Between the sublime of Italy’s disposal of Spain and the ridiculous of England’s football disgrace we dined at the court of King Baba. Baba’s digs are by no means palatial, in fact his monarchical style tends to the stripped back Scandinavian vibe with an Indian twist rather than plush oriental splendour. But that suited us as we had only a one hour window in which to lay in some ballast before the mayhem began.
The room was deserted, the residents of Lem already for the most part luxuriating in sporting lagerland. This disgruntled our waiter whose idleness prompted bouts of conversation in between bringing us Cobra (the only beer on draught), poppadoms (disappointing chutneys) and dishes of onion bhaji (v good) and various curry (my Rezalla needed more heat).
He opened by apologising for the emptiness of the room, bemoaning the fact that the Euros had destroyed the post-work trade, then went on to do some entertaining trash talking of the curry house across the road (‘Millennium Balti, out of date now innit? They’re cheaper but they’re crap, don’t go there’). As he came to clear away the starters he started a new jeremiad about the Italians beating the Spanish, in whom he’d invested heavily at Ladbroke’s. My advice that you should never bet against the Italians when they’re unfancied for a tournament was met with incredulity – ‘They’ve won nothing for years mate, Spain should have had them!’
He retreated as we munched through the mains, another brace of Cobras going down easily, especially with some very high quality naan to soak up the juices. Bowing to our inevitable departure to catch the Iceland game he didn’t try to persuade us to dessert but did give us some parting gambling advice, ‘Get on England to win in extra time, I’ve doubled up.’
Baba may be King but he presides over an impoverished realm.
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).