Saturday 10th September 2016.
Thanks to Skippy my confessions have recently launched worldwide on Facebook. I sense something of the anxiety of a human cannonball tamped down into his gunmetal canon barrel. How marvellous, of course, to arc above the clamouring crowds in my chichi Lycra, my Captain America crash helmet. The children, mouths agape, frothing with candy floss, once again believing in miracles.
All too soon, dumped in a dull thud of bones onto a heap of sawdust and clowns’ shoes. Suddenly a raw egg comes flying, then another. A feral hellion truant, no elephant man to taunt, unleashes the contents of an untended shopping bag. Kicking off a hysterical monkey I emerge from the fringes into the circus ring’s bright glare, feeling less the fêted daredevil, more a breadcrumbed chicken fillet. That’s show business I guess.
When it comes to tigers, circus or otherwise, I’m of the play dead philosophy. I believe they feed this one outside Masala Dosa Cafe so it’s largely harmless – jauntily sporting my trilby for larks. To be on the safe side, I curled up on the pavement feigning heart trauma. At least the comic interlude is mercifully short-lived in big cat culture. A bit of Harry Worth nicked off some superannuated zoo-keeper, that’s about it.
Playtime over we slunk inside waving off the paramedics. The bouncy upbeat ragas suiting the lime and orange tic-tac Interior perfectly. There’s a vaguely charming shoddiness about the place: exposed speaker wire and water pipes; slapdash paintwork. Yet it’s tidy and bijou chic in its own way. Service was efficient and friendly but it’s fast-food style: approach the counter; place your order; fetch.
So here it is at last, our virgin experience of dosa: “a large, traditional, savoury pancake made from ground rice and dals to a secret family recipe.” I opted for the classic filling – mashed potato and onion masala; Skippy threw chicken tikka into the mix. They come with three dissatisfyingly bland sides: sambar soup; coconut and coriander chutney. (Portions too stingy, ironically.) The additional ’spicy red chutney’ accompanying my mysore masala dosa, the only one with oomph. Labelled among the hottest on the menu mine failed to roar. Though eye-catching in presentation I’m afraid these dosa dishes didn’t even purr. Sort of harrumphed ineffectually.
And dosa’s about all you get. There’s no starter menu nor breads (nor lassis even) so it’s tricky, and perhaps unfair, to judge using the Pickles’ standard scorecard. It’s essentially a fast-dosa cafe. We fashioned a score nonetheless. Drop by the S11 street food Serengeti, why not? Hunt down a dosa. Six pounds a pop.
Judge ‘Gonzo’ Pickles
Fred ‘Skippy’ Pickles