Resto 51, Vallée du Kashmir, Paris
We wanted something cheap and cheerful before seeing Dunkirk (or Dunkerque as they have it round here) in the Gaumont up the road. I was drawn into the Valley by remembrance of curries past, specifically of eating in an Indian by the Jardin des Plants after a freezing day’s walking with my then small children and the manager bringing us our own table-side calor gas stove. I was so cold and grateful I nearly cried. That is what I call customer service; the food wasn’t bad either.
We didn’t need a heater in the V du K but I would advise sunglasses. They have enough lights inside to land a jumbo jet. Flashing lights that would have Huw Stephens giving a stern avertissement for those with epilepsy. Lights in the ceiling. A TV churning out cheesy Indian pop videos. Lighted walls. Hell, I suspect they have lights on their lights.
I can just imagine their discussions with their accountant when they’re asking him why they’re not turning a profit:
‘But guys, in a businesses of your size you really shouldn’t be spending €20,000 a month on electricity. Are you sure someone hasn’t hooked up your supply to an industrial turbine?’
‘It’s the lights. We like lights.’
‘The lights? Yeah, I noticed those … And I’m blind. You need to do something about that.
‘We worship the lights.’
‘Bof, it’s your money.’
There was only one other guy in there but it was early by French standards. I remembered that things come in a curious order in French Indians but I couldn’t remember exactly how. We went for standards (as usual when testing a new place) with samosas and onion bhajia up front then a chicken jalfrezi for me for main and a Himalayan lamb for him. One popadom was placed on a side plate so we ate it while waiting for the beer (I didn’t know they did kingfisher in bottles so small but it was good and cold). We wondered why there were no chutneys but the mystery was solved as they arrived with the starters. As did the nan. Hmm.
The samosas were excellent, plenty of veg inside, and spicy. Onion bhaji in France is an onion ring, which is not to the British taste is it? I wanted sweatyoily balls of gut destroying deliciousness. These seemed insipid and trop civilisés. We were waiting for him to bring the mains but eventually realised that we were expected to eat our nan first. We chutnied the nan, the chutneys were good if nothing special while the bread lacked the crispness and ghee enriched luxury of its British cousin.
Then for the curries. My jalfrezi was curry but it wasn’t as ferocious as I wanted it to be. Oh my Standard, oh how I missed you. I’ll never betray you again. I couldn’t even see evidence of chili. Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah. I took a swig of Kingfisher and mopped up the last of the juices with RICE. Not nan because we’d eaten that. Everything was out of whack. Though the service was exemplary it didn’t make up for the wrongness of the food.
Perhaps my Valley of Kashmir induced hankering for Britain was responsible for my weeping through Dunkirk. Or it might have been Hans Zimmer’s astute, just this side of cichéd use of Elgar on the soundtrack. Or it might have been a not particularly good actor reading Churchill’s speech on a steam train (you can’t ruin rhetoric like that, it’s inobliterable). Or Nolan’s direction. Anyway I did that and I don’t mind, it’s good to have a good cry every now and then isn’t it?
Can’t repeat the past? Why of course you can. Sorry Jay, you can’t; and I’ll never go for a curry in Paris again.
To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap
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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).
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