In the UK there’s a long and not very noble tradition to go for a curry late at night when you’re blind drunk. I’ve never done this, but I know how it works. Start off by demanding some more beers ‘Chop chop! Quick as you like, Gunga Din!’ Fail to pronounce the word ‘poppadums’ with only three syllables. Ignore the menu and ask for ‘Hottest you’ve got, Gupta, with extra chillies.’ Eat a couple of mouthfuls, listen to the ringing in your ears, watch the smoke come out of your nostrils, then fall asleep so your drunken friends can draw graffiti on your face with indelible markers.
Short of actually assaulting the staff, it’s very hard indeed not to get served in a curry house. You may end up eating a fahl made of pan scourers, gristle, and human body fluids, but you will get served. I, on the other hand, did not.
Here’s the scenario. It was shortly after Alison and I had separated, and I decided that a meal out was a good idea. Where we lived in Stansted was rather well served for eateries. There were two Indians, a Chinese, a nice wine bar, and a rather expensive French place. When we were together, Alison and I had been regulars at all these places apart from the somewhat sniffy French gaff. I couldn’t decide what I wanted to eat, but as one of the Indians was the nearest, I tried there first. Bear in mind it was about 6:15, and I’m not on a drunken late-night suicide mission.
I walked in, greeted the head honcho as normal, asked for a table for one. ‘Sorry sir, we’re fully booked.’ I looked round. Two tables were occupied.
‘I can see business is brisk.’
‘Yes sir, very busy.’
‘What you mean is you won’t serve me because I’m on my own.’
‘You could be seated upstairs.’
I really didn’t want to be Johnny No Mates sitting all alone in the upstairs room, which bore a passing resemblance to an overlit works canteen.
‘Know what? I’m not going to bother. And I’ll not be coming back again. I’ll tell my friends not to bother either.’
I got on my high horse and rode off to the Chinese. I was on first name terms with the chef, his wife who ran front of house. We’d been invited to the party to celebrate the birth of their first son, for goodness sake. I’d been on a tour of the kitchens when they found out I liked to cook Chinese food.
Again the place was nearly deserted because of the early hour, and again they flat-out refused me a table for one.
I was feeling a bit bruised by now, so headed for the wine bar. This was also eerily quiet. Again, do dice. They didn’t want to seat me on my own.
Right, last chance. I went to the other Indian. There I was treated like a long-lost son, given a table in the window, and generally made a fuss of.
The moral here is that if you want to get served in a curry house, or a Chinese, or a wine bar, roll in very late with a big gang of hoodlums who are so drunk they can hardly breathe, let alone speak, except to be abusive to the waiters. You’ll be fine. Don’t try it or your own.
One last disturbing aspect. The curry house that was the scene of the first refusal was later busted by the food standards people for serving cat in some of their finer dishes. Maybe I had a lucky escape.