A global success story all thanks to the British Empire: The gammon food critic goes Indian

Restaurant reviews by Justin Tanner, our retired food critic who isn’t sure about that Suella Braverman but can’t put his finger on why

THE British Empire gets a bad press. Yes, there were a few atrocities, but by and large it was benevolent and helpful. Indian restaurants are a fine example. 

Would Indian food have made it around the world without us? Not bloody likely. It’s our patronage, which the world pays attention to because we know our shit, that’s taken it global. Bollywood’s not exactly travelled, I notice.

So Indian food’s basically English – chicken tikka masala was invented by a Brummie – and I feel right at home there. It’s the perfect location for my school reunion.

What I wasn’t expecting was for half the buggers there look like relics of the Raj. I know 40 years haven’t exactly been kind to me either, but come on. It’s a real collection of bald patches and big arses, and that’s just the men.

Hiding my disappointment at how they’ve let themselves go, I peruse the menu. Tandoori chicken? Balti? A nice jalfrezi?

The waiter’s got a weird accent but when I ask where in India he’s from, he says he’s Bangladeshi and anyway he’s from Dundee. Nobody else laughs.

Tom has gone for a korma. Bland shit with cream that’s barely had a glance at the spice rack. Sally has a lamb pasanada, as is appropriate for a lady, and she’s still fit as fuck.

In the end I order a chicken madras. I know my regional delicacies, and no-one can tell me this isn’t one. Besides, it’s proper hot and I want to show off. Martin trumps me with the vindaloo. Fair play mate, but I don’t fancy being your arse in the morning.

The conversation’s hard work. Most of our teachers have died. Everybody’s got grandchildren. I sink a few Cobras and skate over the subject of my career because it’s none of their bloody business.

Madras cleared, I have a word with Sally. She’s done well for herself but my guesses of hairdresser or PA are apparently well out of line. ‘I’m surprised you don’t recognise me,’ she says. Stripper?

‘Solicitor,’ she says. ‘I represented your wife in the divorce.’ Well that’s my evening fucked. Thanks a lot, India.

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Let's move to the flat fenland home of Alan Partridge! This week: Norwich

What’s it about?

The medieval city of Norwich, capital of the Dark Ages county of Norfolk, has all the historic churches, quaint pubs and references to a Steve Coogan character you could ever hope for.

It’s a place of winding cobbled streets and incomprehensible accents that make visitors feel like they’ve been transported to another country. Albeit one that’s harder to get to than most of mainland Europe due to the lack of motorway links.

The dumpling of sanity in the mad stew of the fens, Norwich is surrounded by countryside and country folk who wouldn’t think twice about burying you on their land, sunshine. Stick to built-up areas.

East Anglia’s surprisingly progressive lefty haven has two universities, a vibrant arts scene and was recently named the bisexual capital of the UK – and yet still harbours pockets of blistering ignorance that makes the comments section of the Evening News’s Facebook page a eye-widening experience.

Any good points?

Those pubs. Truly something for everyone. Want to get Camra-craft-beer tipsy with some old men? The Fat Cat. Want to sup a challenging IPA next to rollie-smoking arts students? The Playhouse bar. Ready to take your life in your hands and a punch to the throat for looking at someone wrong? The many horrifying establishments on Prince of Wales Road have you covered.

There are more independent shops than a farmer has relatives, from the bookshop Hive to hugely popular and lame pun-named bakery Bread Source, which may eventually turn out to be a longitudinal psychological study of how much you can get away with charging for a cinnamon bun before people riot.

Beautiful landscape? 

Landscape is probably pushing it. But if you like endless flat, muddy fields and a hostile Tory vibe, the surroundings of Norwich are for you. In the city itself, you’ve got Kett’s Heights, offering stunning views over the city – ignore the prison, it’s only category B/C – and the only bit of topography for miles.

The charming Earlham Park offers the calm of the UEA broad, scattered with sculptures including controversial Antony Gormley figures which have provoked debate and inflamed gammons. The less charming Chapelfield Park offers screaming children, an ice cream stand that seemingly never closes and a bandstand where teengers have been getting high and fingering each other for decades.

Hang out at…

The pubs, obviously, particularly now that the city’s cafes are disappearing at a terrifying rate. RIP Franks and Artel. If you want to break up your booze consumption with culture, you can take in the wildly unremarkable castle which is, and seems destined to forever be, mid-renovation, or either of the two cathedrals. One is tainted with the general horror of Catholicism and the other doubles up as a private school which was attended by Tim Westwood. Yeah.

The city’s a treasure trove for history buffs, whether you’re interested in its rich and storied past of rebellion and battle or the more recent beef between shopping centres Chantry Place and Castle Quarter. The former won and the latter has been reduced to a lone TK Maxx and an array of axe-throwing and mini golf venues. How the mighty are fallen.

Where to buy?

Anywhere you can find at the rate the house prices are shooting up, thanks to London knobheads realising the city is less than two hours away by train and only 20 or so years behind in everything else.

NR3 is the cool choice if you’ve got a sleeve tattoo and a vinyl collection. Students and the middle-aged live unharmoniously alongside each other in NR2, making for some spicy NextDoor posts, while NR1 is for the fancier folk who can walk up what passes for a gradient here.

From the streets:

Eleanor Shaw, aged 45: “The best thing about Norwich is feeling part of a community, albeit that one from The League of Gentlemen.”