Unfortunately, everyone else in south-east London had also been drawn out by the sunshine, which made progress a bit slower than hoped. But we still managed to get to Hampton Court in time for lunch. To be precise I believe this was East Molesey, a town which seems stunningly unprepared for the number of cyclists that stop there to patronise the cafes, pubs and shops. You might imagine that being on the Thames Cycle Route, they would have thought to provide a few bike racks: but seemingly not, with the result that there were bikes locked to every available post, railing or other solid.
Almost the only place along a road packed with cafes and restaurants that had space for us was Cocum, a Keralan restaurant. It turned out this was our good fortune, especially as I love Keralan food. I find it lighter and fresher, with a love of ingredients like coconut, seafood, curry leaves and bananas.
At lunchtime they don't have their tandoor oven on, so not everything on the menu is available. But there's still plenty to choose from.
Some of the dishes will be familiar to most people, such as kormas or birianis. But I wanted something more distinctively south Indian, so I opted for the mango and green banana curry. It was intriguing - much more sweetness, mainly from the mango, than you would usually find in a main course, but balanced by the spices and a creamy coconut sauce. The other half had the Kerala fish curry, which was kingfish flavoured with fenugreek, ginger and curry leaves. The flesh of the fish flaked away under the fork, and the sauce was subtle and complex. We also had a side dish of beetroot thoran. Thoran is often served as a side dish in Keralan cooking - a dry vegetable dish usually flavoured with mustard seeds, dried coconut and more curry leaves. I've had a cracking cabbage version in the past, while this one, made with shredded beetroot, was also excellent. It's certainly a good way to see vegetables that you might think of as unglamorous or boring in a new light.
Some rice and paratha were the perfect accompaniment, while couple of home-made lassis washed the food down nicely. The bill came to just under £25 for the two of us, which seemed reasonable.
We left happy and well-fuelled for our pedal back to south London. I will certainly be visiting Cocum again next time I am in the area.
|Kerala fish curry|
20 Bridge Road,
Telephone: 020 8941 3540