Book Review : The Indian Cafe in London

Book Review : The Indian Cafe in London

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Have you watched the process of cooking biryani, the ultimate Indian delicacy? The meat is spiced, there are often potatoes and boiled eggs to add to the taste and light, flavourful rice to balance the umami. The way these components are layered with one another and cooked, covered on slow fire, pretty much sum up the layers in The Indian Café in London.

Plying between Delhi and London, the stories of Puru, Akhil and Jamila merge seamlessly into the main plot. Puru, now an old soul, is yearning in London for his long lost family in Delhi; there is quite a bit of deceit, love, drama and family complexities involved in his story. Jamila toils away in a cooking academy in the same city, willfully away from her family in Delhi as she couldn’t stand the loss of her Abbu in war. Akhil strives to move away from his father, General Khanna and from Delhi to London to pursue his dreams of turning into a chef. There are intense and beautiful characters like Bebe and Khanu, acting as the spices and flavours that amalgamate the story into a delectable dish.

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Veena has prepared her recipe of the story in almost correct proportions. I would say ‘almost,’ since the ingredients of Akhil’s narrative have sometimes overpowered the entire story. And yet, Akhil is the most carefully cooked ingredient in this multi-layered story. His relationships with Khanu and Ustaad are a delight to read, whilst that with his father is strenuous. I would have loved to have read more about Puru and his past, but that story needed a little more of the gravy. Jamila needed a little more attention too, in her own right. The parts in Akhil’s journals with recipes are tad dry to go through, but they would make for a good collection of recipes, trivia and kitchen tips. While the book does not exactly illustrate the struggles of Indian immigrants in London, there are elements that tug at a few strings in the reader’s heart.

Overall, this is a well cooked biryani with distinct Indian flavours and is palatable to everyone.

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