The Third Leader: Jewel in our crown

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Splendid news: the address which housed Britain's first Indian restaurant has been marked with a plaque. Fascinating, too, to note its early date: 1810.

For, added to visions of the dishes since served, an enthralling parade of flavour, aroma, beguiling wallpapers and several oceans of lager, there is much food for thought in this lengthy relationship between hosts and clients, whether of country or restaurant.

You might be most interested in why a nation renowned for, and proud of, its plain tastes, should make the largest exception for such spicy exotica. You might use it to argue in favour of a sophistication waiting to happen.

I, though, would point to another, great, single reason for the popularity of the Indian restaurant: the Indians (in the widest subcontinental definition). They, in a style more unusual then than now, have been willing to open at our convenience, ie, after the pubs shut, and always with a smile. And of those smiles, the widestand finest has been that of the waiter, who has unfailingly contrived to lend dignity and a sense of occasion to even the most unpromising, and usually unsteady, party.

Does he give the slightest indication that he might have heard that one before? Does he blanch at Anglo-Saxon obsessions with digestion and its outcomes? Does he feign incomprehension at yet another hilarious attempt to mimic his manner of speaking?

He does not. Ladies and Gentlemen, for all this, and for an immeasurable contribution to community relations in this country, I present my candidate for the next occupancy of Trafalgar Square's fourth plinth: The Indian Waiter.

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