I'm back. First, you may remember that I had that awful bitter taste thing going on in my mouth after eating a packet of rancid Chinese pine nuts, and frankly, as the taste lasted over a week, I just wasn't in the mood for writing anything about food, let alone even thinking about it. It was as if I was constantly licking my tongue against an aluminium panel. Secondly, my modem decided to finally give up the ghost, so I was offline for a few days, and peace and harmony reigned supreme.
But last week, my taste buds had recovered enough to revisit that former favourite: Khan's, the Indian restaurant in Bayswater. In the event, this became an irrelevance, as all we encountered was bland food and, frankly, pretty rude service.
Khan's was founded, I think, in 1977. My father used to work for an advertising agency around the corner, and I remember being taken there to admire the murals and palm tree columns holding up the ceiling. That's about the only good thing about the restaurant- it used to be a Jo Lyons Corner House- and the ghosts of tea-time orchestras, walnut cake and waitresses with starched pinafores still linger; at least, to those of us with over-active imaginations.
And the first impressions of Khan's are still good, even if it is a paper napkin sort of place. Waiters in white jackets bustle around in Italian style, the palm trees give off a whiff of the Raj, and the murals are still there- if now repainted in a kitsch turquoise and beige.
We were shown to a rickety table. As the restaurant is Muslim owned, alcohol is now banned, so we ordered alcohol-free Cobras, which were surprisingly drinkable- even if alcohol-free beer is a confusing paradox in itself. Service was erratic. The beers arrived and were handed to us, as if- God forbid- we were at some sort of Antipodean barbeque.
Poppadoms and chutneys arrived on time. The Poppadoms came, I guess, straight from the packet, and the chutneys were boring, thin and unappealing, though the lime pickle tasted all right, and had probably been made in house. I ordered a "Meat" Madras, and a mushroom side dish. The "meat" came in small grey lumps (dyed orange by the sauce) and looked suspiciously processed. The Girl had some sort of chicken thing with radioactive rice (I'm almost falling asleep as I write this). And when the waiter finally brought himself to bring it to us, he spent the whole time chatting away to the people on the next table as he dumped it all on ours. Don't think he could be bothered to look us in the eye once. Enough! Frankly, the whole place was such a yawn, I can't even be bothered to write about it anymore.
And it's a great shame, as Khan's could, indeed, be excellent. The space is potentially fantastic, and has oodles of character. I like the bustling brasserie-like atmosphere, and the look of the waiters in their smart white jackets and black trousers. If you sacked the head chef, and gave the waiters each a copy of "How to Win Friends and Influence People", courtesy of Dale Breckenridge Carnegie, Khan's could be a great destination restaurant. Currently, it's not.
And one last word on the subject: Khan's has an irritatingly slick and self-indulgent website, in which they suggest, I quote: "I suppose its (sic) fair to say that Khan's of Westbourne Grove, W2, is probably the most famous Indian restaurant in London." Ever heard of The Veeraswamy, chaps? The Bombay Brasserie? Or Chutney Mary?
Image by Kake Pugh via Flickr