Curry connection

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Related tags: Indian cuisine, Guinness

The typical image of an Indian meal is a dish served up with ice-cold lager, but the classic combination was created purely by chance, says Adam...

The typical image of an Indian meal is a dish served up with ice-cold lager, but the classic combination was created purely by chance, says Adam Edwards

Last month the Bombay Brasserie, one of London's better-known Indian restaurants, threw a beer and Indian food evening. It was not, as one might think, an exercise in tautology to feast on the bleeding obvious.

In fact the organisers of the event, R&R Teamwork, had simply concluded that there is an alternative to the obligatory Carlsberg, Cobra or Kingfisher accompaniment to a curry. It believes an Indian meal is better serviced by English ale rather than the ubiquitous Continental lager. And so R&R provided, among other delights, a glass of Timothy Taylor's Landlord with the tandoori chicken and a pint of Worthington to wash down the rogan josh. After all, the company argued, it was only by chance that the amber fizz and the spicy dish - like Liz Hurley and Arun Nayer - were married.

Indian food originally arrived via the Indian seaman working aboard merchant ships servicing the British East India company over 300 years ago. And as early as 1809 there was curry on the menu at coffee houses in London's Portman Square.

In fact, it was not until 1927 when Veeraswamy's Indian restaurant opened in Regent Street that the fashion for a fistful of light lager suds with one's jalfrezi was actually born. The partnership was introduced by Prince Axel of Denmark who enjoyed the opening night blow-out at Veeraswamy so much that he not only presented the owner with a case of his royal beer, but also gave orders for a case to be delivered each year. That beer was Carlsberg and staff who had learned their trade at Veeraswamy's and subsequently opened their own restaurants took the Danish habit with them. The dish and the drink have been linked as securely as Lego ever since.

And so the recent initiative by R&R and the Bombay Brasserie to divorce this somewhat forced marriage is to be applauded. However, I do wonder if they might have got the rickshaw before the scooter.

It is not Indian restaurants that should serve ale but ale houses that should serve Indian meals. And by that I don't mean a chalkboard special offering a microwaved Vesta curry with a dollop of supermarket own-brand chutney. Pubs should offer a full throttle, flock wallpaper menu cooked by a Bangladeshi chef or two and served with a popadum in a silver wire basket. (A brown paper bag take-away service should also be offered).

There is a precedent for this. The award winning Churchill Arms in London's Kensington Church Street, for example, is one of several pubs that have a Thai restaurant based in its kitchen, run by Thai chefs, serving solely Thai food. Incorporating an Indian into the local makes even more sense. And the result would probably be the best tikka masala in the world.

The real home of the Black Stuff

For centuries Wales has laboured under the old saw that it is the only nation on earth that has never invented an alcoholic drink.

However, author Lyn Ebenezer in his new book The Thirsty Dragon claims that Guinness is Welsh. The black beer that is as symbolic of Ireland as the leprechaun shamrock and Terry Wogan should in fact be taking its place alongside sheep, leeks and Tom Jones.

Guinness, says Ebenezer, was created by Welshman Arthur Price who subsequently left the valleys for Ireland, taking the recipe with him.

Price became the last Protestant archbishop of the Irish diocese of Cashel where he entertained pilgrims as well as Christian brothers with the dark stout.

Price's servant Richard Guinness organised the brewing of the beer at the archbishop's palace. When Richard died his son Arthur Guinness took over the role. Arthur was later bequeathed £100 by the archbishop and used the money to open his first brewery in Dublin in 1756.

This charming story may or may not be full of blarney. But as the Irish already claim a host of drinks, including Irish coffee, Bailey's Irish Cream and several whiskeys, it would be a generous gesture to allow their Celtic neighbours swanking rights to Guinness.

However, I suggest the Welsh keep quiet about their newly-discovered alcoholic genius during the Six Nations match in Dublin.

Smoking side effects

There has been an interesting side effect to the smoking ban in Ireland and Scotland, which arrives in England on 1 July. It has been a boon for those in search of a hot date.

Smokers forced into exile outside the pub find it easy to start chatting with a fellow outcast. An opening gambit is considerably less awkward if people are pushed into the same space by a common enemy.

The result is that the ban has encouraged the young to smoke, which is exactly the opposite effect New Labour was hoping for. And it explains why the Department of Health has suddenly recommended a number of radical proposals to cut the number of youngsters smoking, including keeping tobacco hidden in shops and getting rid of cigarette-vending machines.

It won't work, of course. New Labour has never understood the concept of forbidden fruit.

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