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Food and Travel: Global fusion: Not ‘confusion’ food!

I WAS an early customer when Soprano’s Restaurant initially opened its doors to a public widely expecting a bathroom showroom or tile emporium in the new premises three or four years ago!

I was dragged there, by no means reluctantly, by my friend the feisty red-headed Irene Hunt, wife of Nigel, daughter of the one and only Jimmy Cottingham, PhD (paper-hanging diploma!) for lunch on day two and was impressed by some fairly punchy strictly halaal food combinations in the Islamic-owned and operated restaurant.
I have admitted in writing before, in this column, reservations about “macon”: allegedly bacon made from beef! 
Macon and eggs or a fried egg-and-macon sandwich just doesn’t do it for me.
I much prefer the honest dishonesty of a Jewish golf club in British West Yorkshire which described the classic fry-up as “Kosher white beef and eggs!”    Rabbis and cantors loved the stuff. I often wondered what the celibate Carmelite priests and Jesuits got up to in the 19th hole at the Gentile course next door!
Regular readers will remember I am not averse to a toothful of alcohol with meals:  good and appropriate wine or, more usually a lager or three, so Soprano’s strictly Muslim “no booze on the property” policy ensured I would never be the most regular visitor to the restaurant in Argyle Road, Avondale.
I had heard it had changed hands, but was still halaal. Candidly not everything I heard about the new regime was gushing with praise. Regulars didn’t like how the price of a cappuccino soared to $2 a cup, to soon be reduced to $1 when said regulars gapped it to Vanilla Moon or other newcomer coffee shops nearby, in protest.
There is still some whingeing about new managements’ decision to close Mondays; a move I had totally forgotten about, which left me staring blankly at padlocked gates on Monday!
On Tuesday, though, I returned for lunch. Most of the waiters I remembered from previous visits…and they recalled me; so there was no chance there of composing an anonymous restaurant review.
A very charming and attractive Aarti Ranchod was meeting, greeting and seating. I forgot to ask if she were related to my chum, entrepreneur JR Ranchod, whose fingers are in a lot of commercial pies, including owning the Mazvikadeya Hotel, near Banket.
Some people have described “JR” as attractive and charming; others tell the truth!
If you thought the burka was an unattractive garment (now banned for security reasons throughout much of Europe) it certainly isn’t when worn by the new proprietrix of Soprano’s, Mozambican-born Ayesha Ahmed. I wish I’d been quick enough to get a picture of her as she chatted away animatedly in Portuguese to a client at the next table.
Having rather badly hurt my mouth in a road traffic incident (rather than accident) I was still ordering food very carefully and eating absolutely gingerly to avoid additional pain. (Almost bit though my tongue when the lady driving missed spotting a “sleeping policeman” traffic hump in deep shade –– so did I –– the car almost went into orbit!)
I thought an Italian-style pasta dish might be just the ticket, but eyes focused on Chinese chow mein.  (Did you know that Marco Polo took coriander from Italy to the Far East and brought the art of pasta making back, thereby altering the cuisines of both continents forever?)
I scanned a tempting-sounding list: muffins ($1), scones ($3) and fish and chips ($14) from the Disunited Kingdom; Italian colazione ($7), frittata ($5), penne or fusili ($10); American burgers ; Portuguese prego steak rolls –– beef at Soprano’s is usually first rate –– ($8) or piri-piri chicken ($12); Greek salad ($7); Indian or Pakistani curries ($10) or samoosas ($3); Chinese/Cantonese specialities; Bavarian Black Forest gateaux $4 and French/Swiss chocolate éclairs at $2.
You couldn’t get much more “fusion” than that.
Aarti explained that her “boss-ess” was wearing the traditional black burka, as we were in the month-long Moslem fast of Ramadan, between August 11 and September 9.
She also said it was some Hindu fast and between the two commemorations lay the explanation as to why Soprano’s was relatively quiet. I must take her word for it but, according to Professor Google, the Hindu feast/fast of Nag Panchami was August 14 and Indian Independence day on the 15th. I visited Soprano’s on the 17th!
I am sure I would have really loved the fairly authentic Cantonese chicken chow mein, if my jaw hadn’t hurt as if I’d done 15 punishing rounds with Langton Schoolboy.
I managed about two-thirds of it: slicing already small cubes of huku breast into minuscule strips and slurping noodles up on the “other side” of my face, while urgently downing pain-killers with sips of tea!
As “something” hit a raw and dangly bit of flesh I winced –– and simultaneously swore –– involuntarily, but so histrionically, that a toddler wandering past fled for his life, howling for mum!
Purely because they were soft, creamy and yielding (you understand) I ordered both the Black Forest gateaux and a light-as-air chocolate éclair, which I managed to slowly munch without scaring anyone!
When the inside of my face has fully healed and the outside’s back to being as normal as possible, I have promised myself  pork or lamb chops with crisp, crunchy crackling and/or a rack of sticky barbecued spare ribs, followed by oatmeal biscuits: instead of pappy baby-food!
The original severe pain has much abated but, tonight, I’ll ask a friendly local restaurateur to liquidise spaghetti Bolognaise…just in case!


Dusty Miller

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