Day Four in London captured the wonderful diversity of London. We began at the lively flea markets of Camden and then went to see the antiquities of the renowned British Museum. Along the way was some great meals and we met some even greater people.
The Camden market near the Camden Lock has been a major draw for the city every Sunday for decades. In the winding and interconnected stalls are crafts, clothing, bric-a-brac, and sundry items. We started with the help of another wonderful Londoner. The Tube employees are incredibly helpful and knowledgeable. When we asked one employee about a good place for fish and chips in the area, he immediately found a map and drew circles around six recommended places within a ten minute walk. He then got on his cell phone and searched for his favorite but then said that it was closed. He would have researched all six if we did not stop him out of guilt in turning him into our personal Tube concierge. However, he was the perfect example of what we have found everywhere in London: incredibly warm and helpful people from strangers on the street to city employees to police. We proceeded to the market which has businesses with oversized items identifying their wares on their facades. You can spend hours just people watching from Sid Vicious lookalikes to proper gents walking mastiffs. Here are a few pictures:
We then went to the British Museum where we spent most of the day. The Egyptian collection is of course extraordinary though I took particular interest in the Assyrian collection which came from Mosul. Had these pieces not been removed, they would have been destroyed by ISIS. The pieces captured the huge loss to these extremists who want to destroy all art and history that does not worship Allah or the teachings of Islam. It is ironic that the premise of Lord Elgin in taking the famed Elgin Marbles from Greece could be viewed as vindicated on some level by the ISIS destruction of whole ancient cities and museum collections.
We saw the Rosetta Stone, the Marbles, and other highlights. This included the famed Lindow man who was found in a bog in Northwest England. He died between 2 BC and AD 119 at about 25 years of age. Extensive testing shows that he was struck on the top of his head twice with a heavy object like an axe and given a vicious blow in the back that broke one of his ribs. He also had a thin cord tied around his neck which may have been used to strangle him and break his neck. After death, his throat was cut.
We had lunch in the restaurant at the top of the great hall, which was actually pretty good, including a fairly good Spanish wine featured with lunch. The audio tour guide is excellent and admission is free.
After a brief return to the hotel, we then went across town to try a neighborhood Indian restaurant (which is called a “curry house” here). I had read some intriguing things about the restaurant and wanted to try it out after hitting some of the more traditional places in the Central London. “Taste of Nawab” is a bit of a hike in North London (we took a very expensive cab ride from the Shard of about 45 minutes only to have the owner tell us that we could take a double decker bus from the front of his restaurant to virtually the front of our hotel with our pre-paid oyster card).
We have been looking for authentic Indian food with a variety of different influences. We found it in this tiny restaurant buried away in a corner of London. It is truly tiny with just about eight tables. You do not come for the ambience. The television is blaring in the background and people come in and out for take out. When you walk in, you wonder what possessed you to trek this far for a place that looks like a Greyhound coffee shop. Then the food arrives and you thank your brilliant judgment.
Nawab (meaning “prince”) is a Bengali restaurant. While Leslie and I are avid Indian food fans, the Bengali restaurants are less common in our area so this was a particular treat. We were met by Abdul Rahman in the empty restaurant. (We made reservations by proved the only people there from 8:30 to 10:00). He is incredibly charming and shows the legendary Bengali generosity and attention for guests. There is a home feel to the restaurant. We stated with Papadum bread which is one of the few non-bengali elements (the Bengali prefer rice). However the bread is used to consume started sauces including an addictive Nawab sauce that is the specialty of the restaurant. They consumed all of the bread and Nawab mashano (an assortment plate) with an Indian beer made in London called Cobra that is very very good. The samosa — one of my favorite Indian dishes — was very different in appearance with phyllo and looked more like a spanakopita. The Burmese-style samosa is often triangular like this with the thin dough. My understanding is that the West Bengali cooks make shingaras much like the samosas. Frankly, I prefer the more traditional samosa but the filing was another wonderful mixed of meat and spices).
For dinner we had Saag bhaji, which is a spinach dish which was the hit of the evening. It was awesome with unique spices and done perfectly. We also have Korai lamb which had spices that I had never encountered — hot and yet almost a non-sweet chocolate taste. It was outstanding. We also had Kasha muruge masala (chicken). The spices and favors were complex and seemed to evolve and change. We were stuffed and loved it all. It was a truly different cuisine option for those looking for new Indian approaches. My only suggestions is that the rice was not particularly flavorful and the Nan (garlic) bread was incredibly tasty but a bit too oily. For those (like us) trying different Indian restaurants in London (famous of its curry houses), this is a very good option. It is worth the trip.
After finishing, Abdul walked us across the street and offered to stand and wait while we sat in the restaurant to avoid getting cold. We declined but it was an example of his approach to service. He even offered to run back and give us a container of the Nawab cause and bread for our journey. We again declined since we could not finish all of the ample dinner that he laid before us. We rode back stuffed on the top of a double decker bus. This is a very affordable and creative Indian restaurant for those with an adventurous bent to voyage outside of the confines of Londontown and the more conventional curry houses.