It is a truth universally acknowledged that every time a curry house waiter serves up a plate of pappadoms, some buffoon has to put his bloody fist through it.
 
Why do they feel the need? It's the sort of behaviour that should be rewarded with an automatic and immediate ASBO.
 
In truth, this sort of behaviour has been around for as long as curry and certainly long before ASBOs were a twinkle in Charles Clarke's eye.
 
There was certainly no shortage of annoying behaviour back in the golden days of Indian curry houses in the 1970s - some of the worst examples managed to generate an atmosphere that proved impossible to re-produce until the Russians invaded Afghanistan some years later.
 
Asian food was beginning to really take off and attracted a Friday and Saturday late night clientele which seemed almost entirely made up of the sort of characters who would now be regarded as prime ASBO fodder.
 
This was long before 24-hours-a-day boozing - anyone who thinks binge drinking is a new phenomenon should think again.
 
Those halcyon restaurants worked a shift system that ensured they had one sitting when the pubs threw out at 11pm and then the real big hitters - figuratively and literally - came wading in when the clubs shut three hours later, ensuring a steady stream of tanked-up nutters, creating an atmo-sphere dripping with racism and intimidation that was quite appalling.
 
Around that time I became quite friendly with one Bengali waiter and asked him how he put up with the sheer awfulness of it all.
 
He answered with a grin: 'Never insult somebody involved in the preparation of your food.'
 
Wise words indeed, and advice I have rigidly adhered to.
 
But then, in the 1980s, a strange thing happened in the form of a schism.
 
Suddenly we didn't just have curry houses - we had Asian restaurants as well.
 
Gone were the flock wallpaper, fist fights and late hours - instead we had civility and even a degree of sophistication.

Among the first of this new breed was The Amantola.
 
It quickly earned a good reputation and became extremely popular. But that was then - what would it be like now?
 
We made up a party of five - myself, Beverley, son Oliver, daughter Alison and her boyfriend Andrew - the two of them newly installed in their first home.
 
First impressions were good. Even at 7pm the car park was filling up and the interior also proved impressive.
 
We detected a makeover since our last visit, but it was so subtle we couldn't figure out just how it had been achieved.
 
It still had that crafty Amantola layout, a huge room separated by latticed panels, offering a degree of privacy without destroying the atmosphere of a busy restaurant.
 
The homemakers were soon distracted, not by the Bombay mix, but by the peculiar fish in the trendy perpendicular fish tanks - they looked like goldfish with botched Botox jobs.
 
Bottles of Himalaya beer and soft drinks guzzled and orders lodged, we were shown to our tables where our pappadoms awaited.
 
No fists allowed, we tucked in, in a civilised manner. Sauces were excellent - two kinds of onion, lime pickle, mango chutney, raita and that mysterious spicy red sauce that doesn't, to my knowledge, have a name. Answers on a postcard please.
 
Everybody else was happy to settle for pappadoms but - and clearly in the name of research - I also ordered Goa prawn and Oliver decided on butterfly prawn.
 
Tony the Tiger-like, he described it as grrrreat! 

Served with a fresh, but very English, side salad, my starter was excellent and tangy, if a little filling.

For mains Alison and Andrew, unadventurous in that fanatical way peculiar to twenty-somethings, ordered Britain's favourite dish, chicken tikka masala.
 
Oliver went for king prawn tikka masala.
 
The real spice fiend among us, Beverley, noted that the hottest curry listed was Ceylon - not hot enough, apparently.
 
She asked for a chef's special, as hot as he could sensibly make it, and our obliging waiter dashed off to make sure her wish was granted.
 
I know what you're thinking - I used to think the same. The ultra curries from vindaloo upwards destroy taste, not to mention tastebuds and are merely the province of show-offs who have to sit through 20 minutes of sweat-drenched misery to prove their point. In their own minds they appear macho - they are always men - while everybody else thinks they are red-faced prats. And that's before the real misery
 
begins the following morning when the bottom falls out of their world.
 
I'm a Madras man- that's curry preference, not home town - and I could never imagine anything hotter being remotely enjoyable, until I met Beverley. She is in that small minority of flaming spice fans who really do think the hotter, the better.
 
I ordered the oddly-titled Dive in the Bay of Bengal, haddock cooked in spices served with tarka dahl, curry sauce and pilau rice. I have never been a big fan of tarka dahl, it tastes too much like it should be keeping the flock attached to the wall, but I thought I would give it a whirl.
 
The meals arrived in a blizzard of pilau and mushroom rice, garlic and plain naans and a portion of chips.

Andrew and Alison were delighted with their tikka masalas while even Oliver, cynical as only a world-weary 13-year-old can be, admitted his was good too. A stolen king prawn elicited an agreement from me.
 
But how did the Amantola rate in Beverley's hot curry test? Very highly, as it happens -- she gave it a huge thumbs up.
 
As for my meal - ignore the naff name, it was excellent - the delicate taste of the fish was enhanced rather than overshadowed by the spices. I was particularly taken with the sweet, partially cooked onions which were nothing short of magnificent.
 
I was still not convinced by the tarka dahl, but that is probably a reflection on my personal taste rather than the Amantola, and the dish didn't need it anyway.
 
The size of the portions meant we didn't bother with a dessert, although we definitely bothered with doggy bags.
 
But there was one more little surprise before the end of an excellent evening.
 
Alison and Beverley visited the ladies' together, as seems to be traditional, and came back with beaming smiles. What had happened?
 
'It's the mirror in the ladies,' said Alison. 'It makes us look really slim - we look like supermodels.'
 
They even tried to take a photograph of themselves on a 'phone camera, with predictably unsuccessful results.
 
There is no vanity like the vanity of wo-mankind - on reflection, we will probably have to return.

Factfile

* Location: The Amantola Restaurant, Welsh Road, Sealand (01244 811324)
* Price: £88.55 for five, including two rounds of drinks.
* Would suit: Genuine lovers of Indian cuisine.
* Would not suit: Lager louts.