REVIEW: Koh Blimey!

The Koh-i-Noor, Charing Cross

The Time: November 19, 8.30pm

Booking Name: Mr James Cameron

The Pub Aforehand: The Avalon, Kent Road

In Attendance: Trampy, The Tramp, The Duke, Rabbie Shankar, Sir Spicy Lover, Rumpole Of The Balti, Rogan Josh Homme, Ravi Shankar, Jalfrezi, The Gheezer and Lime Pickle ... crikey, that's just about everyone!

Decor: Reassuringly regal outside, pleasantly palatial inside.

Expectations: A few Clubbers had ventured inside Koh-i-Noor over the years but certainly not recently. The fact that it was enormodome-big made some initially suspect that the food couldn’t possibly be top-notch.

The Experience:

The most prestigious parties often have the most stringent dress codes: black tie, lounge suit, vicars and tarts. So with Trampy And The Tramp’s Glasgow Of Curry hitting a milestone in meet-ups – a full head-spinning, gutbusting, digestion-terrorising year – it was decided by Trampy and The Tramp that the occasion would be marked in two atypical ways. First of all, the actual location of the restaurant would remain a secret until the very last minute. And second, each member of the TATTGOC brotherhood would be asked to wear a tie. Such requests are open to interpretation. The Tramp opted for a daringly spotted number, paired with chunky sports jacket and a flat cap, as if playing one of the lead roles in a particularly belligerent reboot of Last Of The Summer Wine. Trampy modelled a striped Pierre Cardin shirt with a deeply-patterned tie of rich browns. The professional, go-getting effect was perhaps spoiled by the addition of a scraggy green Adidas hoodie, which gave Trampy the air of an embittered call centre worker compelled to wear a tie at work, but still clinging on to some vestige of individualism and self-determination even while placing one heavy foot in front of the other down Sauchiehall Street, dutifully following Jacqui and the girls from accounts towards Jumpin’ Jaks.

As the Tramps sat in The Avalon – a recently refurbished Charing Cross boozer with much to recommend it in terms of comfort and “atmos” – they idly wondered how many of the brotherhood would actually bother to honour the request. Within an hour, they had their awesome answer: every single damn one of them. Eleven TATTGOC members filled the Avalon lounge with snorting and laughter like God’s own curry jury. Each had their own style – squint a bit and The Duke could have been The Equalizer – but the cumulative effect was nothing if not impressive. These were cleary serious men intent on serious business. It was just a shame that two of the most enthusiastic members of TATTGOC – iconoclastic megalomaniac The Bulldosa and deadeye dart-slinger The Birmingham Wan – were unable to attend. As cool pints of Tennent’s were consumer, the various conversation inevitably veered towards a single topic: where were the troop headed?

The point of keeping the location classified was twofold for the Tramps. For one, it meant they didn’t actually have to decide until pretty much the last minute. And by keeping it on the downlow, they wouldn’t have to deal with any objections that the chosen venue didn’t really fit in with the ramshackle TATTGOC charter. That mission statement pledges that the brotherhood foregoes visits to prominent Glasgow establishments the better to dig up hidden gems instead. The Koh-i-Noor – for that was the chosen place – is arguably one of the most famous curryhouses in Glasgow, with a formidable reputation for its original Gibson Street location and a high-profile prominence in its current Charing Cross locale. So why there? Put simply, the Tramps wanted to mark the anniversary by going somewhere a bit swish where the chances of everyone getting a decent curry were reasonably high. Also, when Trampy phoned to book the table, he was informed that the Switch machine was on the blink so only cash would be accepted – and considering that the only adamantine rule of TATTGOC is “nae cards”, this seemed like fate.

After a necessarily quick group shot outside the restaurant in the pouring rain, the eleven hungry men entered the warmth and luxury of the Koh-i-Noor to be seated near the centerpiece fountain, made all the more wondrous by being surrounded by an extensive buffet. In recent months, it has sometimes been a bit of a faff just to get a round of lagers and poppadoms on the go but within minutes, spicy battle had been joined. With shirtsleeves rolled up, huddled in deep conversation, the group might have been mistaken for corporate businessmen attending a conference, debating important strategic planning for the next year (a whiteboard at the head of the table reading “TATTGOC: Which Way Now?” would have completed the illusion). If an observer crept closer, though, they would soon have realised the chat had less do with capitalist ambition than comparing the Koh-i-Noor’s delicious mango chutney with the Ghostbusters-esque ectoplasm the crew faced on their very first outing all those months ago.

As is traditional, The Tramp requested an improvisatory range of starters, essentially giving the staff carte blanche to give us whatever they thought best. While this strategy has backfired in the past with plates piled with fairly nondescript pakora and the odd bit of tandoori chicken, the Koh-i-Noor apparently took it as a challenge to show their range and flexibility. Multiple plates of tandoori chicken, garlic mushrooms, fish pakora and tender rashmi boti descended like an alien invasion fleet. And, as it turned out, that was just the first wave: further plates of pakora bookended the table, creating a slightly overwhelming feast. Ties be damned – the brotherhood tucked in and, characteristically, whenever someone discovered a particularly tasty morsel, they alerted the far end of the table and offered to pass it along (of course, in many cases the morsel was swiped by another member as the plate glided along, but at least the thought was there).

Although the buffet was mere inches away, the Tramps had made the command decision to go for the A La Carte menu, otherwise the night would have been little more than an extended conga as various members shuffled up and down out of their seats to try something else. After the superior spread of starters, some of the brotherhood were looking pretty full up (that extra half hour in The Avalon meant that a fair bit of drink had been taken). Usually the Tramps are quite exacting about the rice/naan equation to ensure that everyone gets what they want without too much wastage, they know had so much confidence in the waiting staff they put the matter entirely in their hands. The promise of a selection of naan sounded tantalising, but nothing could have prepared the group for the astonishing special naan that arrived – similar in colour to the legendary “Sherid-naan” but with the addition of dried fruit. And, to the approval of The Tramp, the naans (and some chapatis too) all arrived in their natural state, rather than cut up and presented in baskets.

The curries themselves arrived looking succulent and delicious. Sir Spicy Lover’s lamb handi boasted an impressive, long-handled ladle to aid serving that caused a little bit of utensil envy at the far end of the table. For his part, Rumpole Of The Balti polished off an impressive tandoori selection, and then made some impressive in-roads into the chicken curry of Lime Pickle. At this point, the chat had turned to wild and absurd ideas – the most insidious being that at each future TATTGOC meeting, one member (chosen at random) should be forced to choose from the European Dishes selection. One villain even insisted that this dish should be Chicken Maryland, every single time. Consuming such relatively bland fare while comrades tucked into things sizzling and spicy seemed like a cruel and unusual punishment indeed, the product of a particularly twisted imagination.

Halfway through the decimation of the main courses, the Koh-i-Noor manager approached the table to extend an astonishingly kind offer – if any of the brotherhood fancied trying the buffet, they were welcome to help themselves. Remarkably, no-one actually took up the suggestion – presumably a mixture of middle-class politeness and the fact that they were well stuffed. In the early planning stages, there had been talk of making a special first birthday cake for TATTGOC but it would have remained untouched, so gormandised were the crew.

As everyone knows, the Tramps aren’t ones for fancy talk, so there was very little in the way of self-congratulation – or no more than usual, at least. There was one small presentational part of the evening, however. Unbeknownst to the assembled mob, a special prize was up for grabs: a pure silk tie gifted to Trampy by the Indian Ministry of Tourism during a press trip many years before. The winner? The Clubber who had managed to spill the most curry on their tie. After a quick glance round the table it was revealed that due to some miracle, no-one had actually sullied their neckwear.

The winning conditions were subsequently relaxed. Had anyone spilt any curry on themselves? After a short period of examination, it was revealed that Sir Spicy Lover had somehow conspired to get a couple of globs on his shirt. And so, he modestly accepted the prize, and even politely put it on then and there. As a generous selection of sweets arrived with the bill, Trampy girded his girth – surely such a top-notch meal would make paupers of the brotherhood for the next week or so? As it turned out, the total was exceptionally reasonable, crowning a memorable, emotional and satisfying anniversary. There was a toast to the committed brotherhood, to those Curry Clubbers missing in action, and a final toast to wives and sweethearts … may they never meet!

Range Of Drinks: Tennent’s and Cobra on draught.

Highlights: Fantastic spread of starters; excellent service; princely décor.

Lowlights: Not being able to take advantage of the buffet, but that was kind of our own fault.

The Verdict: A suitably celebratory experience!

The Damage: £272.55 (tip: £30.45)


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Trampy said...

Did we just get spammed? Yet another historic first for TATTGOC ...