I thought I’d have a recurring theme, where I wrote about the first time I did something or had something happen to me. And what better place to start than with one of my many slight addictions, curry.
Curry had always been a part of my life. I remember trying it when I was very young, in our first house. I didn’t like it much at that age, and it was a very ‘English’ curry, with raisins in it – which I suspect would have been the main attraction of it so far as I was concerned.
I don’t really remember having it at any point after that. Which is odd, because I can remember Mum making it. Even now there are certain damp autumn and winter evenings which automatically transport me back to those days, the atmosphere in the kitchen equally damp and heavy, Radio 4’s PM programme playing and the aroma of Sharwoods’ curry powder in the air. I simply don’t remember any of it finding its way onto my plate.
I was therefore a very late starter when it came to actually going out for a curry. In fact, I was almost 19 before it happened, and it was all down to the unholy triumvirate of Marc Goodey, Neil Bench and Dave Longfield.
The venue was a small Indian restaurant in Regent Street in Leamington. It isn’t there any more – I know, I went and looked for it a couple of years ago. Why we ended up there I do not know. Certainly the other three had been before and I suspect that we had found ourselves in the area after a beer or three and decided that it was time to eat.
As evidence of how much of an impression this made upon me, I can even remember where we sat – third table down on the left as you came into the restaurant – and where I sat – on the left hand side, with my back to the restaurant.
There was some discussion about what to order, during which my complete ignorance of all things Indian was revealed. These were good friends, though*, and didn’t take advantage by telling me that ‘phall’ was a mild dish or anything like that. Someone recommended that I try a dopiaza, so chicken dopiaza was the first dish that I ever ordered.
What was unique about this restaurant, at least in my experience, was that they cooked (or at least reheated) the food at your table, over a burner. It was all very dramatic and must have been very tasty, because the love of curry never left me (although it is years since I ordered a dopiaza) and there have been very few restaurant meals to rival that one.