I’ve no idea what a Pilgrim’s annual mileage was, but as I battled with Canterbury’s early evening traffic my empathy for them was the only thing flowing around the ring road. Fortunately the Promised Land awaiting me in North Lane drove me onwards. I had one goal: curry. More precisely, the curries, nectars and assorted paraphernalia created by the Ancient Raj chefs. I use the term ‘chefs’ loosely, as ‘gods’ could easily replace it. We’d been lucky enough to eat here a fortnight earlier at the behest of two lovely friends. On that glorious evening the Cobras bit hard, and as such I wondered the next day whether I’d imagined the whole thing. Could it have been that good? Every dish on the money. Excellent service. Great value. There was only one way to find out – I rebooked. As we all know only too well, things are never as good as the first time, so, as we crossed their low-beamed threshold, I prayed that a little cumin-covered miracle might come our way. It did, in the quite unexpected form of a pianist. Now if I was picking an accompaniment to curry there’s a fair chance it would be cold and alcoholic not warm and melodic, but, rather surprisingly, the music hit the spot too, adding another layer to our remarkable experience in the process. We chomped our way, 4:4 time, through flawless papadams that lay happily beneath the customary trinity of chutneys, but which jostled to be smothered in the seldom-seen coconut one (a rose-tinted favourite I discovered 25 years ago in a South Norwood curry house). We quickly dismantled an entire pot of this ruddy ambrosia before running headlong into the mains. I basked in the Duck Xacuti (breast of Barbary duck in a harmonious massala sauce flavoured with star anise, fenugreek, chilli and coconut), which was one of the loveliest things I’ve tasted in ages. My recently vegetarianized wife (I know) picked out the vegetable biryani and was very glad she did so. We also enjoyed the peshwari nan, special rice, saag paneer and some onion bhajis, all of which left us both more than happy. They quickly cleared our dishes away and returned with the dessert menu. Never being one to waste space on such trivial things, I returned to the menu proper and ran an accumulating finger over the lines. There were still ninety or so dishes that I hadn’t yet tried. Hmmm. There was only one thing for it, I thanked God for capacity and ordered lots more. So why not trek on over and catch up on this pilgrim’s progress, I could be here a while.
25-26 North Lane, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7EE, 01227 455882.