The heartbreak and tragedy of bad takeaways | Jack Marshall’s column

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Just over a year ago, in these very pages, I bared my soul regarding a topic very close to my heart: takeaways. Let me take you back to the heady days of August 2021.

It was a happier time, a time of high vaccine uptake and low energy prices. I was a year into living at my still-current address and so I decided to take stock.

After 12 months of greasy impulse pizzas, American football-sized kebabs coursing with garlic dip, and mountains of cheesy chips doused in a ketchup and mayonnaise combination which I believe some call ‘special sauce’, I felt I had a professional grasp of a takeaway landscape which had once been so foreign, so scary. I knew where to go and what to get.

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The necessary leap of faith for the beloved takeaway | Jack Marshall's column
A good takeaway, not like the bad one which your wounded writer was servedA good takeaway, not like the bad one which your wounded writer was served
A good takeaway, not like the bad one which your wounded writer was served

In other words, I knew *the* takeaways. I wrote about such establishments last year - the bankers, the places you’d trust not to break your heart when you’re most vulnerable (i.e: when you’ve giddily sprung for take-out knowing that, if it’s not good, you’ll feel let-down, poor, and grouchy). These places deserve respect. They deliver in more ways than one.

Reader, I strayed. I took the plunge into the unknown abyss of an unfamiliar takeaway, stupidly bold and arrogant in my disregard for the ways of the takeaway universe. The JustEat gods looked down on me and shook their chubby heads. An order was placed and delivered but hopes were dashed. The food was genuinely awful. Heartbreak.

I was in a basic culinary mood and so plumped for a lamb tikka masala, a dish which a pimply teenager in a dreary GCSE food tech lesson should be able to rustle up but which proved beyond my chosen chef’s realm of capacity. The meat was tough, the sauce was more liquid than substance, and the flavour wasn’t so much bad as wholly absent.

The accompanying naan bread didn’t rip gently, like those wonderful soft pillowy naans of your dreams, it split and tore, disintegrating into sharp, bitty shrapnel of disappointment. The rice was fine, I guess, but then again it’s rice for Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s sake, not a soufflé.

Safe to say I’ve repented. Lessons have been learned: never stray from the takeaway banker.