Archive for October, 2009

The Verdict – Light of India Tandoori, Exeter


Ravi Shankar - lovely








Following the unequivocal success of The Ghandi in Dr Naan, the follow up was always going to be tough. Initially, we were unanimous in our opinion that a middle of the road establishment was required for our second review; somewhere which wouldn’t result in disappointment, but which would preserve Exeter’s finest curry houses for later rounds such as A View Tika Kill and Octobhuna. However, things quickly change after a few pints of real ale, and as our eyes scrutinised the list of eager suitors, we developed a thirst for something horrific and it became clear that “the one opposite Fast Eddie’s Takeaway” would be our next venue. With expectations lower than Dawn French’s knockers, we piled into Robbo’s car and headed into the unknown.


Approximately 5 minutes drive from the centre of town in the Heavitree district and positioned just back from the main road. In its favour: shed loads of nearby homes, presumably containing people who eat, so no excuses for a lack of turn out. The case against: even if the Light of India was a full scale replica of the Taj Mahal, it would still have to contend with being opposite Fast Eddie’s, a shit hole of unspeakable proportions, boasting culinary delights such as “hot chicken”. I can only hope and assume that the “fast” is a reference to Eddie’s capacity for the service of food, rather than anything else but were this not to be the case, I wouldn’t be surprised. An honourable mention should also go to “The Royal Bengal” adjoining Fast Eddie’s, being yet another tawdry take away joint whose front window contains images of flames and large cats. Ace. Overall mark: 3/10.

Date Potential

It might be a good time to consult our notes from the time: “no music, no people, zero atmosphere, three waiters (oldest one looks like an Indian Jimmy Krankie), two chandeliers, fake wood air conditioning unit, unable to locate the end of the carpet and the start of the wallpaper -woeful.” If I had to summarise the feel of the place in one word, it would be death. I’m no dating expert, but I don’t think that’s going to get you laid. Overall mark: 2/10.

James Bond Relevance

Without doubt, the highlight of the evening. Admittedly, performance in this category was looking dire for the second week in the row. As expected, Paul suggested that all of the waiters looked like Nick Nack, and – again – this was dismissed as tenuous and possibly racist. Even less credible, was Paul’s remark that there may be a resemblance between one of the younger waiters and the golfer Vijay Singh, who he claimed appeared in Octopussy. Following a steward’s enquiry (i.e. Wikipedia), it was revealed that an obscure tennis player called Vijay appeared in Octopussy, playing to type as a tennis coach (see Bond’s line, “well, my backhand’s improved”), but not the celebrated golfer. Just as we were losing all hope, Robbo spied a small piece of card advertising an Indian beer called “Lal Toofan”, lurking at the far end of the table beneath a vase containing a fake flower. The flyer comprised a humorous cartoon image of a heavily sweating Indian couple clasping a pint in a desert; the humour being derived from the man’s pencil thin moustache, wavy hair and a startled facial expression akin to the type imaginable on a young adolescent reading / reviewing his first jazz mag. After a minute’s reflection, it twigged that the Indian gent was the spitting image of Timothy Dalton in Hot Fuzz, save for the follicle differences and obscene sweating. What’s more, I’ve found a link to the flyer so you can all enjoy this landmark in the world of surreal advertisement http://www.lwc-drinks.co.uk/brands.html (skip down to Lal Toofan poster). Overall mark: 8/10.

Friendliness of Staff

A tip for all who are on the doll: sign up as a waiter at an Indian restaurant. Forget the fact that you’re not Indian and won’t get the job, just go with me on this. No matter how bad the economy, how empty the restaurant, you will always see at least three waiters in each restaurant: 100% job security. The Light of India adhered to this rule, except that because we were the only people in the place, the staff clearly wanted to give everyone a bit of action so we had the pleasure of being served by each waiter. The one resembling Jimmy Krankie wore a pained expression, as if held in the grips of a severe depression and failed to put forward any conversation. The second waiter was similar to Jimmy in the mute stakes, although mention must be made of his unorthodox method of serving rice, quickly elevating the plate of rice into a vertical position before banging it down on the serving dish with murderous intent. If it hasn’t happened already, it won’t be long before he gives an OAP a heart attack. The third and final waiter was a treat. He was a dashing young man with a constant smile and infectious enthusiasm who charmed us all in seconds, not to the extent that we would sleep with him without alcohol being involved, but close. He even made a quip to do with Robbo’s watch, but in the glaring light of his pristine teeth, we can’t remember what was said. With his short unarranged mop, he bore an uncanny resemblance to Danny Cipriani, and was soon anointed Danny Biryani. Overall mark: 7/10.

Pint of Kingfisher

£3.25. Not cheap compared to a pint down your local, but less pricey than the Ghandi and well shy of the £5.90 charged for a large Perroni at Pizza Express.

Number of poppadom condiments

Weird. The traditional were present: mint sauce, mango chutney, onion salad and – thankfully – no filthy pickle. The curveball came in the form of a pouring jug (ordinarily reserved for dairy products – milk, pouring cream e.t.c.) containing the mint sauce. Cue a surreal image of 3 men in suits on a Friday night drinking pints while passing around a porcelain jug – rock and roll. 5/10.

Number of complimentary sweets

Possibly the Light’s best round. Three tasty chocolates wrapped in Ivory coloured wrapping paper with the restaurant’s name printed in gold type. No complaints, but when the bite size complimentary chocolates surpass the quality of the meal, one has to ask questions. Overall mark: 8.5/10.

Sex Face

While Paul and I lamented the lack of heat in our disappointing Rogan Josh and Balti, Robbo struggled with a biryani that emitted less heat than a choc ice. Several forkfuls in, sweat was clearly visible under his eyes and, as the meal continued, there was a brief outbreak of liquid on his forehead. A true professional, Robbo took a few slugs on his Kingfisher, mopped his brow and saw the Biryani off. Overall mark: 4/10

Quality of Food

A bit like a long haul flight: tolerable, but unpleasant. The Rogan Josh contained more than a hint of Lloyd Grossman sauce; the Balti was insipid and the biryani, despite Robbo’s issues with heat, packed bugger all in the flavour stakes. Further, the portions were child size and I devoured several packets of dry roasted peanuts at the pub during the post-mortem. James Bond rules state that I cannot unilaterally change a score once it has been decided by the panel, which is disappointing as on reflection, I would have given it 1/10. Overall mark: 5/10.

Example of the Indian Chef

Perhaps aware that any boastings of fine Indian cuisine could initiate a case of libel, the Light of India’s menu contained no surprises and was frankly unhelpful in its description of the dishes on offer. A shambles. Overall mark: 1/10.

Any other business

Date of next meeting to be confirmed. However, venue agreed as the Real India on South Street, Exeter next to the bridal shop. Probable name for said review: Thunderbalti. This does fly in the face of the chronological order of Bond films, but Goldfinger is not conducive to curry orientated word play.

Finally, we were given wiping towels at the end of the meal which we all agreed was a nice touch. Perhaps not a good idea for Robbo, though, who began sweating again following use.

Overall score: 4.83/10

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 “When Ray sings, music itself throws up. Not just a bit, like when you unexpectedly bring up half a gobful of baby sick and have to swallow it back down, but a lot. When Ray sings, music buckles in two, swings its jaws open and unleashes an unprecedented jet of acrid vomit. And it doesn’t stop vomiting until strips of stomach lining are hanging off its teeth and it’s spat its own ringpiece out like a hot rubber coin.”

– Charlie Brooker on Ray Quinn, X Factor runner-up 2006.

Life can be divided into two neat sections: before and after Big Brother 1, the moment when reality TV invaded the nation’s living rooms, and has remained there ever since like an undetected puddle of cat wee stagnating behind the DVD player. We have Big Brother to thank for cultural landmarks such as the sight of Keith Chegwin’s shrivelled jonson in The Naked Jungle, Paul Dannan’s career-ending of an ended-career in Love Island and – from the Big Brother archive itself – Kinga raping a poor wine bottle in BB6.

However the undoubted star of the reality stable has been the X Factor, an indestructible programme that seems to have occupied our screens for almost as long as Brucey, including its previous incarnation: Pop Idol. I’ll admit to having dabbled with the X Factor from time-to-time, much in the same way as many otherwise law-abiding citizens will smoke a reefer every once in a while. Prior to the experience described below, my memories of the show were neither favourable nor adverse, a shrug-of-the-shoulders nonchalance would be the first sensation that I would experience whenever the topic was raised in casual conversation.

This all changed on Sunday, my X Factor version of an alcoholic’s moment of clarity. Having watched the excellent first episode of BBC One’s Life on iPlayer, my casual channel-hopping led me to the scene of the crime, ITV – X Factor results night. Firstly, I was surprised it was being shown on a Sunday, as my memory told me that the entire show took place on a Saturday night. Fair enough, I thought, ITV’s not exactly a hot-bed of telly gold so I wasn’t going to begrudge them stringing it out over two nights. As I got settled, Dermot O’Leary appeared before my eyes, doing his usual inoffensive piece of presenting, and I noticed a seismic change in my mood. Whereas once I liked Dermot’s regular-but-slightly-geeky-guy shtick, I had become annoyed at his mere presence. Several second passed before I realised what it was: the skinny tie, a male fashion accessory only marginally less offensive than a Lyle & Scott jumper, or one of those cardigans with the Donnie Darko rabbit. Dermot, shame on you.

Once the anger had taken a hold, nothing could stop it. I was psychotic and vengeful with a thirst for violence. The judges – none of whom have ever done anything to offend me personally – became sinister representations of a culturally bankrupt society: Cheryl Cole, national treasure convicted of racial assault and married to a footballer with a penchant for mobile phone abuse; Dannii Minogue, a has-been piece of tail and unmitigated pop failure; Louis Walsh, a beady-eyed, rubber gnome whose sole contribution to the show is to look sad and say, “well, Dermot, it’s a very hard decision”; and – finally – Simon Cowell, the modest media mogul who calls his company Syco, apparently a play on his own name (but with the “y” replacing “i”, for obvious reasons), and a man who boosts a rack that wouldn’t look out of place in a copy of Razzle.

The performances for survival didn’t get much better, either. First up was scary female three piece outfit, Miss Frank. Not content with having the worst band name in history (at least Mystique made sense) they made a charge for worst band in history with some gash big-band number, which they tried to “make their own” with some cringe-worthy rapping (I say rap – it consisted of one member saying the same words over and over again at a speed slightly faster than traditional singing). Next was a pleasant looking chap called Danyl who it turned out could sing, but spoilt it by jumping around a lot and smiling nervously, as if he needed the bog really badly.

As the judges were asked for their verdicts, I turned to Clare and said, “watch Louis look upwards, roll his eyes, and say that it’s such a hard decision while not blinking”, before he duly obliged, in pantomime fashion. Such a prediction would normally have provoked a smug reaction, but no smile formed and I instead felt hollow at the predictability of it all, a sensation that was heightened when Simon began speaking, his eyes dead like a zombie and his mouth offering tried and tested comments, the sign of someone desperate to be elsewhere. I then realised that this was the problem with the X Factor: it has become a cliché: the Big Momma with the best voice who never wins; the crap band who stay in long after the joke ceased being funny; the boy and girl who look like they should be in Hollyoaks; the precocious youngster which makes Cheryl/Sharon cry. Simon and Louis have seen them all. Enough is enough. It’s time for change and we – together – can make Saturday night TV a better place and put a smile back on Simon’s leathery face. Here are some of my suggestions.

1. “The X & Y Factor” – the show controversially ditches singing in favour of biological debate. Kinga makes a guest appearance as the chairman, leading the mixed panel of judges and contestants through a history of genetic exploration. Chico returns to make a surprisingly moving speech on how we – the human race – should be wary of playing god through science, before flashing his pecs victoriously and shouting “Its Chico time!” Critics the world over rejoice.

2. “The A Bomb Factor” – topical one-off special designed to raise nuclear awareness across the globe. Each contestant is asked to sing a song in some way relevant to the issue. Guest act, The Cheeky Girls, kick things off with a playful nod to their past, “Touch My Bomb” before the contestants reel off a string of covers, including “Sex Bomb”, “Mr Bombastic” and “Mardy Bomb”.

3. “The Max Factor” – back stage, the remaining boys have their members touched up with expensive foundation by a Hollywood make-up artist. As the show starts, they are forced to stand behind comedy cardboard cut-outs, each with a special hole through which they dangle their stylised equipment for the panel’s approval. Cue much laughter and Carry-On gags.

4. “Factor Ten” – For the show’s grand finale, the contestants are whisked off to Death Valley in the height of the American summer. Each is forced to sunbathe wearing five pairs of jeans and a puffa jacket, protected only by an Asda own-brand suncream. Last one left alive wins.

Anyway, just ideas at this stage but I think some of them have legs, which gives me an idea for a bad taste spoof called The X Ray Factor, but I think I should stop there.

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