I’m packed and ready for India. Can we go now please?
I now feel like we’re in a state of limbo and believe me it’s not something you’d want to spend an eternity in. We left home yesterday morning and we are still in the UK 36 hours later as we sort out re-homing dogs, visiting family, parking cars and generally getting ourselves in the right place to get to the airport in time for an early flight tomorrow. No disrespect intended to lovely family and friends, but really! I just want to be in India now.
Having said that, a visit to Thornbury and our friend Romy’s great new restaurant has certainly helped get me in the right frame of mind for my journey. Romy’s Kitchen isn’t open on Mondays so we had the great pleasure of a private tour and a quiet lunch with Romy and some of her favourite dishes. The food I want to taste when I’m in India is not the sanitised version created especially for the tourists; I want to eat that food which generations of people have eaten at home or on the streets. Romy learned to cook at home in Bengal and later honed her skills cooking for her husband Gundeep and her two beautiful daughters. When friends urged her to bring her fabulous food to a public audience she started making her own sauces, pickles and spice mixes to sell at markets. Cooking classes followed and then dreams of her own restaurant.
Now think of your local Indian Restaurant and try to remember how many women you’ve seen cooking and serving there. Almost certainly none. So Romy’s task was never going to easy; the community of Indian Restaurants (on the whole) wouldn’t accept her, wouldn’t believe she could make a go of it and wouldn’t go out of their way to help. Add to that local authority planning regulations, listed building regulations and a young family to look after and you can start to get an idea of the uphill struggle Romy had taken on.
Undeterred, Romy opened her restaurant and hasn’t had a quiet moment since. People may come once for the novelty of a female Indian chef but they’ll come time and again for cooking which is subtle, homely and delicious; and so they are. We chatted with Romy over dal makhani, Bengali style goat and a wonderful Gurnard dish with coconut and tomatoes. None of the spices overwhelmed the flavour of the meat, pulses or fish and we were left with a wonderful aftertaste, warming and satisfying.
If this is how authentic Indian food really tastes I can’t wait. Get me on that plane.