30 years ago I moved from Yorkshire to work in London’s East End. For a girl brought up on a farm in a small village, it was a culture shock in many ways. I’d also reached the age of 29 without ever having had a curry. However, working near Brick Lane, I quickly developed a liking for what we always referred to as a ruby (Ruby Murray, curry in cockney rhyming slang).
The nearest Indian restaurant to our Prescot Street office, was the “Halal “:https://www.halalrest.co.uk/ which we used to fall in late at night after a few ‘sherberts’! This was the early 90s when the city was awash with money and after work drinks were a must.
I’d not been back for around 25 years but, having done a photography course with the London Institute of Photography on Brick Lane, we decided to revisit the Halal, having first checked it was still there! According to the website it was established in 1939 and is East London’s oldest Indian Restaurant.
At 7.30pm on a Wednesday, it was surprisingly busy with a group of what appeared to be conference delegates who we’d seen in the nearby pub earlier: a new addition on the landscape is the new Leonardo Royal Hotel London Tower Bridge.
Nothing seemed to have changed although the waiters were now smartly dressed in blue waistcoats rather than the curry-stained, white waiters jackets we remember so well.
There was a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc on offer at the incredible price of £11.75 (bearing in mind we’d paid £23 in the pub) so it was a must along with two poppadoms and tray of four chutneys (mint, mango, lime and something spicy). The “menu”:https://www.halalrest.co.uk/menu is pretty extensive but with no description of the dishes, so you really need to know your Indian food. The waiter asked if we’d been before and having said it was in the days of the free samosa with a pint, immediately offered us the same with our wine.
We chose what we always have in an Indian restaurant: chicken vindaloo for me, meat rogan for Roy and a shared garlic naan and pilau rice. All the food was delicious and although I’d ordered a cucumber raita. just in case the vindaloo was very hot, it never arrived, but actually wasn’t necessary as the dish was as spicy as some I’ve had. Portions were not huge, and a hungry Horace might need to supplement with some vegetable dishes, but for us it was perfect.
The bill arrived for £33 along with two boiled sweets each.
This is never going to be a fine dining experience, but for a mid-week ruby, we had a thoroughly good time and enjoyed the reminiscing as well as the food.