Saturday, June 05, 2010

Revelations From The New Silence

Revelations From The New Silence
Volume 1
Wholeness And The Implicate Order
Kovo CDR-051

Revelations From The New Silence
Volume 2
The Scalar Temple
Kovo CDR-052

Originally conceived as a meeting place for civil servants of the recently formed Indian nation The India Club now proves to be one of the cheapest and best curry houses in central London. Tucked away up a flight of narrow stairs on the Strand, the main dining room looks as if little has changed since it opened in the late 1940’s. Formica topped tables, odd chairs, pictures of Ghandi and window frames that have seen more than their fair share of Dulux one coat gloss make this as near to an Indian eating experience as you are likely to get without visiting Dehli. The menu is ‘veg’ and ‘non veg’ as are all true Indian menu’s, the prices are cheap, the waiters all have wobbly heads, you can bring your own beer or you can nip downstairs to the bar and buy bottled beers for reasonable prices. When I first came here about ten years ago the bar was run by an old lady called Doris who looked like she had become one with the tatty surroundings, sadly she’s been replaced by a young girl of eastern European descent but at least she now presides over a bar that has seen the tatty wing-backed leather chairs replaced with something that wouldn’t put a tear in your best slacks.
AA Gill once ate here and described the deep fried chillies as worth the trek alone. I once ate a plateful and thought my tongue was dissolving. This was after bumping into Gary Simmons in the Tate Modern resulting in an impromptu afternoon session in the Bath House in Soho. Tonights food was as good as you get in Bradford which is the highest compliment I can give an Indian Restaurant. It was nearly as good as what I’ve eaten in India but with eating in India you have the ambience and the added delight of running the gauntlet that is a bacterial infection. At least the toilets in the India Club have improved. Initial visits involved venting the bladder in a urinal with walls no further than two and a half feet apart.  It must have been the only toilet in London that you had to reverse out of.
The menu contains all the usual fare but with added mysteries like Uppuma, a semolina dish that can contain every vegetable under the sun depending on your mood but here comes with coconut, which Indians usually eat for breakfast, but the Indian Club doesn’t do breakfast, just lunch and dinner with dinner having last orders at the unusual time of 10.50pm. There are other rarities too including lemon pickle, Rasam [tomato soup], tomato omelet [?], egg curry, dahi vada [deep fried dall balls served with yoghurt] and those incendiary chilli bhajas. My lamb bhuna was excellent but what else we had is lost in a haze of beer. It was just like being in Bradford in the early 80’s, half cut, a waiter stood in front of you memorizing the orders of six different drunks without the aid of pen or paper and delivering it all without fault.
Corrigans in Mayfair is at the other end of the spectrum but equally worth your time and money. For those of you who judge a restaurant on its ability to stuff your gut at least cost Corrigans isn’t for you. I parted with the best part of £200 for dinner and if that figure makes you wince then I suggest you stick to making toast.
This was my first experience of fine dining and I must admit to being a little nervous. Maybe I should wear a tie? Maybe I wont be able to understand the wine list? What if the place is full of moneyed upper middle class posh bastards who’ll look down on us and will be able to tell instantly by our dress and brogue that we’re Northerners who got lost? I made only two gaffs. I ordered main courses assuming vegetables would accompany it but of course they don’t and I had a whisky as an aperitif. Not exactly a big a social gaffe say as necking wine from the bottle but the waiter did give me a funny look. After ordering our meal I almost shouted the waiter back saying he hand’t asked us about the wine but then thats the sommeliers job and he appeared soon after all efficient in blue apron accommodating my clumsy pronunciation [‘reezling’ or ‘rizling’ I never know which is which]. A close call. Then it all started, pure theatre. Amouse bouches that were deep fried olives stuffed with feta cheese, tiny cakes of deep fried bread covered in paprika. All heavenly. Then there was bread that tasted like chocolate. Starters were risotto, Mrs. Fisher with pea and mint and me with eel. Main courses of wild Irish salmon with Jersey Royals washed down with a superb Alsace Riesling. Puddings were vanilla ice cream with prunes marinated in Armagnac and all of it was a delight.
We went back last week for lunch. They’re doing a mid week lunch deal with three courses and a carafe of wine for £27 and if that price sticks in your craw then theres no hope. The French maitre d’ was just as hospitable, the receptionist equally so and with a smile that would have put a Colgate ad to shame. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an impressive set of teeth. The room was just as elegant in its understated art deco way and the food just as sublime. Being waited on hand and foot in such impressive surroundings is something that needs to be done. If the highlight of you dining out experience extends to Greggs then you are seriously missing out.
This time I ordered an Amontillado for aperitif. It did the job better than a whisky. The amuse bouche’s also did their job. The fish pie was incredible in its simplicity. When we both ordered the fish pie the Maitre d’ leant into me and whispered in a confiding way ‘the fish pie arnd the steak arnd kidney pie ur chefs favoreets’ and when it came to puddings and finding ourselves spoilt for choice he said nonchantly ‘eets a bank erliday so there eez no rush, I weel kerm back later’. It was all I could do to stop myself standing up and singing the Marseillaise. I wanted him to be my friend. I wanted to take him out for a drink and ask him why it is that in a country where for years the food was rightly derided the world over we now have chefs and restaurants that are capable of holding Michelin stars. Its hard to convey how welcoming a place Corrigans really is. I should never have felt intimidated that first time around but with hindsight maybe I shouldn’t have had the whisky, especially as how I finished off with one too.

All this apropos of nothing really. I’ve been listening to these two disc for days now and they wash over me with all the simplicity of a refreshing shower after a hot day. What made this such a weird package to receive though is described as follows; about ten or fifteen years ago I was put in touch with an American named Anthony Washburn [I think that was his name?] he ran a label of drone like proportions called Wholeness Recordings and released material of his own work under the name The Implicit Order. I submitted a track of my own humble work for consideration on a compilation he was collating and then heard nothing. Until a few weeks ago when I received a link to a site where said comp has been posted as a download. Listening to what I was up to all those years ago was slightly embarrassing what with me being a naive and unversed soul with a four track and too much beer in the house, but it was fun to hear it again.  Then these two discs appeared. I haven’t begun my investigations yet but the coincidence is remarkable. What is also remarkable is that Lea Cummings who once wielded an axe in Opaque and has made quite a name for himself with his one man noise terrorist act Kylie Minoise has now released two excellent drone albums. These works are more in the continental drift mould. Slowly shifting motifs of held down keys underpinned with ever so slightly oscillating motes of dust. A scared female wanders a house in a sci-fi film where you just now something awful is about to happen. You get the idea. If you told me these were snippets of La Monte Young’s longer works I wouldn’t have argued with you. Each track emerges like a distant vista in widescreen, the sun beating down melting your eyes. There is the odd track that ventures into more rhythmic, pulsing territory [The Third Coming on Volume One, The Pathway To Surrender on Volume Two] but I’ll remember these two releases for their ability to rinse away stress and for the fact that Lea Cummings has once more gone up in my estimation.

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