10 Dining Street.
Like most people I love Indian food. The fact I enjoy it so much is all down to one man, and one dish. I am not going to try and pretend I am the font of all knowledge when it comes to individual dishes or spices. I’m not sure I could tell you the difference between Caraway seeds and Cardamom seeds. At one stage I thought a particular famous chef had an ingredient named after her. It turns out the Nigella seed is nothing to do with the voluptuous cook in question, but it is an onion seed mainly used in breads, and more extensively in the east of India to season fish plates. Allegedly that chef in question is more partial to herbs than spices anyway. Too much? … Sorry, couldn’t resist.
I was 14 or 15 when I sampled Asian cuisine properly for the 1st time. It was in a small town in Essex called Upminster. My brother took me. He had been raving about it for years. The Taj Mahal was the name of the restaurant. When this illuminated red concoction confronted me it frightened me to death. I might be wrong but I believe my brother was going through a Madras/Vindaloo stage at the time.
It not only looked disgusting but Christ on a bike was it hot!… After eating two forkfuls and drinking enough water to put out the raging fire that was my mouth I declared that Asian food was most definitely not for this kiddie. For the next four or five years I avoided visiting curry houses. It just didn’t tingle my tastebuds, more to the point it didn’t just tingle them it tore a strip off of them.
Moving on then and my next trip for a ruby. It was while out visiting what myself and GB assumed to be an unwell relative. “Uncle Dave” as he was affectionately known, although he had no family ties had just had a triple heart by – pass. Our first spin up to Whitechapel hospital, one day after this operation had seen him with tubes everywhere. Returning less than a week later however, Uncle D was up dressed and more importantly being killed by boredom. Delighted to see us he suggested we go for a walk. Of course what I, or we, didn’t expect was Uncle Dave using us as a ruse to firstly get his hands on a snout ( that’s a cigarette for you guys/gals not from these parts ), and secondly his insistence that we go for a Ruby in the Curry Mile of Brick Lane. Needless to say my first experience of these spicy foods was enough to make me go for the extremely narrow – minded omelette and chips, while GB and UD dived in to the pillar box red Masala and Vindaloo courtesy of the nearby Tandoori. Oh yeah, living the dream!… What’s that you say? Blocked arteries, triple by – pass, a Chicken Vindaloo. It’s recommended all the way down from the top by the NHS. It’s not, I made that bit up of course but I wasn’t going to try and talk UD out of his Ruby, he was bigger than me!
The term Ruby Murray meaning curry, is a rhyming slang term which is thought to relate to a popular Irish singer. Ruby Murray, born in Belfast had top 10 records in the UK charts in the early to mid 1950’s and was seen on the bill at the Brick Lane Music Hall on more than one occasion. The Brick Lane area of East London was ( and still is ) well known for its high population of Bangladeshi immigrants. An influx that started in the later stages of the 20th century. Over time it became the Curry capital of the UK. This array of narrow streets with vibrant bars, shops, restaurants and incredibly lively Sunday market is also known as Banglatown. There you go, a short but sweet bit of education about the nation, well a tiny part of the East End of Londinium anyway. Next week Stoke Newington!
Then it happened. At the tender age of 21. I was rabbiting to a crafty cockney, a happy hammer, and it wasn’t Eric Bristow. Over a game of snooker one evening a few of us were chicken chatting, ( Chicken Chat?? Worth a high 5 surely )… And the subject of our after frame food options came up. I rejected the Indian choice on the basis that it looked horrific, and tasted worse.
My good friend, and pleasingly still one of my besties, Bazza looked at me as though I had just dismissed a hot threesome with Kylie Minogue and Charlize Theron. For the record it should be stated officially that this opportunity has never presented itself, well, they haven’t got my number!
Back to Bazza, and his questioning me on my take on spicy foods.
” How can you not like Indian? ”
I went on to tell him about my assemblage of all previous encounters. Bazza tutted as he moved on to 32, (4 reds, 4 blacks – show off), and wouldn’t drop it until I agreed that I would accompany him to this little gem of a place he knew.
The Spice Of India, a small restaurant in Cranham, Essex. This was the start of my tutorial on Indian spices. The place that I realised not every dish has to be liking eating Lava. Bazza introduced me to a ‘Chicken Methi’.
I can’t even begin to tell you what’s in it other than Chicken ( that’s a bit obvious I grant you ), and Fenugreek. What I can say however is that if you find most choices too hot this is most definitely the way to go. It’s an absolute cracker of a dish for a novice/beginner to get started with.
All of this admittedly via a long winded and sometimes painful slowly written path found me at 10 Dining restaurant some 21 years on. What can I tell you about 10 Dining?. Well the first thing is where it is. I never thought I’d hear myself say this but it’s true, it’s very possible that the best Indian restaurant on the Thurrock Riviera right now is in Tilbury. Right in the heart of Civic Square in the town centre. It wouldn’t be the first choice of positioning for me personally but each one of us are different right.
Tilbury is famous for very few things. The things it is famous for aren’t all necessarily good either. It does have a very busy cargo port, and a cruise terminal, home to some of the Marco Polo vessels. In the middle of an expansion it is one of the few things to offer local people hope of employment in the near future. Police seized £70m pounds ( street value ) worth of cocaine outside of the port just two days ago. So you give people work in one hand and take it away in the other…. Oh and before it closed Tilbury was ( again allegedly ) home to the “Roughest Pub In The UK”, an establishment called The Ship. I’m not painting a pretty picture I grant you, but the truth is Tilbury has been left behind and is now trying to catch up. It is the home of Tilbury Fort though. Queen Elizabeth 1st rallied the troops here with a rousing speech, ready to repell the Spanish during the Armada. It’s a history lesson! … I would also say much like most towns in the UK it has it’s nice parts and it’s less attractive areas.
Where was I ?… Well, five of us went there for a birthday celebration. It was my sister – in – laws big day and so, with 10 Dining being within walking distance it made the decision easy enough. I didn’t mind walking, it was still light after all!…. We arrived at what first sight seemed like an everyday sandwich shop, admittedly with added cooking Tandoor’s. It wasn’t overly busy and we were sat down straight away. Drinks came over quickly and the owner dressed in a very relaxed shorts and shirt attire made us feel very welcome.
Starters arrived and I have to say I was delighted. We had traditional vegetable & Lamb Samosas and I’m a bit of a Samosa connoisseur even if I do say so myself. They were light, incredibly flavourous ( I know it’s not a word but don’t stop me I’m on a roll ), and better still, not at all oily. I have in the past witnessed some horrific attempts at what is supposed to be a small and delicate starter, but these bad boys hit the spot. 4 of them as well as opposed to the 2 I would normally get elsewhere. Another dish tried was Methi Na Gota ( Fenugreek Fried Fritters ). If it was Christmas these lovelies would be in a cracker. Top drawer cooking. Bit of an insult really but i asked if the Samosas were bought in. Thankfully it was a straightforward no.
Other dishes sampled, Tandoori Broccoli, unusual but very nice and a tremendous Onion Bhajia. I should add the 5th member of our group was an infant so was otherwise engaged playing with his cars/Marvel characters/iPad and therefore too busy to try the Coriander Prawns.
In between the starters and main course our foursome discussed the owner, or more so his likeness to the guy that ran the dental practice next door. The youngster was tearing up and down as innocent children do, somehow avoiding all things hot and dangerous by an inch or so either way. My SIL finally plucked up the nerve to ask the owner – cum – waiter if he was actually feeding you in the evening and then removing your teeth the following day. It turns out she was spot on. Okay he wasn’t the teeth removing commander, but he was the operations manager. 10 out of 10 for observation to the birthday girl.
We explained exactly why we were there and in generous fashion our host offered up a drink to our slightly tipsy reveller. Joking, although she does love a tipple so maybe not, Maisie said …”Ah just leave the bottle “…..smiling, the perfect unfazed response from our food provider was simply to hand over what remained of the half full bottle. The birthday girl looked as though she had been handed the alcoholic equivalent to a box of ferrero Rochers. We didn’t abuse the offer however, generous though it was.
In turn while awaiting our food, our generous patron introduced himself properly and went on to explain why a combination of boredom and his passion for cooking, had brought him to this moment. Taught by his mother, ( mums are the best aren’t they ), he had in many ways fulfilled a family dream. Maybe not in the perfect location but we all have to start somewhere right!… and as he spoke you could actually feel that drive to succeed. Certainly if the first dishes were anything to go by the cooking classes had been worth it.
With our little chap seated and focused on his chicken and rice I got deep down and dirty into my Chicken Methi. Fare play! This was seriously good food. As Del Boy might have said, Bonnay De Douche!.. The chicken wasn’t dry at all and the dish itself again wasn’t swimming in oil, like you do find now and again. GB, forever the expansive palate chose the Smoked Chicken Curry. Again no sign of the chook swimming in murky oils. Awesome. A hint of smokiness, and a wet sauce but not so much that the star attraction is lost in flavour. A pretty damn fine SCC then.
My BIL ( brother – in – law ), and might I add a top banana went for the Chilli Chicken, with its own heat warning. I won’t say he was disappointed at the lack heat, and as a dish there were no complaints but he was fictionally shocked at my lack of being able to type fractionally!.. Let’s start that sentence again. He was fractionally, not fictionally, surprised that the meal wasn’t burning a hole in his tongue. It was hot though. Trust me I had a try and it didn’t seem at all mild. Then again my definition of mild and his are worlds apart. I define mild as a walk in a park on a lukewarm day. His competitive edge sees benign as twenty laps round Silverstone on a racing bike with no safety gear while eating a Strawberry Split. Don’t know what a SS is? Google nostalgic ice lollies. It was vanilla ice cream coated in a strawberry flavoured ice shell. Top bombing! And Mini Milks, you had to love a mini milk.
Back to the present day, and birthday girl was tucking into her Chicken Tikka. The Chicken was neither dry nor hot which for a girl who normally has a Korma was a blessing. It was spiced well and had great flavour to it. I had to sample it for safety purposes. She even had a little bash on my Methi. It’s the beginners winner I’m telling you! The side dishes were all adequate and complemented the food well. Big high five for the Jeera Potatoes ( tossed in Cumin Seeds ), and GB gave a plaster covered thumbs up to her Chana Masala. By the finish we were all humbly full to the hilt.
I’m not going to tell you Lot porkies by saying we had desserts. We didn’t. My experience of Indian desserts is that they are basically a screwball under another guise or called Pengu and look like a child’s toy. It may have been different here but the truth is we didn’t get to try them. We were more than happy with our intake. Even the nipper was quiet. This may have been due to him being told off for somehow managing to kick the toilet door open while I was in there but luckily no – one other than the owner, three chefs, and a table full of customers saw my embarrassment. Could have been worse, could have been his mum!
Bill paid, or at least I wish he had. The meal with drinks was very reasonable. I would say if you live on the Riviera this is possibly the best place to sample some Indian delights. If you don’t live on the riviera then take some time out and make the journey. The food was that good.
That’s my take on 10 Dining!
Next up, Spoil Yourself Sunday in Hampshire, or was it Dorset ? … I’m off to google Hursley. Catch you all later hopefully.
Two other things before I go.
1. I made some cracking meatballs the other day. Why am I sharing this? Mainly because I’m a dreadful cook and so I was pleasantly surprised at the end result. Thank you Jamie Oliver for the recipe.
2. A cowboy walks into town wearing a paper hat, paper trousers, paper shirt and paper boots. He was arrested and slung in jail. But why?… Answer on the next blog!