London Diary: Dining at ‘Daaku’!

Some of the poshest areas of Central London are dotted with fashionable Indian restaurants with names like Amaya, Chutney Mary, Apollo Banana Leaf, Bombay Bustle and Booma

Daaku restaurant
Daaku restaurant

Hasan Suroor

Dining at ‘Daaku’

Over the past decade, the Indian restaurant scene in London has changed beyond recognition with a proliferation of upmarket restaurants with fancy names and fancier prices. Some of the poshest areas of Central London are dotted with fashionable Indian restaurants with names like Amaya, Chutney Mary, Apollo Banana Leaf, Bombay Bustle and Booma.

Many are clearly over-rated and snobbish. There are less posh but more authentic joints in the back lanes of East London than the exotic-sounding ones in Mayfair. Talking about exotic names, I spotted one in north London called Daakoo (bandit). When I called them to ask why a restaurant which claimed to serve “gourmet” food had such an unsavoury name, they couldn’t explain.

“It’s just a name,” retorted an irritated voice at the other end.

I was later told by a friend that there was also a restaurant in Cornwall (a popular tourist town) called Daaku. And its owner Jasmine offered an interesting explanation why she chose such an unusual name. Here, it’s in her own words:

“I was born in Kota near Chambal ravines infamous for Daaku folks. So, I grew up with tales of Daakus as well as their influence on Bollywood stories. When my husband Ben, who is Cornish, visited India, the kids in our wider family jokingly named him Daaku Ben Singh because of his beard. Our name is an affectionate homage to this incident.”

But what’s it about new Indian restaurants and their names? Chai & Chapati, Dhaba@49, Gunpowder...

What next?

Slow cops

If you thought that it’s only in India that police investigations take a lifetime, here’s a gem about Britain’s famously efficient cops.

Apparently, it has only just launched an investigation relating to a story run by the satirical magazine Private Eye in 1985 —yes, 1985.

The result is that it cannot publish anything referring to that story until the investigation is over. Its editor Ian Hislop has revealed that a book on the history of Private Eye published this month to mark its 60th anniversary had an entire page blacked out by lawyers because it related to the controversial 1985 piece.

“That’s 36 years it’s taken for the police to catch up,” he said.

Such is the secrecy around the case that we don’t even know what the story was about. It’s only referred to as a “scoop”.

Shakespeare & Osama

Shakespeare would be turning in his grave over research that his work “inspired” some of the history’s most infamous terrorists including those who plotted the 9/11 attacks. Others include the Nazis and Guy Fawkes, the English rebel executed for his role in the 17th century “Gunpowder plot” to blow up Westminster.

A book by British historian Dr Islam Issa of Birmingham City University (UK), Shakespeare and Terrorism, examines how his writing has influenced terrorists throughout the centuries. His publishers are marketing it as a “ground-breaking” work on the “complex relationship between life and art”.

According to Dr Issa, Shakespeare’s work has been interpreted differently by people with different agendas. Nazis, he claims, used Merchant of Venice to justify their anti-semitism. He says Bin Laden made regular visits to Shakespeare’s birthplace as a teenager, which he saw as a symbol of the West and its political ideology. And this was to shape his later violent extremism, he suggests.

Sounds far-fetched?

Drunk in the House

They never miss an opportunity to lecture the public against too much drinking, and many actively campaign against cheap and easy availability of alcohol. But as with everything else, it seems there is one rule for ordinary people, and one for rule-makers aka MPs.

A senior Tory MP and former minister Tracey Crouch has revealed how her colleagues in Parliament turn up in the House “reeking of booze”. Some are often so drunk that they miss votes or “vote the wrong way”.

Expressing concern over the alarming drinking culture at Westminster, which is dotted with bars selling subsidised alcohol, Ms Crouch described it as “just not a pleasant environment”.

“I just think I became quite upset, quite disillusioned by the number of people going through division lobbies reeking of booze. I know colleagues that have missed votes or voted the wrong way because of alcohol,” she told an interviewer.

Westminster has long been known for its excessive drinking culture which has seen MPs coming to blows and police being called in. There have been attempts to curb it, but old habits die hard.

Forgotten food

Dishes such as bangers and mash, scotch eggs, toad-in-the-hole, and spotted dick (a steamed pudding) were once Britain’s staple diet — as quintessentially British as “khichdi” and “parathas” are quintessentially Indian.

But ask the millennials, and the chances are that you would be met with blank stares. Half of them have never heard of them or think they are fictional with one in five claiming never to have eaten scotch eggs, according to a survey.

Food for thought?

And, lastly, “It’s nice to be important but it’s more important to be nice,” Boris Johnson’s mother Charlotte who died recently used to tell her children, according to Johnson’s biographer Sonia Purnell. So, what went wrong with the son?

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