The month of March has been stupidly busy. Not always time to shop, let alone cook. So this post combines two of my favourite things. A medieval building. And curry.
20 North Street, Ashford, is a superb 15th century house, whose frontage remains largely unchanged since it was first built. (Many old buildings ‘evolve’, carrying fashions of subsequent centuries along the way). Remarkably, given its age, some of its windows are original (generally, the more ‘lights’ within a window frame, the older the building is, because it was hard to make large glass panes in those earlier centuries). It is a prime example of a smart medieval town house with its front running parallel to the street and a continuous jetty on the first floor.
There is a fine brick fireplace with a heavy oak bressummer (large beam at the top of the fireplace) in the front room of the restaurant. To the left of the fireplace is a doorway which still has its original 15th century arch, with beautifully-carved spandrels. (A spandrel is the space between two arches, or, as in this case, the space between the arch and the rectangular doorway). This doorway is identical to those within the College, leading into the one-time hall there. The College was built in the reign of Edward IV (1461-1483), which allows us to speculate upon a similar approximate date for this building.
It has been a restaurant for a while. In the 1980s, it was called Ye Olde Cottage Restaurant. But for many years now, it has been the Little Raj. It has an excellent reputation amongst local Ashfordians for providing delicious, good quality Indian and Bangladeshi food. Its reputation has spread: it was recently awarded a Tripadvisors’ Certificate of Excellence (see here) for the number of brilliant reviews it has garnered. Personally, I can recommend the king prawn tandoori: it’s delicious … perhaps all the more so because I didn’t have to cook it!
Finding new uses for old buildings is essential for their survival. Part of the fascination is recognising what people share, and yet being open and interested in difference, in whatever form that takes: over time, or between cultures. A medieval curry house means Ashford’s heritage continues (very) happily into the 21st century.