The Empress of India, Victoria Park
130 Lauriston Rd
by Blake Pudding
I’m currently researching smoked fish for the forthcoming LRB book (available in all good bookshops and hopefully supermarkets some time in 2011) and have been forbidden from eating a proper cooked breakfast. So at the Empress I ordered the kipper with a poached egg but cleverly persuaded my girlfriend to have the full English so that I could have her black pudding. Our breakfasts arrived and after some juggling to fit the over-sized crockery onto the absurdly small tables we started to eat. A couple of mouthfuls in the future Mrs Pudding noted that her plate did not have any black pudding on it. We called over the waitress and she went away to investigate.
She came back and casually said that the all the black pudding had been thrown away. I was a bit taken aback by this but was distracted by the enormous plate of bacon she brought over to compensate. This waitress obviously knew me.
After scoffing the lot, I pondered Columbo-like why they had binned everything. Hmmmmm. I marshalled my deductive powers, examined the evidence and then it came to me: everything was cooked in advance and not that recently either. Of course! Why and that would explain the generally poor state of all the food. It was like breakfast at a down-market hotel. The bacon was swimming in grease, my kipper was dense with dirty butter, the beans were in a ramekin with a congealed crust and the hash brown was soggy and lukewarm. It was a shame as all the ingredients were good quality; the eggs were freshly prepared and delicious. The Empress of India stops serving breakfast at noon. We arrived at quarter to twelve. If we had arrived at ten we may have had a breakfast worth the money. We may even have had some black pudding.