Saturday 2nd July 2016.
It was a long trek back up The Moor: out-manoeuvring the dazed and demented; side-stepping the prancing pom-pom girls amidst a thrumming cacophony. I remember my face in the International Chinese Barber’s mirror, those black eye-clouds, that wasted look. Could have flopped in Shear Illusionz disused doorway and earned a few tossed pennies. That’s how the gig goes down sometimes if you don’t have a famished Skippy on hand urging you.
Forget Sai Navas. Forget Kebabish. Today, you’re just not landing lunchtime Indian eats in Sheffield Central. So, in extremis, I get Irfan on the blower. He says he thought I sounded Hungarian. Skippy’s growling breadbasket, presumably. Anyway, Irfan, he’s always open. He single-handedly mans the 12 to 6 shift: waiter, barman, and now chef – since his predecessor got deported with a broken leg.
It’s a pretty tenebrous, dated joint. Sure, there’s the classical Indian pics: Krishna and friends, saris in the mist – remnants of bygone splendour. But these days, the tired seating (low budget hotel conference room), the creased, Faded gold, wipeable Swantex tablecovers… well, they just don’t beguile. Throw in the ambient playlist (the hypnotic hum of the kitchen extractor fan), the lonesome vista of empty tables, and for some, you’re talking a bouquet of spanners. I didn’t mind it. The plaintive rustling of leaves above a deserted thoroughfare.
The pickle tray was the pits: runny mango chutney; weary chopped onions lazily attempted two ways; a routine raita. The starters, in contrast, rather surprised: juicy onion bhajis with a pleasing kick; the masala fish, a fillet of succulent cod encased in crisp, spicy batter. It couldn’t last. The main event, the lamb vindaloo, mediocre, midnight takeaway fodder. The sauce too thin, too tomatoey, too timid; the lamb pieces just too scant. The garlic bread, a one-man team, garnering all the plaudits and accolades.
A bumpy up and downer this one. Perhaps more downer: bar pump coke, anaemic lassi, and then the toilets… well, let’s not go there (I mean, really, don’t). Upsides-wise, there’s Irfan with his quiet, attentive service, his one-man show. A personable fellow you could get to know. I might drop by some dead afternoon; one rain-swept Broomhill autumn perhaps. Settle myself down in the empty gloom, nurse a kebab under the drone of the extractor. Say hi.
Judge ‘Gonzo’ Pickles
Fred ‘Skippy’ Pickles