Tuesday 17th May 2016.
Surviving a battery of eggs hurled from the Pont Marie bridge, our Seine cruise boat finally docked. Wind-beaten, gelid, underwhelmed, we headed toward Montparnasse Cemetery, stumbling upon a dishevelled man outside, supine on the pavement. Eyes slammed shut he seemed quite at peace there; sleeping, dead, or dead drunk. Must make a refreshing change to stretch out like that. Unless, of course, it was some oblique comment on the overcrowded cemetery. But then everywhere is overcrowded in Paris. A welcome reversal, in fact, to at last find such peaceful refuge above ground whilst below wrestled tooth and skull for their patch of earth like rush hour on the Metro. (It’s all relative, even in death: by the standards of The Catacombs Montparnasse Cemetery is downright roomy.)
Respects paid to Beckett and Ionesco, we launched ourselves back into the mayhem – fittingly, avant garde-style : MG Road with its “modern versions of classic dishes”. Semblance of a trendy cafe: high ceiling, tall windows, clean-cut, whitewashed decor. Noticed a number of tarnished mirrored panels on one showpiece wall display, fashionably perhaps. The scaffolding outside didn’t improve the ambience much either. It was another ‘quiet’ lunchtime venue, just a table of two suited business types behind – equal to providing an unceasing background babble. (Some Bhangra vibes might have attenuated the assault.)
Menu-wise, the ‘modernity’ immediately surprised us with its pantelons down: no pickle tray/popodums, and not a sign of our venerable friend, the onion bhaji. What’s more, the list of starter items ran to just four, likewise the mains. As honed and succinct as anything Beckett might have penned. Our dilatory waitress did eventually attend and elucidate, and was pleasant enough, but our main course cutlery did require prompting and our khatti dhall side dish just never turned up.
Some of the dishes were, admittedly, novel: the madras fried chicken starter, for instance – a fine idea, but ought to have been fierier. Skippy’s shankerkandi chaat starter stood out – sweet potato, pomegranate seeds, sliced asparagus… the guest list of a Jean-Michel Jarre rooftop garden party. The main dishes were, on the whole, more Soap Award. Though the kerala mutton pepper fry was richly aromatic and the meat excellent. A special word for the rose lassi – a delicate, refreshing, unsweetened drink with rosewater, cumin and pistachio in the mix. Compensating handsomely for the sparkling water drought.
The lavies, the predictable, single, unisex cubicle: passably hygienic, with the curious addition of a patio chair, presumably for those sharing the most intimate of relationships. Skippy declined my offer of an impromptu guest visit. The price of the meal was perplexingly at odds with our own calculation. Happily, in our favour. Though at 56 euros, can’t claim it was a snip. Oh, and if you haven’t already guessed, hot towels are just uber passé, darling.
Judge ‘Gonzo’ Pickles
Fred ‘Skippy’ Pickles