Saturday 1st October 2016.
To open I had a sweet bit of scene-setting gallimaufry, including the Bruce Forsythe rap… Trashed.
Mr Combustible of Harrogate, proprietor of Shalimar Indian restaurant, put paid to that. (Last in Hargreaves’ Mr Men series – a nightmarish aberration mercifully suppressed by the publishing house.)
“You’re too vocal. Upsetting my guests. You’re too vocal.” He’s in my face, this pudgy, butcher’s dog of a man – sleek, dyed black hair, self-satisfied paunch. It was merely an aside requesting the logjam of diners disperse from our comfort zone. Truth is, our seating position was a victim of over-zealous table planning – too near the door, reception and bar; ill-conceived.
“You pay your bill and get out of here.” It was, I reminded him, we who had been inconvenienced by the parade of bottoms thrust indiscriminately against our table edge, infringing our dining space.
Then he’s pushing me, my glasses fly to the floor. He wants to take it outside. He says he’s going to “break my teeth in”. I appeal to the powerless, by-standing waiters; a crazed, proprietorial glare sends one scuttling. Others attempt to restrain Mr Combustible, pull him away.
Yet, funnily enough, it wasn’t this puffed up, tyrannical nincompoop and his laughable conniption that bothered me so much. (Though I feel for his impressive waiting staff.) It was the onlooking complacent diners nearby. “Yes, take it outside,” a couple of tables chorused, in complete indifference to Mr Combustible’s stream of abuse, “we’re trying to enjoy our meal here.”
It was probably my efforts to apprise these zombies of the evident injustices that resulted in our £52 bill being waived; our hurried exit from the restaurant. Mind you, only before we’d obtained firm assurances that a hotheaded despot wouldn’t jump from the bushes brandishing his favourite paring knife.
Grudgingly (and superfluously), I have to admit, the grub is pretty decent. Handsome, six-dip pickle tray. And, if you must, we highly recommend the nehari lamb, far superior, in our opinion, to the smoked option. The toilets though are grubby and the service generally sluggish, never mind the physical threats.
We retreated to our hotel bar. A medicinal 17 year old Habiki whisky almost compensating for the faintly absurd trauma; somewhat ameliorating my dyspeptic funk.
Judge ‘Gonzo’ Pickles
Fred ‘Skippy’ Pickles