We had only been in London a week or so, but we were amazed it had taken us that long to go out for a curry. I had imagined that it would be Indian food for at least two meals of the day, and pictured that our neighborhood street would be a pub followed by a curry joint, followed by pub, curry, pub, curry, curry — maybe a chemist or liquor store thrown in. In reality, while there are plenty of curry places, they didn’t even begin to compete with the number of pubs in our area, and none of them actually looked that good anyway.
So we decided it was time to have our first British curry. Not content to simply show up at the sketchy — pardon me, dodgy, in the local lingo — Chutney Raj down the street, we consulted our handy Time Out Cheap Eats in London. The nearest to us was Diwana Bhel Poori House, a humble Southern Indian restaurant known for amazing curries, enormous dhosas, no liquor license and rude service. And an all-vegetarian menu. Sounded perfect! So we made the 15 minute walk to the place, right through the dodgy area of Euston Station. There was already a line forming, so we agreed to be seated along with another twosome, two ladies who had carried in tall cans of Stella Artois to accompany the meal.
We were immediately overwhelmed by the very unfamiliar menu, so we quickly chatted up our seatmates, one of whom had clearly been here many times before. Still timid to order too much because of the shocking exchange rate (sterling was about $1.85 at this point), we ordered a thali (an assortment of potato curry and other little sauces and chutneys) and a two-foot long dhosa. Our neighbors then proceeded to order four times what we did, claiming they were celebrating a bit because they were on a business trip for Oxfam. Not bad! Somehow I don’t think Oxfam was bankrolling it. . .
We did enjoy the meal, and we had plenty to eat. There’s no doubt this place was a hotspot for foodies on a budget. But overall it tasted a bit dry, like we didn’t have enough sauce — like there was something missing in the meal. I think Southern Indian is generally less sauce-based than Northern, and of course we were weaned on these thick, sweet sauces of the North. So we certainly haven’t written the place off; rather, I think we’ll just make a point of returning with someone who knows how to order.
And we’ll definitely bring beer next time, too.