Part of this AKTing Lark over the last three or four years has been the re-discovery of old haunts during my first time round as a Southampton student.
Back in those days I studied politics, drank Old Rosie, did a lot of cycling and ate large amounts of curry. Some of this was home made, but occasionally myself and some house-mates (normally Andy and Richard) would venture out to find a nice friendly Indian restaurant where we could eat hot food without the hassle of having to cook it first. On one such venture we found ourselves wandering further than normal, out past Safeway and The Hobbit, down into Bevois Valley and up the other side, where we found a small, grubby-looking curry house named the Manzil Tandoori.
In we went. Friendly Bangladeshi Gentleman came to take our order.
Me: Can I have the tandoori chicken starter please?
FBG: Samosa is good, sir, would you like samosa?
Me: No, I'd like the tandoori chicken please.
FBG: Samosa very good tonight sir. Made fresh.
Me: Please, I really would like tandoori chicken.
FBG: I'll get you samosa. On the house.
Me: And for the main, I'd like the lamb phall please?
FBG: No sir, that is too hot for you. I recommend madras please.
Me: No, really I would like the phall. Lamb phall, please.
FBG: No sir, it too hot. I will get you lamb madras and extra chillies on side if you want to make it hotter.
Me: So I can't get a lamb phall?
FBG: (writing) Madras with extra chillies.
It was like stepping into a parallel universe. Naturally, it quickly became our favourite restaurant. The next time we went it was even more bizarre. It was a Monday evening, fairly early, maybe 7pm. We walked in and the place was deserted, not a soul in the place.
Me: Table for three please?
FBG: Sorry sir we are full.
FBG: Yes, all tables are taken.
Me: (pointing at table next to me) What about this one?
FBG: We are full sir, sorry.
And so we left. Went back there several times, and something weird or unusual always happened: one time they made us sit in the take-away waiting area while we ate despite several other tables being available. And though we are now some twelve years on from that first incident, Andrew, Gloria and I decided it was about time we gave the place another visit last night.
It was frightening normal. Apart from the fact we were the only customers, and apart from the fact that the restaurant didn't appear to have been cleaned in the intervening twelve years, it seemed like a normal restaurant. I ordered tandoori chicken starter just to see what would happen: I got it without question. No longer phall on the menu but they had a 'hot' Ceylon dish so I ordered that: it came without problem. (Wasn't actually as nice as a Karai or Jalfrezi, but this was all in the name of scientific experimentation, right?). I kept waiting for something to happen, something unusual, something from the parallel universe, but it didn't.
Until we looked at the takeaway menu.
As first glance, this appeared to be a normal Indian takeaway menu. Full of the usual Baltis and Tikka Masalas. On the back, as is sometimes the case, was a "European Food" section, presumably for kids who don't like Indian but like the idea of a takeaway. Omelettes, steaks etc, the usual stuff. Then I looked at the prices.
Chips cost one pound. Egg and chips cost four pounds. Therefore egg costs three pounds.
Three pounds for an egg? Admittedly, I didn't ask how many eggs you got for your money, nor indeed what kind of eggs they are that cost three pounds. Not Kinder Eggs, I'll bet. And 'fired' scampi for a fiver? Wonder what job it was fired from?
In many ways it came as something of a relief. I had been concerned that somehow the hole in the fabric of space-time had been repaired and that the Manzil Tandoori was no longer a gateway to a parallel universe, but now I feel better. It's good to find these little anomalies every so often to remind us, just when we're about to forget, that there's truly no such thing as normal.
The Manzil Tandoori is open every day from 6pm. Who knows what you may discover.