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6 August 2016

Gone Grill

By Adam Patel

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Change is inevitable. Sometimes it’s good. Sometimes it’s unwanted.

After the enormous change of moving to London and getting into a relationship and a new career, I now find myself ‘just living my life’. And I’ve got into a comfortable rut – the kind of rut you get into in your early thirties as you start to, dare I say it, settle down. And part of being in that comfortable rut, for me, was the occasional weekend Lebanese grill from my local in St John’s Wood, Kamil’s.

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I had ordered from Kamil’s several times in fairly quick succession. And my order was always the same: Humus, a food I have grown to love in recent months; grilled Halloumi, and the Lebanese classic, Shish Touk, for main which consists of grilled chicken pieces with rice or chips and salad. I find that ordering the same thing multiple times is a good way to get the managers to remember you. And before long, we were on first name terms exchanging pleasantries at the lift when the delivery man comes to deliver to the flat.

And those pleasantries, however small, however polite, however normal, I had believed, perhaps naively, meant something. Not much, but something. We were, I thought, on however mild terms, friends. Well… Maybe friends is a bit strong. But we were certainly more than just strangers. We were at that level of relationship which, if I saw Mr Kamil walking down the street, would warrant a wave or a “man-nod”.

So I don’t think it’s unreasonable to be a bit erked when I rang this evening to order with salivating enthusiasm, my three course Lebanese meal, to find that I can’t have it. Because Kamil’s has closed down. It isn’t Kamil’s anymore. In the space of the 10 days I’ve been in Belgium, Kamil’s has been sold. And it’s now called The Cedar, so explained the guy who picked up the call.

In the words of Verbal Kint, “Like that… It’s gone.” No warning. No goodbyes. Just gone. Change is inevitable. The irony was that Kamil’s prices were nice round numbers. So actually, change was almost never necessary. A twenty always sorted it.

Now, just to be clear, while the lack of Lebanese grilled chicken, humus and freshly baked flat bread this evening is mildly annoying, it is not that which annoys me. After all, there are other Lebanese restaurants in the area. They may be more expensive, but they’re there. What I’m offended by is that the business that had become a regular part of my life just disappears without a word.

Ten days? You can’t sell a business in ten days. Which means that the last time I saw Mr Kamil, he knew that this was going to happen and I think it would have been only right that he inform me, given that I was a regular customer.

But it seems that what I would call common courtesy is firstly not common, and second not widely practised.

The same thing happened with my dentist:

I phoned up one day because I suddenly realised it had been a while since my last check-up, and I find that the practise has in fact closed down and the dentist has moved away. That’s a dentist that I had been going to since I was born. Thirty years! And again, I was not informed. Why not? It’s polite to let your regulars know what’s going on, isn’t it?

I wouldn’t dream of packing up any business without a courtesy e-mail to my mailing list, explaining what was going to happen. I guess I value my customer relationships more than some people do. I really would not want to offend anyone.

And now? Life goes on. Tonight will go on. Better Call Saul on Netflix. Just without the Lebanese.

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