By Cat McGovern
As the weather turns somewhat bleak and horrid, generally the only solution for this plight is to comfort myself with big bowls of sauce-laden curry, and that’s what I am going to be doing this evening, via the medium of Sheba on Brick Lane.
I rarely come to Brick Lane, as I am more of a fan of the West than the East, but as it’s desperately cold and miserable today, I don’t mind the trek. I tried to go to curry houses here when I was a wee nipper and it made me break out in a cold sweat. The choices on offer are endless and when picking my restaurant destination, I want it to be good and I don’t want to be ripped off. This is probably why I haven’t returned. The experience was so dizzying that, in the end, I settled for an uncomplicated falafel.
Stomping down Brick Lane to Sheba, I see that I’m a tad late. The tube sucks in rush hour and it makes my mood sour. Reaching Sheba, a terribly friendly man asks if I am dining here this evening, to which I nod, and he guides me into a warm and friendly vibe. Our press dinner is situated at the front, giving me a great view of both the restaurant’s orange hue and the active cobbled street outside. The three other girls, who arrived on time (eek!), have already tucked into some poppadoms. They offer me some. As I’ve been looking forward to this all day, I break off a piece and dollop various chutneys onto my plate.
I find it surprising that Sheba is becoming quite busy, as we wait for our fifth guest. One of the staff mentions that it was busier yesterday and that it’s not that busy at the moment. Confused yet simultaneously impressed by his statement, we all have a girlie chat amongst ourselves and take a peak at the menu. It’s impressive, to say the least and Charlie, our host for the evening, says that the chef is going to cook a selection of their best dishes. I breathe a sigh of relief as the six jammed packed pages are quite daunting.
Nick, our fifth attendee arrives and plonks himself down. He has a tough evening ahead of him because when any four girls get together, endless nattering will ensue. We all discuss various bars and restaurants we’ve been to and interesting places around London. The topic of the ‘Taste’ events comes up, so feeling boisterous and opinionated, I add that I was disappointed with ‘Taste of Christmas’ last year and that the ludicrous ‘Crowns’ currency they use is absurd. Charlie mentions she did the PR for ‘Taste’. Argh! Nightmare! Well done Cat for dissing their client. Yikes!
Thankfully, just in time, the starters arrive, and they look mighty. We have onion bhajis the size of tennis balls and grand vegetable samosas. I don’t think I have ever seen bhajis this large, but my God they are good, as are the gargantuan samosas.
With a small pause for a spot of Sauvignon Blanc, (we’re girls, we’re not going to guzzle beer) the mains come piling out. A grand total of ten, including the rice and naan bread, and we all look at each other and wonder how we are going to get through this feast. The main attraction is the lamb shank - Sheba is the only place on Brick Lane that serves it - which seems odd to me as lamb shank is a wonderful dish. It doesn’t fail the taste test either. We all agree that it is beautifully cooked, as the meat literally falls off the bone and we can see why it is their best seller. Spooning all the different curries on my plate, I know it’s going to be a challenge to get through this, but I am most certainly willing to try. The king prawn Malabar, which has a strong coconut sauce, is my favourite of the night. The Lobster Bengal Special and Haryali Chicken are worth a special mention too.
Eventually we all groan, rub our tummies, and feel it’s time to leave. I have a little chat with the guys outside, who say that Sheba, a family run business, has been around for 35 years. I like this, and this passion and dedication for their restaurant is shown in the service and fantastic food. He hands me a card for the London Restaurant Festival and states that it’s the only restaurant on Brick Lane that’s involved with it. I study the card, pull up Fluid London on my phone, and immediately book a table, thinking that perhaps East isn’t all that bad.