REVIEW: Total BYOBags

Anarkali, Victoria Road

The Time: June 18, 8pm

Booking Name: Mr Walter Hill

The Pub Aforehand: The Queen’s Park Café

In Attendance: Trampy, The Tramp, The Gheezer, Lime Pickle, Sir Spicy Lover, Ravi Peshwari, Jalfrezi and Stu (callsign pending).

Decor:
Comfortable and cosy, with a stress-reducing fishtank situated at the entrance and an impressive slatted ceiling garden arrangement above our heads. Some Clubbers did however comment that the old-fashioned sinks in the bathroom could be mistaken for urinals by tipsy patrons.

Expectations: A real unknown quantity. Even though The Bulldosa lived round the corner from Anarkali for years, he never visited it, although he did draw the attention of the Club to an online review that made it sound like a Roadhouse-esque rough-and-tumble joint. Perhaps that’s why The Bulldosa never even turned up. What a pansy.

The Experience:

If Trampy has an overarching credo, an adamantium maxim, a platinum rule above all golden rules, it’s this: always wake up in the same city as your tea. It just makes life simpler. There are occasions, though, when your tea may well be in another postcode, or even 50 miles away. This is the monthly dilemma faced by Lime Pickle, the sole Edinburgh-based member of TATTGOC. And since Trampy has been bivouacing with Lime Pickle while soaking up the cinematic gravy of the Edinburgh International Film Festival (as well as all the free booze at the attendant swirl of parties), they both faced a train journey west to attend June’s gathering. This ambitious expedition promised to catapult our hardy band of cosmic currynauts further south than they’d ever dared venture before. Who would survive? And what would be left of them?

After coasting into Glasgow and hopping onto another train at Queen’s Street Station, our two heroes bumped into The Tramp and Sir Spicy Lover, who seemed as mentally prepared for the journey as Ben Fogle and that other rugger-ish guy heading for the South Pole on foot. A mere two stops later and our quartet emerged in the south side, where it become pleasingly obvious that the evening’s key orienteering points – the admired Queen’s Park Café, the Anarkali itself and the Victoria Road Oddbins – were in extremely close proximity. Settling into the warm embrace of the Queen’s Park Café, a traditionally-minded boozer already doing brisk business in the early evening, the reunited friends exchanged tales of ribaldry and excess while waiting for the rest of the troop. Presently, Ravi Peshwari and The Gheezer hove into view, with the impish Jalfrezi not far behind. Completing the roll call for June was Stu, a known acquaintance of The Tramp and revered southside “fixer”.

Notable absentees included lethal darts tag-team The Bulldosa/The Birmingham Wan and Rogan Josh Homme (unfortunately charged with doing some actual work during the Film Festival). TATTGOC’s fearless legal counsel Rumpole Of The Balti almost made it, but a judicial emergency steered his fate away from our feast. Even without the full complement of galacticos, the banter was gallus (although Ravi Peshwari, always a careful man, had brought along a copy of Arundhati Roy’s Booker Prize-winning The God Of Small Things, presumably in case the chat turned out to be stinking – or perhaps as an appropriate stand-in for TATTGOC's very own god of small things, Rabbie Shankar?). As the assembled wet their whistle, dipped their wick and greased their beals with Tennent’s, Trampy tromped over the road to Oddbins for an additional slab of “yellow soldiers” that, though fetched from the cellar, were cool but not ice-cold. The eight-strong team then rendezvoused directly outside Anarkali, enjoying the lingering daylight and admiring Ravi Peshwari’s wicked-awesome ride (pictured above).

While the Anarkali wasn’t exactly stowed when we arrived, a conspicuous table set out for eight featured a wrapped gift and helium balloon imprinted with “Happy 18th Birthday”. What a lovely surprise! Even if Walter Hill’s 18th birthday was back in 1960. It soon became apparent that Anarkali was hosting two eight-strong parties this particular evening, and minutes after our arrival, a young man lionised by family and friends entered to claim his prize. (“He’s been oot buying cider all day,” confided his mother, later). Our attentive waiter immediately offered to place our slab of soldiers in the fridge, once we’d dished out the necessary eight cans round the table. And just before The Tramp could raise a toast, Lime Pickle produced two packages for TATTGOC’s modest founders – the finest hand-fired ceramic mugs, proudly emblazoned with the brand-new TATTGOC coat-of-arms, melding Indian cooking iconography with a modern sensibility to fully encapsulate the philosophy of the brotherhood. These most holiest of grails were heavily braided with portent and symbology, and it might take an entire future post to unpack their full meaning. In the meantime, rest assured they made Tennent’s taste magic.

From Anarkali’s comprehensive selection of starters, Trampy decided to play things pretty safe: three portions of mixed pakora to share, plus a couple of spiced mushroom dosas to, y’know, mix things up a little. The traditional poppadoms and dips swiftly arrived to keep the gang occupied, and things seemed to be off to a buoyant start. The combination of stress-free BYOB and daylight still streaming in through the windows, plus the excited chatter from the nearby birthday table, combined to create an effortlessly optimistic atmosphere. There were many toasts and huzzahs, and effective ribbing of curry comrades who had failed to make the meeting.

Though forewarned that Anarkali offered elephantine naans, Trampy and The Tramp still opted for four of the breads – two peshwari, plus garlic and chili variations – along with four portions of rice. Attempting to fit all these sundries on the table, along with the main courses and rapidly increasing number of empty Tennent’s cans – if they are indeed “soldiers”, it was reminiscent of the interlude in 300 when the Spartans patch up their defences using the bodies of slain enemies – but with a Tetris-honed level of skill, everything was jostled into place. Tandoori fiend Ravi Peshwari – a man who definitely knows his curry – was quick to praise his dish. At the Tramps’ end of the table, the uncommon silence indicated that their chow was also hitting the spot. But the naans were indeed formidable, provoking a series of reactions comparable to witnessing enormous interstellar craft position themselves silently over the world’s capital cities: surprise, wonder and excitement quickly followed by fear. Would we be able to beat them?

With some considerable effort, the banquet was bested by the brotherhood, although Trampy uncharacteristically struggled to finish his chicken tikka main course, cooked in brandy. There was certainly no question of attempting to squeeze in any kind of dessert, so the gang merely settled in over the neverending conveyer belt of Tennent’s (The Gheezer had quietly slipped out in the lull between starters and mains to secure another slab of Tennent’s, and was doubly honoured by being permitted to take the remainder home for safekeeping until the next meeting). Our companion table of eight finished their meal at roughly the same time, at which point the lights were extinguished and the waiting staff paraded in a birthday cake for the lucky youngster. The sweet barbership-inspired baritones of TATTGOC bolstered the inevitable “Happy Birthday” singalong, and this fraternal enthusiasm was rewarded with a multiple slices of chocolate sponge cake.

Tradition dictates that the brotherhood go for a nightcap after their tea, but the opportunity to linger in Anarkali while the last rays of sun receded was too tempting. Lime Pickle had to leg it to get the train back east, but everyone else lounged, chatted and quaffed. The bill, when Trampy was finally able to retrieve it, was very reasonable, even after chalking up an additional £40 quid or so for the Tennent's carry-outs. And to see a young man reaching such a landmark birthday added a certain unexpected poignancy to proceedings. For all the boisterous, untamed, in-the-raw, sheer goddamn viking masculinity on display at your average TATTGOC meeting, a noble strain of sentimentality cries manly tears just below the surface.

So to witness a youngling cross the rubicon and become a man felt like a true honour ... nay, a privilege. And one day hence, when this same cider-consuming sapling feels stymied by some unalterable facet of his life – perhaps a rushed, now-loveless marriage, the sense-dulling daily grind of monitoring data entry or the belated realisation that he has left barely a scratch on the eternal mirror of human experience – maybe he will recall that fateful night in Anarkali and finally feel ready to proceed to the next stage of manhood: by establishing his very own Curry Club. Until that day ...

Range Of Drinks: BYOB's yer uncle – with no corkage. Result!

Highlights: The aforementioned BYOB policy, authentic-tasting food, generously-proportioned naans – for some vocal members, this was the best TATTGOC taste experience to date.

Lowlights: The bill did seem to take an ice age to arrive, but that was possibly due to Trampy’s timid demeanour, reminiscent of Cadet Laverne Hooks, from Police Academy, before she starts yelling “DON’T MOVE, DIRTBAG!”

The Verdict: A surprisingly sensuous southside experience!

The Damage: £113.40 (tip: £16.60)

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