REVIEW: Friend Or Faux?

Shish Mahal, Maryhill

The Time: February 19, 8pm

Booking Name: Mr William Friedkin

The Pub Aforehand: The Viking

In Attendance: Trampy, The Tramp, The Duke, The Gheezer, Jalfrezi, Ewan (who’d like a new nickname, please) and Eamonn

Decor: Surprisingly colourful, with various narrative murals to ponder.

Expectations: This Shish Mahal was viewed with some suspicion, mostly because it wasn’t the real Shish Mahal.

The Experience:

Well met, curry traveller! Won’t ye rest somewhat while I spin thee a picaroon, to enchant, bewilder or amuse? But first, a riddle! Can ye fathom a connection between Trampy, The Tramp and Viking epic Beowulf, yon heroic Old English poem composed some time around 1000AD? The obvious answer is that all three have been noted for their length. But, if ye gaze closer, there are deeper similarities:

To the Tramp was given such glory of war,

such honour of combat, that all his kin

obeyed him gladly till great grew his band

of youthful comrades.

– translated from Beowulf I

Actually, scratch that: bad example. TATTGOC’s band of youthful comrades may have swollen to 11 in January, but this month saw some predictable seasonal shrinkage. Blame it on the credit crunch, the dreaded man flu or the simple fact that our elite members have to juggle myriad work and personal commitments. No matter: for nowhere in the mythical Curry Club Constitution does it explicitly state that each member of the brotherhood must swear to attend every meeting. (Although similarly, there is no ruling that females are forbidden: it is merely
strongly implied.)

Our tale begins with an appropriately epic journey, with Trampy and the Tramp travelling in caravan on foot from the corrugated mountain peaks of Partick to the obsidian crucible of Maryhill. The Tramp, usually the most rugged and vocal of our band, is hoarse and feverish; Trampy is nominally hale and hearty but still lacks the presence of mind to remember a camera. (Curry Club’s crackerjack nonconformist Ewan saves the day by bringing one at the last minute, for which we are truly grateful.)

T&TT’s destination is The Viking, Maryhill’s premier mead-hall, a mere spear’s throw from the Shish Mahal. Not, of course,
the Shish Mahal, the much-loved Park Road institution already much hymned in these pages. This is the other Shish Mahal, the Curry Club’s targeted venue this eve. (At the conclusion of booking a group table for “Mr Friedkin”, The Tramp was politely asked: “You do know this is the Maryhill Shish Mahal?”)

Situated in a district where the alehouses are notorious for general ribaldry, The Viking looks at first glance somewhat fearsome. But inside, it pulses with affectionate community. Tonight is poker night in the main bar, so the Tramps proceed through to the lounge. The Gheezer arrives soon after, as does new recruit Eamonn, understandably excited about his initiation. The Duke swoops in next, followed eventually by Jalfrezi, apologising for a lateness that seems all the more discourteous considering Maryhill is actually his hood. As these six warriors get reacquainted, the unmistakable sound of karaoke preparation begins to echo around the lounge, much to the excitement of some health professionals situated nearby. Soon, this hall will reverberate to the enthusiastic echo of the true greats: Dion, Turner, Aloud. But this is not Karaoke Klub. This is Curry Club. As one, our detail arises and exuents. To the Shish Mahal!

Gathered together, the Curry Club 

in the banquet-hall on bench assigned,

sturdy-spirited, sat down,
A henchman attended,

carried the carven cup in hand,

served the fizzy mead.

– from Beowulf VII

Trooping upstairs to this particular Shish Mahal, the Club is cheered mightily by the sight of Ewan (nee Aloo Aloo, nee Bawsaag) sitting, alone and rather glum, within such a colourful, well-appointed room. The waiting staff had apparently suspected the rest of our promised band had sallied to the proper Shish Mahal by mistake. But here we are, marvelling at the comfy-looking booths and bright murals, while secretly wondering if we are destined to celebrate every single Curry Club without any other actual witnesses. (If one of Trampy’s exhausting puns falls flat and there are no other patrons present to hear it, does it make a sound?)

Before long, the Club is truly preoccupied; each member has one hand clasped on a cold bottle of Cobra, while the other is gummily attached to the Shish Mahal’s sticky menu, unputdownable for all the wrong reasons. This menu boasts an introduction that references the hallowed Park Road Shish but, with canny wordsmithery, elides the fact that there is no umbilical connection. That the kiddie section of the menu is called “Young Generation” raises a few smiles; that some prices have been increased clumsily in biro heralds considerably more frowns.

After last month’s fundament-shaking starter debacle, the Club plays it relatively safe: above the usual poppadom rodeo, just two chef’s platters are requested: surely conquerable by our not-so-secret seven? It appears so, as our troop feasts on fritters and pakora. And yet … would it not have been better to submit our full request at once, rather than belaying our main course order? Perhaps not: the added time allows the Club to learn more about an ancient succession procedure practiced by Partick real ale drinkers in a certain hostelry, and also hear Ewan’s lyrical reasoning for requesting a different nickname (request denied). Some claimed this between-course downtime was wasted. Others appreciated the breather, which stoked the fires of anticipation. Also: more Cobra!

Like The Village, the main courses arrive in tiny sealed cauldrons, inspiring a now-customary group reveal of oor tea. Chastened by previous transgressions, Trampy has requested a defiantly minimal sundry loadout: just three portions of pilau rice, accompanied by garlic, peshwari and “hot” naan. If the first bite is with the eye, then someone’s cornea must be burning: the tucker is piping hot, and apparently pretty tasty. New member Eamonn has brought a goddamn
video camera, which captures the “reveal” in all its glory, and everyone seems surprised at how good the food is: hearty, satisfying and tangy as you like. Towards the end of the chowdown there is a hint that perhaps a single extra sundry would have topped things off – a punnet of rice or another luftwaffe of naan, perhaps – but everyone remains sated if not bloated. By the same token, we are still clearly the only folks in here.

Once the various makhanis and masalas have been polished off, it is time for the traditional brandy, although Trampy seems more keen to demonstrate a traditional magic trick using one of the luxurious napkins. While he fiddles with his illusion, Jalfrezi takes charge of the toast, but soon discovers that there is no brandy in the place. His discussion with our chirpy sommelier soon turns to Benedictine, the monk-shaped bottle of brandy-based liqueur.

In the interests of expediency, we all agree to tan the monk but while there is always a certain satisfaction in chinking glasses, it still doesn’t quite hit the spot. Don’t get your humble reporter wrong: pretty much everyone has enjoyed their dinner. But brandy is brandy, and Benedictine is something else. So after settling up a bill which seems reasonable, if a little larded by an enthusiasm for booze, the brotherhood stolidly leaves, a merry band guided, it seems, almost by Maryhill Road itself …

Stone-bright the street: it showed the way
to the crowd of currymen. Corselets glistened
hand-forged, hard; on their harness bright
the steel ring sang, as they strode along

in mail of battle, and marched to the hall.
– Beowulf V

Our destination is the Crosslands, another of this region’s finest mead-halls, but en route, our group eye is caught by a display in a first-floor window, almost directly above a merchant called "Danceland". Creeping closer in the dark, the words become clear … miraculously, it says “JALFREZI SALUTES YOU...” Our Maryhill member has been at mischief, taking the time to print out a celebratory greeting for the Curry Club that tickles each and every member. As we stagger onward to Crosslands – where, incredibly, "Rowdy" Roddy Piper awaits – the brotherhood, as one, salutes Jalfrezi in return. For he has definitely demonstrated two qualities the Curry Club values above all else: cunning and tomfoolery. Can such a gesture be beat?

Range Of Drinks
: Bottles of creamy, delicious, ice-cold, refreshing Cobra … did we mention we are currently looking for a site sponsor?

Highlights: Decent main courses, a chatty sommelier, luxurious napkins.

Lowlights: Greasy menus, some confusion with ordering timing.

The Verdict: A surprisingly pleasant experience!

The Damage: £158.15 (tip: £16.85)

Attention Curry Clubbers! Does this garbled Old English account jigsaw with your own recounting? If not, correct our scribe in the comments section below. And seriously, check out the full slideshow of Shish pics using the gadget on your right – there's a truly wigged-out shot of one of the murals which demands an inappropriate caption. Just remember: it's not you ... it's mead.

Currypedia No. 3: The Potato

It's Thursday! So it must be time for another curry-related slap to the chops for all members of the curry brotherhood. And this week is a very special week indeed as we take a currypedia look at something which is dear to all our hearts – the potato.

Why is it such an important element of Indian cuisine? Well, the non-violent philosophy of Ahimsa has a strong influence within the religions of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jain – so it's literally bad karma to slaughter animals. India is therefore a largely vegetarian country, with less than 30% of the population being regular meat eaters. But this was not always the case ...

The potato is not native to India nor – despite what the Irish would have you believe – Europe. Our favourite tuber actually originates in the Americas. First introduced to Europe in 1536, the potato is believed to have been first brought to India by the Portugese sometime around the year 1600 whereupon it changed its name to "aloo" ... and never looked back. Much like our very own Ewan.

Enough of the history lesson, though ... what about the tasty dishes? The Tramp's favourite pakora in the world are those crafted in the mighty Shish Mahal (the real one, mind), where the key ingredients are potato and (much to Trampy's chagrin) cauliflower. Described as "vegetable" on the menu (as opposed to the "ordinary" pakora), I'd highly recommend them to any starter fan. Mr Ali's very own special pakora secrets can be found in the must-have Shish Mahal Cook Book along with some awesome recipes for Bombay Potato and Methi Aloo.

Mmmm. Spud-we-like!

Attention, curry clubbers! Be honest now ... did you really have any idea that the potato was that old? And is it as good as it used to be? Will it be mushrooms? Fried onion rings? You'll have to wait and see. Hope it's chips ... etc. Go postal below, curry commentators.

Words Are Our Playthings...

Is there still a whole week to go until the next Curry Club? It seems too long to wait! To keep the brotherhood going in the lean times, we've come across an awesome website called Wordle that, according to its creator is "a toy for generating 'word clouds' from text that you provide ... the clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text." Since the clouds we're usually used to in the Curry Club are of the noxious variety, we thought it would be fun to pour all our rambling posts into the Wordle website to see what guff appears most frequently. Click on either of the images to get a better look at how it all breaks down.
Unsurprisingly, "Curry" and "Glasgow" loom large, as do "Trampy" and "Tramp". "Pakora" is another major favourite. But a lot of the other prominent words are a bit more strange. See if you can spot your nickname among the morass. And count down the days to our next meeting ...

So, Curry Clubbers ... is this clearly a week when both Trampy and the Tramp are actually doing a proper day's work, so they've relied on another website to serve up something approaching a decent update? Give them dog's abuse below

Curry Club Close-Up: Some Pilau Talk With Nicknameless Nick D

Everyone in the Glasgow of Curry brotherhood loves curry – but wouldn't it be intriguing to discover more about the men behind the menu choices? In this occasional Q&A series, we'll be journeying into the curry-obsessed mindpans of prominent members. After learning about the eating habits of the mighty wolverine in conversation with The Duke last time, we're continuing with Nick D, a well-travelled man to whom no Curry Club nickname could ever truly do justice. He might also be off to London in a bit, so we thought we should "grill" him while we had the chance ...

Nick D

Nickname (UPDATE): Now Nick's actually, properly aff, we've asked for a definitive nickname for him, but the best he's come up with is Slumdog Millionaire's Shortbread. Watch this space. 

Favourite Glasgow curry house: The Wee Curry Shop, Buccleuch Street. Intriguingly, I have never passed through its doors, but I send out a boy most Saturdays for the most exquisite mutter paneer. Actually, once or twice it has been pretty manky, a sorry shadow of its usual cheesy peas self. I can only assume this is the result of some idiot substitute chef being on duty. Perhaps I should get the boy to make enquiries.

Second favourite Glasgow curry house: Do you know, I think it might just be The Village on Nelson Street, in with a bullet. I would like to return soon and see what it's like without a stomach full of lassi and overordered starters.

Favourite Glasgow curry takeaway: I too pine for the Woodlands Road pakora emporium. I think the man sold up and went into corporate catering. Wanker.

All-time favourite curry dish: A delicately spiced butterfish I had in Kerala. I say "delicately spiced" because I can't remember the details, just that it was very tasty. Num num.

All-time curry idol: John Curry, just shading Glasgow's "Curry King" Charan Gill.

Rice or naan? Can I say ... paratha? [Editor's note: Yes]

Favourite curry lager: King's (only brewed and sold in the state of Goa). Kingfisher has glycerine in it – or it does if you're in India, which you never know, you might be. Glycerine can give you the runs, and I'm not having that.

What's the most exotic place you've had a curry? Up the bum.

Can you actually make a decent curry yourself at home? No way.

If you could enjoy a curry dinner-for-two with anyone, either alive or dead, who would it be? I think it would be Noel Edmonds, dead.

Favourite curry-related motto: You don't have to be Madhur Jaffrey to work here, but it helps!

What creature or object would you say best symbolises your personality? A top hat. [Editor's note: we thought a picture of just a top hat might be a little dull – hence the mutt]

The Man With No Nickname, there, baring his curry soul. Do you agree with his choices? Who should be "grilled" next? Speak your brains in the comments, mofos.