What is the point of a multi-million pound building declaiming the virtues of Mammon and Capital (and flaunting its diligent little aspirants behind plate glass in full view of passersby and skateboarders) when right opposite its sleek facade is a run-down Edwardian arcade of shops and eateries that spell sleaze?
Most outstandingly depressing among these is “Dosa Park” which has a menu of 500 items to order, with gems like Bolled Egg (fully cooked) and many variations on a theme of “curry”. The owner is from Chennai and has hit upon the perfect formula for our times. Create a brand name (“dosa”) in the certain knowledge that you can fool naives who can’t tell the difference between authentic and approximation.
The cafe could be an ironic take on a South Indian eaterie: functional, plain to the point of ugly and distinctively lacking any attempt at glamour or attractiveness. But no, this is truly all the owners have to offer. The interior smells of stale cooking and stale oil and is furnished with utility chairs and tables from the very cheapest catalogue on the planet. The floor is sticky and the sole waitress looks sad and short on tips. The walls are unceremoniously bare and the food is awful.
Someone told me to try it, but like many Oxonians she is inured to bad restaurant food and to even worse curries. If you try a masala dosa in this place you will never be tempted to ever order one again, not even in its native land of Kerala, so off-putting is the one in Oxford. The potato filling is possibly instant mash and the accompanying chutneys a sad gloop of watery non-flavours. The price is nearly £6 for indigestible muck.
As long as there are students who want a table on which to play Ludo, mavericks like this one will continue to exist. Oxford deserves better. Isn’t there a proud enterprising Keralan or Andhran who would like to make a huge fortune from proper idli-dosas, with a glass of lassi or coconut water on the side? Even a humble food van will do- you don’t need to be pretending to be a cafe opposite the temple of Mammon, aka the Said Business School… Show yourself now!