The Great Taj, a longstanding relic of the Norwich Restaurant, has closed it’s door indefinitely.
Whilst this may be bad news for the Asian foodies in our great city here ( I especially enjoyed dining on the Sunday night scraps that were left in their juicy bins) this does mean that a new establishment will be moving in to their vacated premises.
For Art Scavengers such as myself, this presents a magnificent opportunity to get hold of some truly unique materials that hold a real story.
Around 5 years ago, when long-standing Italian eatery Gesppaco’s shut down, the entire restaurant was completely gutted out. Tables, chairs, sheets, cutlery, decorations, wallpaper. All the trappings of a typical Tuscany style restaurant were ripped from the building wholesale and dumped in a massive skip out the back. For a good three weeks a constant stream of wonderful materials appeared and disappeared from that skip: a veritable treasure trove of one-of-a-kind textiles and objects. The construction workers there must have been confused by the seemingly endless amount of space in that skip, for the entire build they didn’t once have to empty it.
The walls of my studio are still adorned with the white checked table cloths from that particular establishment, charming rural frescoes of Italian life line my toilet room and I hope the novelty sized pepper grinder never runs out of pepper – because God knows, I don’t have enough money to buy any more.
I grew close with the Rajmapurras, who owned The Great Taj, over the decade that they ran the place. I like to think they admired my entrepreneurial spirit paired with my debonair charm, but I think they probably saw me as somewhat of a charity case.
From my brief travels in India, I recall that the local people I met there had very kind hearts, their charitable demeanour went hand-in-hand with their strong sense of morality: this is something the Rajmapurras took with them to Norwich, and something I’ll always be grateful for.
I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to those people. Their van, packed with all their worldly possessions, left Norwich at some point during the evening on a Saturday – whilst I was halfway through a Weekend Visitation with an Art Fan.
Pushed out by the rising demand for High-End Hipster Style Restaurants and, unwilling as they were to adapt to online delivery systems, hopelessly outdated – they were wonderfully friendly people who were simply in the wrong business.
On my Sunday morning reconnaissance walk, I stood for a few minutes outside the front of the restaurant. Before the construction crews got in to tear the place apart, I wanted to see what it was like on the inside. All these years, taking the scraps from their kitchen, I’d never stepped foot into the restaurant. After a quick look around, I slipped a card through the lock and let myself in for the first time.
It was as if the place was still waiting for service to begin. The Rajmapurras must have forgotten they were leaving, because they’d cleaned and tidied the place as if they were going to be returning that day for another evening service. Shining cutlery lay, ready for use next to the thick embroidered place mats that covered each table.
My hands automatically reached out and started touching everything. Every shining surface, engraved frosted glass divider, table cloth and laminated menu. I was eager to start taking art materials, but something stopped me.