REVIEW: Feast Is East

Café Spice, Dennistoun

The Time: April 23, 8.30pm

Booking Name: Mr Mel Brooks (although judging by the above picture, this meeting was more Blazin' Squad than Blazing Saddles)

The Pub Aforehand: The Lea Rig

In Attendance: Trampy, The Tramp, The Duke, Jalfrezi, The Bulldosa, The Birmingham Wan, Sir Spicy Lover, Rogan Josh Homme, roving cameraman Ravi Peshwari and currently nicknameless freshman Ali.

Decor: Orange. Lots of orange. Within a bijou space with walls at such weird funhouse angles, MC Escher would struggle to decorate effectively.

Expectations: A real wild card … while a few Curry Club members had bivouaced in Dennistoun at various points during their peripetatic lives, no-one had ventured into Café Spice. It looked alright on Google Street View, though.

The Experience:

Is five weeks too long to wait between Curry Clubs? That was the question being chewed over on the escalators at Partick’s spanking-new travel hub. The proposed date of April’s excursion – already time-shifted once to accommodate a celebration within The Tramp’s inner circle – had unfortunately clashed with the birthday of TATTGOC’s dapper legal counsel Rumpole Of The Balti. After an Extraordinarily Generalised Meeting, Trampy and The Tramp swiftly decided to push the April date back a week, apparently amping up levels of culinary anticipation among the brotherhood to formerly unimagined heights.

At least, that was the feeling among the advance party of Curry Clubbers boarding an overland train for Alexandra Palace: a ravenous group comprising our redoubtable co-founders, plus The Bulldosa, Sir Spicy Lover, Ravi Peshwari and Jalfrezi, whose idea it had been to head east in the first instance … further than the Club had ever ventured before. So it was with a sense of urgency that our six offenders detrained and strode up Cumbernauld Road toward the assigned assembly point: the Lea Rig (named, perhaps, for the Burns poem).

Should the current swine flu panic become a full zombie apocalypse, the Lea Rig would be a decent place to make a last stand, boasting thick stone-clad walls and pre-fortified windows, plus classy flock wallpaper and a red baize pool table within. Our troop settled into a quiet corner, and initiated the first – and possibly last – TATTGOC kitty system. Soon after the first round had been sought, The Duke and raw recruit Ali arrived, closely followed by Rogan Josh Homme, thus throwing the nascent kitty system into immediate disarray. No matter: everyone got a pint (or two) in the end, and the April session was deemed to be officially … in session.

The table for Mr Mel Brooks had been booked for 8.30pm, and the Curry Club arrived ride on time, and were secretly relieved to re-establish the tradition of being the only patrons in the chosen restaurant after last month’s relatively populous visit to Mr India’s Balti & Dosa House. Within Café Spice’s cosy, orange-walled confines, there was just about enough room for our table of ten, although it meant a couple of Curry Clubbers had to be carefully positioned around an imposing pole. (When he finally arrived, after taking a wrong turn somewhere outside the train station, TATTGOC’s engineering doyen The Birmingham Wan recommended simply knocking down the offending support: “It’s no really load-bearing … I can see that frae here.”)

Initial impressions of Café Spice were excellent: it seemed a friendly, charming little place with a bit of character and an informative, amusing menu (Trampy selected his main dish simply because its description included the word “fricassee”). But the Club soon hit a major snag. An initial attempt to order 10 pints of draught Cobra was met with the apologetic response that no draught beers were available. Howzabout 10 bottles of Cobra, then? Sadly, there were only eight in the fridge. So rather than a uniform drinking policy, it became more of a pic’n’mix, dictated by whatever was available: some cans of Guinness, cans of Tennent’s, tiddly bottles of Stella, one forlorn Beck’s and the aforementioned octet of Cobras. It was by no means a dealbreaker, though, and most of the maverick assemblage seemed to enjoy mixing things up a little.

After the obligatory poppadoms and dips, the starter selection was served up, and after so many instances of over-ordering in the past, this one certainly erred on the side of caution. Two pakora platters and some spicy mushrooms turned out to be a mere amuse-bouche for our 10 hungry men. While awaiting the main courses, Ravi Peshwari revealed that he had a special gift for each and every member of the brotherhood, a souvenir from his recent three-week visit to Mumbai, Goa and Delhi.

It turned out to be a vinyl sticker of a gun-toting turbaned avenger, possibly from a Bollywood adaptation of Dirty Harry. Each sticker smelled pungently of unhealthy chemicals, a toxic but addictive experience that brought back memories of the playground. Everyone agreed it was a commendable gesture by the Club's pedal steel maestro, especially as he was about to hit a landmark birthday. Ravi Peshwari also regaled us with tales of his travels to the former colonies, from fantastic fish curries to the slightly weird experience of staying in a four-storey house with an en suite chef (named Ravi, which perhaps explains our member's choice of nickname).

When the main courses arrived, there was the usual intriguing jambalaya of reliable classics and what-the-hell-it’s-Curry-Club-so-I’ll-try-something-new dishes. The rice/naan equation had originally been worked out at three rice and three naan, but it seemed as if an extra naan, and possible even rice, made it to to the final spread (the colourful mounds of pilau matched the décor almost exactly). Somehow, out of all the chaotic, rather slapdash ordering of food and drinks, an almost perfect feast equilibrium was reached, disturbed only by The Tramp’s flash-heavy camera antics. His hefty flashbox is a notably fancy piece of kit, packed with adjustable features and gizmos: why, then, does The Tramp insist on taking portraits with all the optional settings set to “unflattering”? Yet all too soon, our eastern premise was concluded; to tarry over a dessert would be, in many ways, asking for truffle.

Although it’s a nice place to visit, none of the brotherhood actually live in the east so rather than risking a nightcap in the Lea Rig, our 10 commanders jumped the next train back toward Glasgow’s fashionable west end. Something about the mixing of drinks and eating spicy food had the effect of transforming them into giddy teenagers on the top deck of a bus, larking about and demarcating their territory with bellows and high-pitched laughter. If only one of their number had been able to play gabba through the tinny in-built speaker on their mobile phone, the illusion of mischievous schoolchildren transported into the bodies of boozy adult reprobrates would have been complete – reminiscent of a 17 Again-style switcheroo comedy, an idea Hollywood would do well to consider turning into a full feature film: Spice Versa?

Sir Spicy Lover is rarely seen outdoors without a hipflask of Whisky Mac which he gamely unsheathed and passed around the brotherhood, which made their rosy little faces even rosier. And so when Rogan Josh Homme departed at Queen Street Station, the cavalcade of fond farewells spontaneously transmuted into a rousing and impassioned ovation which, by the looks of things, was sorta embarrassing for the movie-loving currynaut as he hurried away. Let it never be said that the Curry Club is not capable of starting trends: as the other nine members disembarked at Partick – in their minds, already nursing a pint in the Lismore – the remaining passengers actually applauded them off the train. As the last of our band staggered onto the platform, a commuter was heard to remark: “Thank God for that.” Thank God, indeed, for Curry Club.

Range Of Drinks: A commendably large selection, available in almost unforgiveably small quantities.

Highlights: Delicious main courses; staff popped out to buy more Guinness after we rapidly cleared them out. (A keg of Cobra would have been even better, mind.)

Lowlights: No draught booze to be had; a ruddy great pillar in the way.

The Verdict: A surprisingly raucous experience!

The Damage: £227.05 (tip: £22.95)