I’m living with a caveman and although I’ve yet to be dragged back to the cave by my hair, for the past few months my husband has been avoiding carbs, eating huge quantities of meat and exercising in furious bursts as if being pursued by wild animals. It looks more like New-Man Yoga to me, but he insists he’s remaining true to his primitive man credo and in the process turning his body into a temple as he eschews sugar in all forms.
Perhaps I’m a bit unreconstructed myself, but personally I think it’s no bad thing for a man to look plumped up on his wife’s pies and cakes, but the Caveman has other ideas. He’s been on a mission to get back to his pre-marriage sylph-like self and convince the rest of us that mashed potato is the devil’s work.
Our month in Kullu is a huge test of Caveman resolve. Even in the most difficult times (Delhi in the summer), I don’t like to go more than a couple of days without baking but while we’re in Kullu I often spend whole days in the kitchen. And I’m not steaming vegetables or spit-roasting hogs.
As the kids and I punctuate our days with ‘Elevenses’ (muffins or pancakes) and Afternoon Tea (chai and cake), the Caveman is struggling to stay on the straight and narrow. So far vanity has triumphed over gluttony but at the weekend a chink appeared when he announced the arrival of ‘Blowout Sundays’. For one day a week, he solemnly declared, we could bring him cake, chips, sugary tea and beer.
So last Sunday we headed up the valley to Nehru Kund, past Manali and Vashisht and the shacks selling moth-eaten ski wear, to the Himalayan Sports Club. The ‘Club’, a place for which the term ‘Blowout Sunday’ might have been invented, is run by an Austrian who has been living in the area for as long as anyone can remember. Martin married a local girl and now has two grown-up daughters who help him every Sunday when he lays a handful of tables in his beautiful garden and cooks up a storm for the lucky few in the know.
His menu is small (always a good sign), but Martin has built up such a huge word-of-mouth following for his signature chicken and chips you have to book days in advance. Among the happy diners last Sunday was the Maharajah of Nalagarh and his extended family, who like us devoured greedily.
We all had the chicken which was roasted simply, but to perfection, with a deeply savoury, crispy skin. The chips were a perfect partner and reminded Caveman and I of ‘Chicken in a Basket’ pub meals of the 1970s. The pizzas coming out of the wood-fired oven also looked impressive and the puddings, a carrot cake and what our youngest heard as ‘Google Cake’ but I think was an Austrian Kugelhof, were expertly made and a perfectly toothsome finale.
With half a chicken, a mountain of chips and a bottle of beer in front of him, the Caveman didn’t draw breath for at least 20 minutes and then only to ask our youngest if he could polish off his too.
Caveman’s not the only one counting the moments till next Sunday.
Martin’s at Himalayan Sports Club
4 miles out of Manali on the road to Leh,
Over the bridge at Nehru Kund, then ask a local
To book, phone Martin on +91 9816056518