget the Sat Nav.
The meal for four came to £66.80 (including non-alcoholic drinks but excluding service).
Shampan 3 Restaurant & Bar, 8 Falconwood Parade, The Green, Welling, Kent, DA16 2PL. Tel: 020 8304 9569. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Open: Mon–Sat noon-2.30pm, 5.30pm-10.30pm (11pm Fri and Sat), Sun noon–10pm.