REVIEW: Dhabba Dhabba Hey!

Sibbo's Delhi Dhabba, Sauchiehall Street

The Time: September 17, 8.30pm

Booking Name: Mr Tim Burton

The Pub Aforehand: Mitchell's, North Street

In Attendance: Trampy, The Tramp, The Bulldosa, The Birmingham Wan, Jalfrezi, Rabbie Shankar, Sir Spicy Lover, Rogan Josh Homme and Illicit Bangla (“… And the dirt is gone!”)


Decor: Lots happening on the walls – notably the fluorescent ceiling starscape and a startling portrait of a fishwife.

Expectations: No Clubber had ventured inside Sibbo's before, possibly because of its proximity to the very popular Mother India. So we went in with open minds and rumbling bellies.

The Experience:

The world is depressed. Ignore any flim-flam about the bamboo shoots of recovery or winking economic indicators; for yo-yos and bozos hustling to stay off of Skid Row, things can still get a whole lot worse. It’s the game, yo. You feel me? Some Curry Clubbers have even had to undertake second jobs – often in the murky “grey market” – to keep themselves stocked up with Amarula and Gentleman’s Relish. Trampy has been reduced to flogging used headlines round the back of the Daily Record building. The Tramp, meanwhile, has been moonlighting as a napping mathematician on Vic and Bob’s revived Shooting Stars. What? You didn’t see that episode? Where a well-fed Masterchef judge had to dangle condiment-moistened footstuffs into The Tramp’s yap? If only there was some kind of pictorial evidence …

Anyhow, the credit crunch has long been trying to get its jaws into Curry Club but nothing, it seems, can stop men of a certain age from lager and pakora. Coming so hard on the heels of the August meet-up, Trampy was expecting a considerable drop-off in attendance, not least because some of the brotherhood were on holiday – notably Rumpole Of The Balti (who was undoubtedly taps aff in Bali) and The Duke (sequestered in Chester). This last was a particularly deflationary blow as the pub aforehand – Mitchell's on North Street, formerly trucker-hat repository and cock-about-town hangout The Ivy – had been selected in The Duke’s honour. (At one point, it looked as if there might only be four Clubbers in attendance, a hexed number that would automatically trigger the inaugural meeting of Trumpy And The Trump’s Bridge Night Of Curry.)

A bumper brotherhood heard the call to naans, though, facilitating a hurried call to Sibbo’s Delhi Dhabba to ensure they could actually handle eight hungry men (with the promise of a ninth, The Birmingham Wan, joining us at the venue). Among the veterans exchanging crackerjack banter over pints of Tennent's in the comfortable but otherwise deserted Mitchell's was a TATTGOC fresher, albeit one who had a knowledge of the inner machinations – macerations? – of the restaurant industry that far outstripped anyone else at the table. Though this was his first outing, a placeholder nickname had aleady been earmarked. Though amusing, it didn’t actually contain any curry associations. So, for now, we will refer to him as "Mr X".

After a few more pints had been drained and The Tramp had secured some atmospheric pre-Club shots with his exceptionally nice SLR camera, the TATTGOC caravan of courage bid farewell to Mitchell's and perambulated to Sibbo's. 'Twas a bracing walk, amplifying appetites to the extent that when the team arrived, staff could have put pretty much anything in front of them and it would have been devoured. Which, depending on which member of the brotherhood you talk to, might well be what transpired.

Surrounded by hotels, Sibbo’s Delhi Dhabba looks cannily geared up to cater for conference attendees and travelling salesmen: a big, open room dotted with LCD screens to cheer up lone diners. Unlike many other TATTGOC destinations, it was relatively busy when the brotherhood steamed in, and had a subtly upbeat ambience, mostly because of a non-stop party soundtrack of original rock’n’roll hits. A classic jukebox situated by the bar suggested a rock-around-the-clock attitude that immediately jigsawed with the Club’s own rebellious streak. (How many times has TATTGOC’s own Wild One, The Tramp, answered the query “What would sir like to drink?” by drawling “Whaddya got?” As the original trailer put it: you'll thrill to the shock-studded adventures of this hot-blood and his jazzed-up hoodlums.)

Drinks were foremost in everyone’s mind, and a round of nine draught Cobras was requested – until Mr X noticed that Sibbo’s also offered Bangla, an unfamiliar Indian beer. Always eager to sample new products, Mr X innocently asked for a bottle of Bangla instead, oblivious to the stentorian rules of Curry Club that dictate Orwellian concordance whenever possible (except, of course, when the actual range of drinks available is a lottery, like that Café Spice visit). With a forcefulness and uncharacteristic authority that surprised even himself, Trampy instantly rescinded the Bangla, the better to prevent an outbreak of ordering chaos, a disaster of biblical proportions: human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria! The incident did inspire a possible TATTGOC handle for Mr X though: Illicit Bangla. (And with hindsight, perhaps rounds of Bangla would have been more fun.)

The usual round of poppadoms seemed harmless enough, although Jalfrezi was quick to point out that as well as mango chutney, spiced onions and delicious lime pickle, there was also Thai-style sweet chilli sauce for dipping, which seemed rather incongruous. The Tramp’s request for some mixed pakora and tandoori starters to share was quickly fulfilled, but while the plates were mostly demolished by the hungry crew, it was hard to summon that much enthusiasm for the offerings. The general consensus seemed to be that this was a solid but unspectacular start, though there remained a general atmosphere of relaxed conviviality. Conversational topics ranged from the bitumen-voiced return of Faith No More to the popularity of checked shirts among the assembled. In the general miasma, Trampy neglected to secure the customary photo of the menu, but pretty much everyone ordered from the specials blackboard, so that seemed a more appropriate illustration in any case.

And this is when our tale turns into a Choose Your Own Adventure book. If you ordered the Crispy Chicken Lakhan, the Lamb Tamarind Mushroom Bhuna or certain other dishes, scroll down to the end of this post and read the entry headed ABC. If you ordered the Chicken Butter Masala, the South Indian Chilli Garlic Chicken or certain other dishes, scroll down to entry XYZ. And if you were looking forward to the prospect of a delicious chilli naan (part of the rather haphazard four-rice-three-naan order), scroll down to entry WTF.

You back? Rest assured that never before had there been quite such a divergence in people’s experiences of Curry Club, and the crackling tension seemed to spin the group off into another mindbending dimension. First, someone pointed out the fluorescent starscape hidden in plain view on the ceiling, which led to much “ooh-ing” and “aah-ing”. If only Patrick Moore had been present to help identify some of the major constellations. Then, as toilet trips increased directly in proportion to the consumption of Cobra, word of an arousing portrait situated by the lavvies rippled round the group like a lustful Mexican wave.

So it seemed hardly strange when Jalfrezi suggested reinstating the traditional round of brandies, a motion that was enthusiastically passed. It helped that, sheathed in his leather jacket, Jalfrezi bore a striking resemblance to legendary greaser The Fonz. (It also seemed inevitable that he would later bang his fist against the jukebox, triggering it to play Fats Domino’s Blueberry Hill, as he demanded that someone “step into his office” – the male lavatory. [That someone would most likely be TATTGOC’s very own Potsie, The Bulldosa.])

After being denied his preferred drink earlier, Illicit Bangla managed to sneak in a request for an after-dinner coffee, which heralded two plates of mints for everyone else. Grabbing two of the gold-wrapped treats, The Birmingham Wan then demonstrated an unexpected talent for burlesque, sorta visible in the accompanying slideshow to your right. As the bill was requested, even more sweeties arrived, perhaps to help the medicine go down. This tuck-shop avalanche perhaps meant that not everyone realised Sir Spicy Lover had brought along some racy chocolates for the brotherhood (after being admired by Trampy, they were cached for some unspecified future meeting).

The final total worked out at around £30 a head, which makes Sibbo’s – along with the Spice Garden – one of the more premium outings in TATTGOC’s short but eventful history. But it was hailed a success by the brotherhood, even as, almost symbolically, the restaurant's outside lights went out as one of the series of aftermath group photographs was being expertly blocked by The Tramp. Then, in a pleasing piece of conceptual circuity, most of the brotherhood then ended up in The Ivy (albeit its relocated premises on Argyle Street) for a final nightcap, because nothing tops off a good curry like yet another pint of lager. The world may be depressed, but TATTGOC is always full of shiny-faced, happy people.

Range Of Drinks: Cobra on draught, and bottles of the unfamiliar Bangla too.

Highlights: Roughly half the main courses; the surprisingly raucous rock’n’roll soundtrack; both mints and sweets at the end.

Lowlights: The other half of the main courses; that cloying, sweet chilli-sauce-glazed naan; fairly nondescript starters.

The Verdict: A surprisingly populace experience!

The Damage: £246.55 (tip: £23.45)

***

ABC
Congratulations! You had an awesome curry! Two thumbs up!

XYZ
Boo hoo! For some reason, the dish you chose wasn’t quite up to scratch. In fact, it was pretty bad, although hopefully not enough to ruin the night.

WTF
The “chilli naan” came glazed with that Thai sweet chilli sauce, to the initial horror and subsequent morbid fascination of those present. And it tasted … well, pretty much how you think it would taste. (It was pre-cut too, but that's a whole other entry ...)

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