The fifth day in London began (after a stop at the market for a “Scotch egg”) with a visit to Portobello Market and then went to Parliament to watch the debates before meeting with counterparts in the House of Commons. My only complaint is that I was unable to find a single station that showed the final game of Stanley Cup to watch my Blackhawks prevail over the Lightnings. Worse yet, two stations showed dart competitions again. Darts. Despite their artistic, political, and legal contributions of the world, England remains a terribly backward people when it comes to supports. First there is that “football” misunderstanding and then they show dart rather than hockey competitions. Nevertheless, I went on computer to check the results. If you listened hard in London, you could hear a cheer from near the top of the Shard early in the morning.
Portobello Road has been a market since the 1800s and has an assortment of antique stores. It is a welcomed alternative to the plague of cheap teeshirt and tourist junk shops that mar virtually every street in Zone 1 and 2. I will be returning the high morning to continue the hunt for gifts for the kids. I am committed to avoiding the shops that sell the same cheap tourist knick knacks. This is also a pretty area along Notting Hill Gate.
From Portobello, I went to Parliament to sit in the “Stranger’s Gallery” and watch debates in best the House of Lords and House of Commons. This building is one of the most magnificent in the world and the two chambers are breathtaking in their beauty, particularly the House of Lords. Throughout the Palace, impeccably dressed men assist tourists with tremendous patience and cheer. Indeed, I am into my fifth day and have yet to meet a single Londoner who was not incredibly friendly and helpful. The members were debating aspects of the European Union controversy. It was fascinating to watch.
After meeting with the legal counsel in the House of Commons and having a wonderful meeting with staff members on both the House of Commons and House of Lords, I went back to Notting Gate Road in my ongoing search for the best Indian food in London. I had read many reviews listing Chakra Restaurant as the best curry house in London. I was therefore eager to experience the place. Unfortunately, I was underwhelmed. Indeed, I cannot imagine how in a city with such incredible Indian restaurants, Chakra would be given so many stars.
First, service was dreadful. The manager on the phone barely described how to get to the restaurant and I had to figure it out myself. When I arrived, I was the only customer in a well-appointed room. However, the door to the busy room was left open that so you were left to eat a few feet from the bustling and beeping road. I could not figure out why they did not simply close the door. Then I had to ask the manager for a beer and water. (When two couples arrived they also had to ask to be served). Indeed, the best person in the restaurant was a woman who had only been working there for two days and seemed genuinely interested in the customers. It did not help. The manager forgot about the appetizer and they served the main dish. When I finished the main dish, I reminded the waitress about the appetizer which then arrived twenty minutes after I finished my entre. No one apologized and seemed at all concerned. In addition, when friends of the manager arrived, there was a wonderful moment when after hugging them, he took them into the back of the hotel because the area the use of us had been placed “was too noisy” due to the street (and the still open door).
What was interesting is that when I asked the manager what was particularly good at the restaurant, he seemed stumped by the question and said it was all good. When I pressed him, he repeated that everything was good. I understand the confidence but this is literally the first time that I have gone to an Indian restaurant without a couple signature dishes. When I asked about the emphasis of the cuisine, I was told simply it was a “mix.” (Notably, the two couples also asked for suggestions and were told that they were all good). I would think that this standard question would have a slightly more helpful and specific answer.
Despite the lack of service, I was still looking forward to the food. I am far more interested in the food than the ambience or service. That is why I was so disappointed. On the positive side, they served a nice amuse-bouche as an hors d’œuvre. Then, my entrée was quite good. I ordered one of my lamb dishes: Saag gosht. The lamb was tender and there were nice flavors in the dish. When my vegetarian samosa however arrived after the entre, it was bland and lacked the type of fresh and flavorful elements associated with top Indian restaurants. If you are in the neighborhood, this is still a good choice for lunch or dinner but there is clearly better Indian good found in many other restaurants in London. Indeed, a more interesting and flavorful option is found at the Taste of Nawab discussed yesterday.
It is with great regret that I leave tomorrow but I hope to get in a couple more sites before jumping on the plane at Heathrow.