The Brick Lane gauntlet — I really didn’t know about it at all, maybe a mention or two here and there, before my last visit to London. But then friend Vinita talked excitedly about Brick Lane and the restaurants that were there in plenty, and that immediately perked up my interest. As anyone who knows me knows, food is dear to my squelching (and possibly increasingly coronary-prone, but anyway) heart, so to hear of some place where Indian restaurants were literally everywhere sounded potentially like heaven to me. And since I was going with someone who knew of one or two key places to try, I was all for that.

And so she and I and another friend of hers went out one night after celebrating another friend’s birthday to get us some food. I can’t remember where we ended up — the primary choice looked good but was in fact heavily packed and the wait would have been a while, and our hunger overcame the idea of waiting a touch. But the spot we did end up at had tasty enough food and I was more than content munching away on the goodies provided.

Then again, there WAS the gauntlet. And I was not annoyed or anything, but I was astonished. I’m sure there are plenty of places and situations like this in America that I just haven’t seen around — this is part of the deal when one grows up in relaxed suburbia rather than the direct hustle-and-bustle, I figure — but to see people outside of every restaurant along the four or five-block stretch we assayed that evening urging, begging and demanding us to try their particular place was something that did catch me bemusedly off guard for a bit.

I guess I’m so used to the idea that one just walks along a stretch of places where food might be found and checks out the menus and prices that to have the personal touch, if you will, was disconcerting and more than a little chaotic. Since I was in good hands thanks to Vinita, I didn’t have to worry about making any decisions this time around, but had I been on my own I might have beaten a hasty retreat if only to mentally regroup. Says more about me than the city or this section of same, I’m sure.