‘You are 21 today.’ No, I’m not being congratulated on a milestone birthday – sadly that one passed me by oh-too-long ago – but it it is nonetheless a number of note. 21 marks the #EatUpCrew’s largest-ever multi-diner meal, and Anjappar‘s owner Mr. Vettri has done a headcount.
Forewarned is forearmed, and luckily the guys from British South Indians who picked up on the Twitter witter surrounding our last #EatUpCrew outing have briefed the East Ham branch of the Chettinad chain restaurant to predict a riot. Or at the very least, a massive motley crew; all of us as curious as we are hungry – and we’ve all arrived ravenous.
Attu nenjelumbu – mutton bone soup – is miles away from the bone broths beloved of Hackney hipsters; many miles further in style than the geographic distance between that East London neighbourhood and East Ham where we’re slurping up every last drop of spicy, salty, savoury soup. The flavour is extraordinary. This offers an embrace far sweeter than any of Bachelors’ insipid instant ‘hugs-in-mugs’ ever could.
But man – and indeed woman, for our group is a mixed bunch – cannot dine on soup alone, so, between us, we order almost everything on offer. Actually that’s a complete exaggeration. To say Anjappar’s menu is extensive is to describe the Mahabharata as ‘a slightly lengthy poem’. In short, it’s long. And, in keeping with classic Chettinad cuisine, it’s packed with fire and flavour.
So we opt for a bit of this, a bit of that, and way too much of everything. The thali-style single-person Special Virundhu would do for two, happily stretch to three, and effortlessly slays those of us foolhardy enough to order one apiece. An intrepid eat-upper offers a running commentary; ‘There’s mutton… There’s chicken… There’s fish…There’s biryani… There’s… there’s… just no more room left in my stomach!’
I pity those of our party who, through choice or culture, abstain from the pleasures of the flesh. Non-veg is what Anjappar does best. Meat’s a treat, fish dishes are fabulous, and eggs are excellent – both in my beautifully-buttery stuffed square paratha and a pepper fry that’s gone in sixty seconds.
Chicken 65 hangs around little longer – a stellar rendition of India’s own Southern fried chicken. Whether you buy into the theory that the titular figure comes from the chicken’s age in days, the amount of ingredients in the recipe, or dish’s original menu number, this spicy battered Chennai classic beats Colonel Sanders’ eleven-secret-herb-and-spice stuff hands down.
Having had my heart set on mutton brain or liver roast, I’m awfully sad offal’s off the menu this evening. Some of the wilder meats on Anjappar’s menu are offered instead and I’m game; but in light of the food that’s fast filling tables and stomachs, I opt to reserve the rabbit, quail and deer dishes for a return visit. After all, I’m already working my way through a great plate of nethili fry; the crisp-fried ladyfish proving to be the perfect partner to my unladylike Friday night pint.
Then The Spice Dad and I turn to the virunthu we’ve ordered between two. Like a certain Mr. Tribbiani in Friends, Zoe Doesn’t Share – but on this occasion, it would be sheer folly to attempt to do anything else. On arrival, the papad-and-chapati-topped collection of katoris on the leaf-shaped steel plate looks quite conquerable – but then a bowl of biryani is delivered. A big bowl; swiftly followed by similarly-sized vessels of kingfish in a terrific, tangy sauce, a dark, brooding and well-chillied chicken kurma, and golden-gravied hunks of melt-in-mouth mutton. It’s daunting, but deliciously so. With a pile of plain rice, various veg dishes, curd, and a sweet already on the tray, it’s over the top, and it’s under a tenner.
Even as we go to pay, payasam comes our way – evidently, Mr. Vettri won’t be happy ’til we go pop or at least enter a collective food coma. But not for nothing is the #EatUpCrew so-called, and most of our valiant bunch manage to munch at least a little of the cool, creamy pudding that’s proffered.
Our group might have under-estimated the extent of our over-ordering, but in this case it merely means that quite a few of the #EatUpCrew leaves with an ample breakfast, brunch or lunch for the following day. Others swear they’re far too full to ever eat again. As we waddle out of Anjappar, we’re already hungry for the next feast.
- To check out the menu and location of Anjappar’s East Ham branch, click here
- To read about the #EatUpCrew’s Keralite feast at Thiru Ananthapuram, click here
- To learn more about South Indian cuisine, click here
Image credits: pictures courtesy of Ashanti Omkar & the #EatUpCrew