Tuesday, 9 February 2010

The food’s the zing

At 7pm, the queues outside the HMV Apollo (AKA the Carling Apollo, Labatts Apollo, the Hammersmith Apollo or the Hammersmith Odeon, depending on your vintage) numbered several hundred and snaked away down Queen Caroline Street.  Barriers had been erected, security goons patrolled.

What show could possibly have drawn such a crowd?  Had Robbie and Take That finally buried the hatchet?  Had cryogenicists brought back John and George to shake their mop tops with Paul and Ringo?  Was Amy Winehouse rumoured to be performing sober?

None of the above.  As snow fell and winds worthy of Siberia whistled, the huddled masses waited, hoped and prayed to be allowed to witness the final couple of hours of the day’s auditions for Britain’s Got Talent. 

I’m not entirely sure what this says about 21st-century society, other than that Simon Cowell is a genius, obviously.  Were these frozen teenagers keen to witness the birth of the next Susan Boyle?  (Now there’s an image you wouldn’t want to dwell on.)  Were they there primarily to laugh at the no-hopers in the modern equivalent of visiting Bedlam?  Did they merely dream of featuring in a split-second cut-away on the telly?  I think we should be told.

simon mindian zing exteriorI was on my way to Indian Zing , a brilliant restaurant incongruously located on a sad and scuzzy section of W6’s King Street.  I first ate there when I reviewed it for viewlondon.co.uk (and they remembered so thank goodness I gave it a four-stars near-rave).  This time, I was attending my first meeting of the dining club, Dos Hermanos.  The term is Spanish for ‘two brothers’ and the brothers in question who created and run the club (for love, not money) are writer, traveller and foodie Simon Majumdar (read his culinary travelogue paperback, Eat My Globe) and his sibling, Robin.

It works like this: 40 or 50 foodies bowl up to a restaurant on a Monday night having heard of the event via Facebook.  They each pay a flat fee – a very reasonable £40 on this occasion – for a set dinner, drinks and some lovely extras, and get to socialise and network with likeminded souls. The restaurant makes money by being packed on what would otherwise be the quietest night of the week, and by the economy of scale derived from serving a set meal to one, huge sitting.  It’s a win-win.

To make the nights even better value, manufacturers sometimes use them as a platform for their culinary wares.  Sure enough, Johnnie Walker got us under way with whisky and tropical fruit juice cocktails, then provided shots of their various varieties to “match” each course.  We had to sit through a brief spiel by a Johnnie Walker representative but it was a small price to pay for free booze. 

You might think a slug of Scotch wouldn’t marry with pork vindaloo, Goan fish curry or the sugar syrup-soaked Indian dumplings, gulab jamun.  You’d be pretty much right, actually.  None of the combinations were screw-your-face-up horrid but let’s put this this way; brewers and vintners have little to fear.  Speaking of which, wine also flowed freely thanks to another sponsor.

As if we hadn’t received enough for our £40 by the time it became impossible to force down another mouthful of chicken biryani or Indian rice pud, we waddled out of the door with an unusually generous goodie bag containing

* a large bottle of 'Meantime' India pale ale (got up to look like a bottle of champagne, so a brief moment of disappointment there)
* liquorice in many forms
* a string of dried red chillies
* bars of chocolate, both Green & Black’s and Thorntons
* watermelon and mango juices
* curry powder
* chewing gum
* Luscombe organic lime crush (fizzy drink for the chattering classes)
* a jar of pickled walnuts (never got the point of those but I’ll give them another go)
* a pack of Fisherman’s Friends (at least they’ll take away the taste of the walnuts)

A Catholic selection to say the least, some of it appropriate for a night of sub-continental feasting, some of it apparently entirely unconnected but all very welcome (well, apart from the walnuts, perhaps).

Perhaps I’ll see you at the next meeting of Dos Hermanos.  I’ll be the one confirming that, yes, I did once win Come Dine with Me and, no, I mustn’t have another canapé or I’ll never eat my dinner, or a second pre-dinner cocktail or I’ll be under the table.  Oh, go on, then……

One thing’s for sure; it’s a lot more fun than freezing your bahjis off in the vain hope of hearing Simon Cowell destroy the dreams of a tone-deaf borderline simpleton.
(images courtesy of http://uk.askmen.com and http://authors.simonandschuster.com/)

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