REVIEW: Your Friendly Neighbourhood Pasanda-Man

Mr India's Balti & Dosa House, Partick

The Time: March 19, 8pm(ish)

Booking Name: Mr John Waters

The Pub Aforehand: The Quarter Gill

In Attendance: Trampy, The Tramp, The Duke, Jalfrezi, The Bulldosa, Rumpole of the Balti, Rabbie Shankar, Rogan Josh Homme, The Birmingham Wan, first-timer Sir Spicy Lover and, eventually (see pic), The Gheezer.

Decor: To enter the house of Mr India is like falling, Last Action Hero-style, into a late-1970s advert for an Indian restaurant “just 200 yards from this cinema”. In a good way.

Expectations: Fairly high. Takeaways from this establishment came highly recommended by Curry Club's own pedal steel supremo Eamonn, although sadly work commitments meant he could not be part of the actual field trip.

The Experience:
BIFF! The first rule of dynamic storytelling is to begin in media res – right in among the action. BANG! Which is why we find Trampy and the Tramp and company – a spandex-clad band numbering a mighty 11 in this episode – jammed into a slightly
tucked-away Partick eaterie, setting about a sizzling Indian feast. KAPOW! And, inevitably, at the head of the table, the stylishly slavish movie adaptation of comicbook scripture Watchmen is being carved up as surely as the goa fish curry. KERPLUNK!

Each Curry Club member has their own distinct superpower (even if most of them could be loosely grouped under “bellowing”) but for now, secret identities remain intact, heroic Promethean features disguised behind glasses, beards and – occasionally – both. SHAZAM! Hang on … did that diabolical masked avenger known only as The Duke really just stand up on the table and shout: “None of you understand! I'm not locked up in here with you! You're locked up in here with me!” Or did your mild-mannered Daily Bugle reporter just imagine it after one too many Lal Toofans? As Herge might have put it: BOF!

Rewind three hours and the various members of the Curry Club super-team are still scattered across Glasgow, beginning their slow migration toward Partick. In recent months, our heroes have swooped all over the city in their search for hidden culinary treasures. But after scouring both south and north of the Clyde, this is a homecoming of sorts – because, of course, it was in Partick that TATTGOC created its own convoluted origin story with a legendary visit to the Indian Orchard. Last time our team assembled in this district, the pre-grub pub was The Tramp’s very own Fortress of Dissolitude: The Lismore. This time, it’s the refurbished Quarter Gill – and a little after the appointed time of 7pm, the first wave of Curry Clubbers swing in: Trampy, The Tramp, Jalfrezi, The Bulldosa and Rabbie Shankar. A promising start!

After securing a table and politely rebuffing an invitation to join the QG quiz, the advance party hunkers down and turn its attention to the serious business of tanning pints – a fizzy foreshadowing of sloshing events to come. Next to arrive is The Duke, closely followed by Sir Spicy Lover, a Curry Club greenhorn not long returned from a circumnavigation of the globe and hungry for a new challenge. Rumpole of the Balti, Rogan Josh Homme and the newly-whiskered Birmingham Wan rapidly round out our crew, setting in motion an impromptu game of chance and skill one could call “The Beer-qualiser” – with everyone drinking at (nominally) different speeds, it takes a few extra pints and half-pints here and there to ensure the assembled all finish up at (roughly) the same time. Thankfully, our destination is literally two doors away, so we can stand to be a little late.
Up, up and away!

Entering Mr India’s aromatic embrace heralds the first real surprise of the evening: other patrons. Perhaps there is some truth to the rumour that TATTGOC is going soft, getting too comfortable, losing its edge – if we’re going to restaurants where there are other diners already present, we may have lost sight of our original mission statement. Still, since we’re here … we may as well check it out. Our ten-strong and increasingly raucous team is easily accommodated, although we do slightly crowd a romantic couple nearby. Their intended pre-pillow talk is perhaps drowned out by catcalls for booze and a heartfelt cheer as The Gheezer belatedly arrives after another demanding day at the televisual coalface. The service is slightly tentative at first but – like the Club – becomes better oiled as the night continues. Due to the cosy confines of our table, it’s necessary to carefully pass pints of Lal Toofan down the line, which brings an almost ecclesiastical feeling to the evening; a sense of hushed ceremony that increases the cumulative throb of brotherhood.

soon arrive but someone’s sundry-sense is tingling – with a table of 11, to get just four wee bowls of mango chutney, spiced onions, raita and lime pickle is slightly unsatisfying. The group starters – rustled up by The Tramp, who ensures we get some dosas along with the usual pakora – are much better, but are presented on practical stainless steel platters that, purposefully or not, have something of the correctional facility about them, bringing to mind scenes from both Scum and Face/Off. Some prime chunks of lamb and chicken tikka are notably succulent, and the dosas are delicious even if it takes some fancy knife-work from chib-master Rumpole to ensure everyone gets a taste.

Though generously upholstered to create an illusion of thickness, Mr India’s menu actually seems more focused than many the Curry Club have encountered. Our group order covers almost the entire compass of food on offer, from a fish masala dosa to south Indian chilli garlic chicken and beyond. Non-conformist that he is, TATTGOC’s pet malcontent The Bulldosa (nee Aloo Aloo, nee Bawsaag, nee The Incredible Boak) even orders up a mini-feast that comes with its own spicy daal and chapati. The Tramp plumps for butter chicken (and he must have enjoyed it, as he had the same dish from the same place within a week of our visit). The rice/naan equation settles down at five rice and three naan (plain/garlic/peshwari) which at first seems like it might not be sufficient, although in the end is just about perfect.

Isn’t this the point where we first joined our heroes? With spicy food being devoured and opinions being voiced? As one end of the table debates Watchmen, the other hears of The Birmingham Wan’s childhood achievement: an imagined musical based on Star Wars. And then, suddenly, the conversation turns to a topic not entirely suited for a restaurant (the nearby couple have thankfully now left). Do you sit or stand? If you feel you didn’t get the chance to have your say in this matter, there may still be time to vote in the TATTGOC poll on your right. In many ways, it’s a burning question …

In a slight break from tradition, we demur from the brandy toast – our heroic band may be able to battle radioactive mutants, warmongering aliens and evil supervillains but the credit crunch is a far more insidious foe. The bill, however, seems perfectly reasonable and by the time the Curry Club has suited up to leave, there are far fewer patrons in the restaurant, which makes us all feel more comfortable. Before flying over to the Lismore for a final nightcap, there’s time for a snap outside Mr India’s. But wait, where’s The Gheezer? After arriving late in the first instance, he has also somehow conspired to miss the group shot. No matter: he is forced to pose for an additional pic, alone and seemingly unloved. Luckily, The Gheezer’s superpower is that he can summon a sense of
ennui at will, so he copes admirably with the gentle ribbing. And even as the rest of our band hoots and cavorts off-camera in an attempt to wind him up, he remembers the words of his dear departed Uncle Ben (always such a wizard with the rice): With great patter comes great responsibility.

Range Of Drinks: Tennent’s and the preferred Lal Toofan, which came in sturdy pint glasses rich in evocative iconography: camels! Snakes! FLAMES!

Highlights: Sizzlin’ main courses; a lively “atmos”, for once.

Lowlights: Tentative service; the starters coming on prison platters.

The Verdict: A surprisingly sociable experience!

The Damage: £213.25 (tip: £28.75)


The Bulldosa said...

I take full responsibility for posing the stand or sit question...

The Tramp said...

You're lucky you weren't barred for bringing up such a subject at the table - although at least it wasn't what you brought up later...

That photo makes it look like The Gheezer was actually barred this time.

The Antipodean Aloo said...

What a pleasure to find this absolute bobby dazzler of a site. I would like to open an affiliated chapter here in Melbourne? - The Antipodean Aloo

Trampy said...

An Oz chapter sounds like a fantastic idea. But is curry popular Down Under?

phelan said...

If the Aussies get a branch then I see no reason not to propose a Japanese chapter. They ain't got too many Indian restaurants out here, on account of being unabashed fucking xenophobes, but such establishments do exist, and I know one place in particular that does a mean cheese nan. Perhaps I could send you boys a field report, as a sort of foreign curryspondent?
Yours with love, The Tattva