Monday, 26 March 2012
Cordon Du Chap: The curry house you always remember the next morning...
2 The Broadway
Cordon Du Chap (out of a possible five): ❁ (❁❁❁❁ - for nothing if not the company!!)
Wimbledon has never been somewhere famed for great curries, the 'Indian Gossip' (round the corner from where I live) is a competent if uninspiring restaurant which does a nice Manchurian chicken, a tasty lamb tikka and not much else - it is also ruinously expensive (a trait that it shares with most other similar restaurants in the neighbourhood). Of course there are some unmentionably bad takeaways serving the important purpose for droves of half-cut executives returning home around the 22:30 mark on a Thursday/Friday night…I've been there a few times before!
Then there are the curry houses that gain a cult status through regular - if somewhat resigned - visitation (chiefly due to its proximity to the Prince of Wales) by a group of locals, Ahmed's Tandoori is one such place.
The two mates who I go with to this establishment virtually twisted my arm to give this place a review, such is their sentimentality for the unique atmosphere that this place has to offer. I would be lying if i said the curries were the best I had ever eaten, in fact I would be lying if I said that they were anywhere near that level.
A trip to this restaurant is usually preceded by a couple of shoddy pints of cheap lager (a la Gary & Tony) and an unfruitful turn on the IT Box - by which time we have got over all of our respective work based gripes and moved onto more erudite and (occasionally) vulgar banter. It is at this stage that Ahmed's beckons, with its Prince purple sign, which helpfully informs the would be customer that it is a fully licensed establishment - the dangerous words for the seasoned drinkers!
The first thing you are hit with upon entering is the controversial decor. For any of you who have seen Only Fools and Horses it is reminiscent of one of the curry houses that Del-boy used to take many an ill-fated date in the early years of the show. There is a charmingly retro waiting area by a bar stocking classic bottles of Cinzano, Martini Rosso and Stone's ginger wine untouched and covered in a layer of dust probably undisturbed since 1978. On a wide glass coffee table, surrounded by jolting banquets an ominous 'lucky dip' platter of salted peanuts sits with a single (unnervingly much used) plastic spoon available to serve yourself - I have yet to be tempted by the pandora's box of food poisoning that is this centrepiece but I'm sure many a less cautious man has lived to rue the day they grabbed a handful of these salty (and unpleasant) surprises.
Lilac is the resounding colour here with a generous coating of cadbury's purple and plenty of latticed woodwork making for a retro, if highly oppressive experience. The service is - as you would expect from such an old-school experience - intruding when you least want it and non-existent when you do!
So far I fear that I have hardly painted a glittering picture and I can almost hear the 'bishop' and 'baronet' of booze baying for my blood! However, the food is distinctly average, nondescript and entirely suitable for soaking up pints of lager. Testament to this was the filthy meal I had there the other night (sadly not quite saved by the great value company!). It was my fault really - rather than going for the reliable Bhuna or the oversized but so-so Thali, I went for the mixed grill masala - if there was ever a case of style over substance then this was it. Never have I regretted such a choice as this in all of my poor curry history. Sweet and grainy, the taste of desiccated coconut dominated the preparation, let's just say that I was wishing for the £11.50 back that I had handed over for it.
Usually I am very up for a pint soaking meal and so I'll put my recent experience down to a lack of foresight, a couple too many drinks and ultimately - a thing that so few food lovers want to admit - a bad menu decision! But please don't let this self analysis of my choices when slightly inebriated make you think that this is some great restaurant misunderstood. Frankly, if it wasn't for my mates, the bizarre ambience and booze before the trip there, it would be unlikely that I would ever have gone to Ahmed's. However I - and I am sure one or two others reading this post - cannot resist the lure of great banter, coupled with the combination of cheap beer and s*** food. In this case Ahmed's deserves the bracketed four cordons for the great time I have with my mates there…but this is not enough and they totally deserve the very real one cordon for the pretty mediocre food they serve.