Adam’s Curries, 12 Tarlan Aliyarbekov Street , Baku Tel: (+994)50 329 7985
My mother was a glorious, glamorous sparkly brown-eyed bundle of mischief and fun, a real ‘ta dah, here I am’ sort of person. Most of all she was an embracer, an embracer of life, of circumstances, of people and particularly of me. Just past the middle of the last century, this young, ever anglicising German, still only in her late twenties, found herself living with her British husband and baby at the Chiltan Hotel in Quetta, Pakistan, within sight of the Afghan border. Pakistan, then just 10 years into its independence from India was, as it still is now, a very challenging place to live. Thousands of miles from her home and family with no Skype, Email or even reliable telephone line and with the thin blue airmail letters she sent home rarely arriving for having had their stamps stolen, she did what she always did, she rolled up her sleeves and got down to it in her inimitable open hearted, interested, inquisitive way. Before long, she was running the Chiltan Hotel and had started a catering business for expat parties, unheard of, as it was in those days, for expat wives to work. She made friends easily, indiscriminately mixing up the Khans, the Jilanis, the Bugtis with the Murphys, the Campbells and the Parkers, organizing tennis parties and poker evenings and generally disrupting the existing status quo which until then had silently decreed that expats and locals each kept to themselves. With her clackety clack high heels and her long red fingernails, she was as at ease in the souks as she was in the palaces or the Chief Commissioner’s residence.
It is against this Balochi background, at high altitude in the fruit garden of Pakistan where leopards still roam, that I grew from baby to toddler to little girl, speaking fluent Urdu (which, annoyingly, I have now forgotten), eating sajji, pulao and chapattis and, no doubt, thinking of myself as a fair haired, blue eyed, freckle faced Pakistani. Sadly, I have never been back to Pakistan but to this day, when I hear the call to prayer at dusk, smell heat and spices and dust, or sit in front of a steamy spicy curry, I feel at home and comforted.
Therefore, it was just a matter of time until we headed out to Adam’s Curries in Baku one Saturday evening in a group of six. Like so many Baku restaurants, here they offer dual nationality fare. As Adam’s Curries they offer just that and as Pancho’s they offer Tex Mex cuisine. An unusual combination some might say but both have spicy food at their core and both are popular, so why not?
Adam’s/Pancho’s is on the street where Il Patio is on the corner with Fountain Square. On Saturday evenings they offer an Indian buffet where you can eat as much as you like for AZN15 per head. The restaurant is not pretty. In fact, it is quite rough and ready. Forget the typical suburban Indian restaurant you might know from home, you know, the one with the flock wallpaper, the Indian inspired pictures in rather intense colours on the wall, the white or pale pink linen table cloths and the usually very deferential Indian waiters. It’s not like that. And it certainly isn’t anything like the sophisticated Indian gourmet temples of Central London, New York, LA or Mumbai. No, think student bar and you get more of an idea. As you enter, there is a quite worn bar area, then further back, the restaurant section with plastic tables and chairs in eye popping bright red. The buffet looks and smells good. There are two or three curries on offer, dal, pakora, tandoori type chicken pieces, rice, sag aloo, if I remember correctly, sliced cucumber and tomato, three sauces which include raita and a chilli sauce and chunks of naan, all waiting for you to dig in as often as you like.
If you want a completely truthful lowdown, I’d have to say that to my mind, the food could have been quite a bit hotter both in temperature and in spicyness, the chicken and the naan could have been more succulent and less dried out and I missed the normal accoutrements like mango chutney, yellow mint sauce, desiccated coconut and spicy pastes and powders. I would have preferred freshly sliced chillies to chilli sauce and, because I eat my curries with my hands, scooping them up in naan or chapatti, I’d have liked them to be less runny and the naan more spongey. But, and this is a most important but, not only do you have to remember that Adam’s makes no claim on being a fine dining restaurant, it also suffers from the same problems of acquiring the right ingredients in Baku as does everyone else. Besides, you wouldn’t come here with a hot date or to while away an evening over several courses. This is a feeding station where you are most likely to come with a group of friends to line your stomach with something hot and tasty, and plenty of it at a very reasonable price, before you head on out for a pub crawl or a clubbing session. It is what it is and, with that in mind, the buffet does a very good job.
Adam’s also has an a la carte menu and that is very much more tailored to the individual palate. I have eaten here a la carte previously and the dishes I got served were pretty good and much more to my personal liking. You can specify whether you want your food hot or mild and even if you want it cooked without cream or butter, if, say, you are watching your weight. They also offer a broad take away menu and, as I know from experience when I have been a guest at other people’s homes, an excellent catering service. Order your meal for a dinner party here, have it delivered in large pots and then when you produce it around your own table, your friends will think that you are an amazing talent in the kitchen. A great way to curry favour! 😉