On the trail of the elusive Camden Pale Ale, my husband and I had taken my just-arrived-from-Bangalore sister & brother-in-law to the newly opened Camden Town Brewery in Kentish Town. Set among the railway arches of Kentish Town West train station, this quirky venue is open only on Thursday and Friday evenings. It also has a great home-brewn beer list to match with ear-catching names such as Black Friday (a dark pilsener) and Gentleman's Wit (Dutch-style wheat beer made with roasted lemons.) And then reading through the menu, we looked at each other in horror. Sacrilege! There were no bar snacks, no chakhnas, to accompany the ritual of imbibing liquids.
As we drank our way through the first round we reminisced about the variety of snacks which had arrived fresh from the home country—including masalaapodi, chakli, khakhra, omapodi and masala groundnuts—all happily perched on respective shelves in the kitchen at home—and on which we could have been munching away on happily just at this time. It was the thought of a freshly made masala papad, my all time favourite, which finally had us springing up even before the last drop of beer had been drained and heading home to where said savouries were waiting.
On my way home I cast my mind back to my very first week in London, more than a decade ago. My husband insisted that I had to begin my new life by seeing a rather wondrous sight. He proceeded to drag me off on a journey across town, from north London where we live, all the way to the Punjab—almost. As we dis-embarked from the train at Southall my head still reeling from this voyage back to what I have since titled Native Place, he proudly pointed out the signs around the tube-station which had Southall written in Gurumukhi. Then he took me just up the street to that watering hole which has welcomed many a weary traveller, who not less than a week away from the home needed a hit of the sight-sounds-smells of the mother country. Yes, you got it right, he took me to Glassy Junction, THE pub in Southall which had a picture of a dhol player in the traditional Punjabi outfit all lit up in neon. We walked under the arch of this temple to be served normal lagers, and best of all hot Indian snacks.
I am avowedly from the class of alcoholics who love the chakhnas with my drink of choice. Without these, the alcohol simply does not taste the same, and the conversation around the table falters. Thus on my trips back home to Bombay, my biggest indulgence is going to Pooja Bar next door to my parent’s apartment building, just for their endless supply of tasty Udipi snacks to accompany my Kingfisher. My brother-in-law drew my attention to a pub called Toit in Bangalore, which along with its bar snacks also has a notable beer list featuring a home grown light brew called Basmati Blonde. Haha! A true meeting of the East & the West this name was. It made me wonder why there was no pub in London which had both a comprehensive beer list as well as a strong chakhna menu.
There are some great restaurants, and now cafes (such as Dishoom) but no mainstream pub which along with cool brews also has some hot snacks. If British pubs can serve Thai food and even have curry nights (Wetherspoons) then why not have a tavern which serves the great Indian snacks (and of course also shows the latest cricket match playing from around the world for ze husband.) What do you think? Do you know of any such place which I am perhaps missing out on? Do write in and tell me.
Photo credit: ifood.tv
Basmati Blondes And Chakhnas
October 11, 2012
Why does no London pub serve Indian chakhnas?