The modern traveler, no matter how far they travel, is hard pressed to find a country that the Brits have not ruled at some point or at least been to first. Much of this is due to colonialism, during the height of which it was said that the sun never set on the British empire. In the height of European colonialism in 1920, western powers controlled close to half of the world (25.5 million square miles). By 1993, these same powers ruled only 11 million square miles. After governing 48% of the world's population, by 1993 they essentially governed only themselves (Huntington, 1996, 84). When one looks along religious lines, the contrast is even more stark. Between 1757 and 1919, 92 Muslim territories came under non-Muslim governance. By 1995, 69 of these territories were once again under Islamic rule (Huntington 1996, 210).
While not all of colonization was at the hands of the Brits, it has played a significant part of their history and current demographic trends. Currently, more than 13% of the United Kingdom (U.K.) is an ethnic minority. By 2050, that number is expected to climb to 25% (for the record, Houston as a city is way ahead of the U.K. as a whole, with its population already reflecting this demographic shift--although London is also ahead of the U.K. demographics curve). Check out the short video to see a visual display of the current reach of the "crown" and how that differs from Great Britain and the U.K.
What does all of this talk about demographics and politics have to do with food? The vast reaches of the British Empire are now now migrating to the U.K. Over the course of the British Empire more than 60 countries have gained their independence! The crown jewel of the Empire was India. And this brings us to our restaurant for this week, The Red Lion. The Red Lion is a warm, earthy British pub with a "local" feel. The pub is lined with dark oak and red upholstery. Name plates of all of the locals adorn available wall space mixed in with classic British decor and other witticisms. Unlike other British restaurants in Houston, they offer classic Indian dishes along side traditional fare. Every time you eat a plate of Biryani, with its eclectic bouquet of spices, you are in some way tipping your hat to the first Brit who abandoned fish n' chips and mince n' tatties for the chicken tikka masala and curry. There is actually some debate about the origin of the Masala style of Indian food with some people claiming that it is uniquely British, including British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook. For the counterpoint see here. (one wonders if the French are soon to claim their quintessential fries....)
Although we try to stay away from restaurant reviews, we did walk away with the impression that the meal was expensive for what we ordered.
To offset the risk of being taken as a Brit-basher, I share some of their common gripes with the U.S. in a tribute to those who wish to increase their cultural I.Q.