Tuesday August 18 2015
Turnpike Lane Station- Jashan Exquisite Indian Cuisine
Let’s not mess about here. When you’re travelling through the architecture of Charles Holden, you want to be clear in your head that you’re dealing with a genius. After some freelance work for the tube in the early twenties, and the muted majesty of the Morden extension of the Northern Line (Cf. the Tooting Bec post on this site), Holden’s vision of great futuristic art embedded in the very social fabric of the metropolis really hit form when the Piccadilly line was extended from Finsbury Park up to Cockfosters in the early thirties.
Curry Underground informers (there are many) had been contacting the Indian Food Monitoring Facility, or answerphone, here at The Gables on a fairly ongoing basis about a restaurant which has been emitting its own vision of amazing curry embedded in the very social fabric of the metropolis in the Turnpike Lane area. Once the trickle had become, er, a larger trickle, it became obvious that a trip up there was now an urgent necessity. It was now apparent that we had a world class source of scran in the close proximity of a Holden Masterpiece. It has been discovered that this also occurs naturally at Gants Hill on the Central Line, and will be hitherto referred to as a GHC, or Gants Hill Causality. With enough architectural bounty to keep an arts festival going for a couple of weeks and then two hours of nosh-related bliss, a GHC represents an evening out worthy of any other in the capital.
Access to Turnpike Lane station was on this case achieved by taking the Piccadilly like north out of Kings’ Cross. These are old trains now, and still proudly bear the makers name and date on the footplates by the door-
The tube is riddled with nostalgia weepy traps, and here was one which gave a small link back to our proud manufacturing past. In the good old days, we made our own trains. It’s a small point, but the tunnels on the Piccadilly are less bendy than the others, which allows the cars of the train to be built one and a half metres longer than those on other lines. It’s one of those dull facts you’ll find yourself telling others, in spite of yourself.
I’ve observed that one of the features of our underground system is that it gets more interesting, by and large, the further away from the middle you get. The inner, busier stations have had to be extended, amended and bodged as their function and available budgets have suffered the ups and downs of urban life, leaving them modular and unfocused. As you travel out of the anodyne sprawl of King’s Cross up past Caledonian road, you travel through the brightly tiled world of subterranean Victoriana- those bright gaudy tile patterns are not there just for looks either. Built in an era when illiteracy was the norm, you’d know which station was yours because it had giant brown brick diamond patterns on a sky blue background, as opposed to red and white checks, where you got off for work. As soon as you’re past Manor House, Holden’s at the helm, and all becomes the familiar relaxing landscape of biscuit coloured tiling and great proportions. In fact, on alighting on the platform at Turnpike Lane, it is as if a mistake had been made and the whole thing’s a bit on the generous side. It had, and it is. The bean counters who commissioned the thing over estimated the passenger numbers and gave Holden more space than he may have needed. Look how lovely and big it all is-
On the platforms, you get some smashing dollops of completely unnecessary art, such as this rather groovy Arts & Crafts grille over the ventilation shaft-
Leaving the platform, you are ushered into this atrium with these beautiful fluted uplighters- Holden was a bugger for getting his illuminations just right, and the eye is led pleasingly round a kink and up the escalators. In 1932, when the public travelled through here for the first time, it must have felt like a gateway to space travel, especially when you rounded the corner and were faced with the view up the escalator and its stellar uplighters. In a time when brightly lit distraction wasn’t available by twiddling on a small pocket sized plastic rectangle, it’s nice to see that the transport board was trying to help along a bit with huge slabs of the same put out for everyone. Should your iThing’s battery run out next time you’re on the tube, you’ll find plenty going on to entertain you in the basic fabric of the infrastructure- the history of early twentieth-century art, and the demise of the British manufacturing industry all rolled into one for starters.
To be fair to him, the feller faced with the job of putting in all the new wiring in since the place was built hasn’t done too bad a job, since in architectural terms it’s as if he’d been handed a Sharpie and asked to indicate to visitors to the Louvre the whereabouts of the gift shop by drawing arrows on the Mona Lisa. He’s run them down the middle of the ceiling, and taken advantage of the original Art deco crenellation at the bottom. It’s not great, but at least he’s had a go. We can also see signs of damp in the top right hand corner. It’s regrettable that such a monument to progressive civic thinking is a bit knackered, and inexplicably in the big ticket hall upstairs, Holden’s beautiful biscuit-coloured concrete ceiling is all covered in cobwebs. Perhaps a small dribble of the dough ascribed by the arties to all things “New and Innovative” could be diverted from things like investigating the pitches available from striking margarine with percussion mallets (sadly, this is a real one), to giving something which was at the very cutting edge of “New and innovative”, let alone “Useful”back in its day a bit of a spruce-up. At least it’s been listed, but I’m not sure how near to the top of the “Sort This Out” list it’s risen.
Here’s what you see from the street, at night. It bears all the hallmarks of classic Holden- a brick box with a flat roof and loads of aluminium framed windows, proclaiming its presence loud and proud, and displaying the Underground roundel up a big tower so you can see it easily. Where the genius comes in is that he takes these simple elements and makes the big brick box take on the appearance of a cathedral, but incredibly fusing the two disparate strands of Cosiness and Modernity with cunning use of the soft yellow light pouring out from within. Although the brick box is large, Holden employs a further trick in that, like the Tardis, it’s bigger on the inside than on the outside. Once inside, the booking hall is sunk a further twelve feet underground, and we are invited down with these wonderful spherical illuminations, or great big balls suspended from the ceiling of the swirling curved entrance portico.
Just for period interest, here’s a picture of the chaps in the late 1920’s sinking the big hole, into which the great big box would fit- perhaps they’ve got the big balls in that lorry inside the entrance
Inside the great big box, the feeling of space is magnificent, by day, with the lights off and daylight streaming in from above, Holden’s illumination trick works in reverse, and we feel as if we’re inside the cathedral. There are smashing details all around- the tube system does a great line in clocks, and there’s no exception here.
To get to the curry house, you need to go out of this exit marked with a bus sign for the dim. I say this because it is five feet high. Take the exit in the left, go under the big dangly balls and proceed straight down Turnpike Lane itself.
You will find the Jashan on the left, at number 19. It looks like this- just like its local station, don’t be fooled by the less than pristine signage- you’re in for a massive treat-
Indoors, all is spotless, and spicy poppadoms and chutneys were on the table as we sat down. On this trip, your intrepid team numbered three, with the Third Man being Tommy Lawrence, who was one of the many urging the roving eye of the Curry Underground to come up this way, leaving many messages at the Indian Food Monitoring Facility, or answerphone, here at The Gables. Here he is-
Beer was produced in a matter of nanoseconds, as were the lavishly illustrated laminated menus. I’m not normally a fan of the lavishly illustrated laminated menu, but here they were of great use as the bulk of the dishes are off the standard fare, and having a nice, and to be fair, extremely well photographed image to help the choice was invaluable. Tom, being something of the Sherpa in this instance ordered the King Prawn Puri for starters. We were intrigued with the Cabbage and Onion Fritter on the menu, which turned out to be like onion bhajis, only smaller, crispier and cabbagier. And bloody marvellous. The thing in the glass is an Aloo Papadi Chat, which was a sort of Indian Prawn cocktail but with no prawns, so to even things up there was a portion of Chilli Garlic Prawns. All amazing. However, as Olympian as all this was, no-one could have anticipated the shattering effect of the Padina Chat, or Tandoori Lamb Chops with a herbal minty crust. The effect was so shattering that we had to have another lot just to get over the shock. Here they are, next to the Cabbage and Onion Fritters. I’m getting hungry just looking.
Main courses were just as good. I had the Tave Se Gosht Hari Mirch, which was an amazing slow-cooked chunks of lamb in a thich sauce with fried green chillies just to pop out the tastebuds. Callum had the Tave se Jhinga Masala which was essentially the same but with great big prawns and Tom, who knows this stuff, had the Chicken Bhuna. Powerful yet delicate, this is without a doubt a proper division 1 curry. We had a good variety of veg too. Of special note was the black Dhal, and amazingly the carrot naan, which I ordered because I wanted to know how these two textures would be reconciled. This was achieved by blending the carrot with coconut and then filling the bread. It was magnificent. With the kulfis for afters which we had, and a not inconsiderable amount of Kingfisher, the bill was an astonishingly reasonable £40 a head, with the tip
Every time we visit a curry restaurant, we try and recommend a dish for our fortcoming event, “The Ultimate Fantasy Curry”. Not one, but two need to come from the Jashan- The Padina Chat, and the Carrot Naan. With the tube station on top, it’s an amazing night out, a true GHC. Jashan does take away, but doesn’t deliver- they’re spending all their time on cooking and not moped leasing. Sensible chaps.
Jashan, 19 Turnpike Lane, London N6 0EP
020 8340 9880