We were in Leicester for three things: rugby, ale and curry. Two out of three was fine considering our curry substitute was a wonderfully serendipitous find. The rugby was outstanding. The mediocre Leicester that I saw a few weeks ago rolling over to Wasps had been replaced by a flair-packed, ravening rugby beast that left the poor Stadois as the sporting equivalent to a bullied schoolchild with its trousers round its ankles and its head stuck in a flushing toilet. My Leicester-supporting companions were in the mood for celebration.
But what’s this? It’s four in the afternoon of a Sunday and all the curry houses on London Road are shut until five. We faced pacing the streets of Leicester in search of spice or taking a chance on the unknown (or so I thought) cuisine of Western China’s Uighur community. What luck that we did. On entry we realised that we probably interrupted the patron’s family meal break but this didn’t seem to be a problem and we took a table in the window. We were soon joined by several other Leicester fans, whether regulars of Karamay or lured by fellow Tigers it’s hard to say.
The food offers Chinese regulars but is much more interesting for its Uighur specialities. These veer to the Turkish/Iranian and consist of thick spicy stews and pilafs. It turned out that one of our number had actually been to Western China back in the 90s and could confirm the authenticity of both the food and the decor; although after a heavily contested debate we were still undecided as to whether the smooth lounge jazz coming out of the speakers was also an Uighur vibe.
Through a hatch at the back of the room we could see the chef working on his materials and what delicious wonders he produced. A selection of starters was downed in about 10 seconds with the hot and sour soup (laced with fresh noodles) a standout. Service was friendly and the waitress asked us to give her a shout when we were ready for mains. We were. Mine was a bonylambyveggie pot of yum, heavily spiced and hearty fare for a hungry sports fan. I left dignity aside and sucked the tender meat from the bones before pouring in my rice and finishing the whole lot. Satisfaction reigned supreme around the table.
They have no licence so it’s soft drinks only but a rest from the beer was no bad thing We left congratulating ourselves on having made a real find, all for under fifteen quid a head. I can’t wait to come back next season.
To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016 check out my GoogleMap
Blue Badge guide to London and academic specialising in early twentieth century history. Blogging on history, academia, and food and culture in the capital (and occasionally elsewhere).