The Time: May 21, 9pm(ish)
Booking Name: Mr David Lean
The Pub Aforehand: The Grove, Kelvingrove Street
In Attendance: Trampy, The Bulldosa, Rabbie Shankar, Sir Spicy Lover, Ravi Peshwari and The Birmingham Wan – just back from Japan, by the way. Oh, and Rogan Josh Homme ... eventually.
Decor: This modest takeaway on Old Dumbarton Road specialises in South Indian fare, and is currently in the process of being refurbished. The functioning service area was spic’n’span, albeit very yellow.
Expectations: Mixed. Despite some fabulous reviews, a few of the assembled Curry Clubbers darkly recounted tales of Banana Leaf culinary disappointment they’d heard from friends and/or lovers.
He waits. That’s what he does. Sitting, alone, in the comforting, gentlemanly fug of The Grove, Trampy gazes forlornly at his pint of Tennent’s. He can see why The Bulldosa chose this venue as the Curry Club rendezvous; it’s old-fashioned, refreshingly cheap and there’s a Bullseye-themed puggy at the end of the bar. Yet despite the soothing, boozy atmosphere, Trampy is on edge. Combat veterans who have lost a limb in battle often experience phantom sensations from the missing appendage; for Trampy, the absence of The Tramp at a Curry Club meeting seems almost as unsettling. And TATTGOC’s venerable co-founder isn’t the only call-off.
When you draw your membership from the most rarefied spheres of commerce and creativity, there will always be unavoidable clashes: for The Tramp, long-standing work commitments preclude his attendance; similarly, Rumpole Of The Balti is mentally girding himself for a vital exam; from his technological eyrie, tireless sentinel The Duke is keeping the skies safe; Lime Pickle is burning the midnight oil at his graphics tablet; Jalfrezi, meanwhile, must perform vital conjugal duties involving men and biscuits. And The Gheezer … well, he just forgot.
But before Trampy can slip further into a slough of despond, the evergreen Rabbie Shankar bounds in, closely followed by two swaggering local boys of the brotherhood. Already it feels like this is going to be a different flavour of Curry Club – instead of descending en masse upon a near-empty restaurant, the plan is to get a mammoth takeaway from the nearby Banana Leaf, then B.O.A.B.I.E. (Bring Oor Ain Booze In Extremelylargequantities) to the gaff of The Bulldosa and The Birmingham Wan (TBW), situated over the road at the end of the second-longest Georgian crescent in the UK. (In keeping with the credit crunch-aware vibe of the evening, the food order is to be placed in the name of David Lean.) Earlier that day, Trampy had swung by the Banana Leaf to secure multiple menus and garner some recommendations. As Sir Spicy Lover and Ravi Peshwari arrive, these menus are dished out among the group. Immediately, the troop is drawn to menu item 22, the “King Dosa”, a giant paper dosa claiming to be almost 3ft in length! As one, the attendant members demand an audience with "the King".
Between chewing over menu options, there’s still time to hear some of The Birmingham Wan’s intriguing travelogue concerning his recent jaunt to Japan (quick plug: there will be a glitzy, jet-setting Curry Club report from the land of the rising sun on this very blog next week). Perennial fusspot Trampy, meanwhile, harasses members to hurry up and cement their choices, but even once the main course options are locked down, there’s some healthy debate over the starter selection. The intriguing Banana Leaf speciality Idly & Sambar – not a traditional folk duo but a “steamed cake made with lentiled batter served with sambar and chutney” – is chalked up, as is a side order of Cabbage Fogath – “stir-fried cabbage with mustard and grated coconut”. But where is Rogan Josh Homme? A trip to London to evaluate the latest Terminator flick appears to have muddled his timeline. But just as the wide-ranging chow order is nearing completion, Homme materialises as if catapulted through time by Skynet itself. He proceeds to confirm his menu choice as decisively as an emotionless cyborg, even before Trampy can say “Come with me if you want your tea.”
Trampy wastes no time in filing Mr Lean’s order by phone, and then it’s time to head to the “restaurant”, with a pitstop at legendary Finnieston off-licence G. G. Brothers to stock up on booze. While meandering past the three bowling clubs on the second-longest Georgian crescent in the UK, swinging carrier bags of bevvy as they go, the brotherhood’s mood is giddy, mostly because of the promise of darts action ahead. The Bulldosa and TBW’s love of the arrows is legendary, and the beer has barely been crammed into the fridge before a seven-strong game of Shanghai is in full swing.
But while all those crook-handed attempts to secure doubles and trebles pass the time merrily, it’s not long before stomachs start growling. Where is our metre-long dosa and assorted accoutrements? WE DEMAND OUR METRE-LONG DOSA!
Just as things are about to get ugly, a small Nissan pulls up at the door, its suspension noticeably struggling to cope with the grub. While handing over the feast, our driver notes that the chapatis are missing and pledges to retrieve them immediately. No matter: the various containers are already being divvied up on The Bulldosa and TBW’s banquet-sized dining table. Let’s do this!
The main courses are identified with relative ease, with a couple of chicken coconut frys, a lamb chettinadu and fish kozhambu among the highlights. Less easy to discern is how all the various starters actually work, with various dosas – including The Bulldosa’s soft-centred, lace-edged preference – kicking about alongside various pots of daal-ish spiciness to dip them into. But where’s the King Dosa? Eventually, we uncover a carefully folded pancake that, when unwrapped, is almost a metre in length, which is fairly impressive – in truth, it resembles the flying apparatus of Condorman, though it is also very tasty dipped in … in … well, whatever that stuff in the tub was. And to say sorry for forgetting our chapati order, the restaurant even threw in a free pudding, a tub of sugary treats that were soon demolished.
The initial naysayers are quick to revise their preconceptions: the Banana Leaf gets a resounding thumbs up from every single one of the municipal seven round the table, and while the amount of tucker at first seems almost insurmountable, every last morsel is eventually consumed. At this point, Trampy feels slightly bad for The Bulldosa and TBW, for wouldn’t it have been nice if some of the tasty curry had survived until the morning? At the very least there will be some extra booze to bolster their fridge over the next few days, right? Because even the Curry Club won’t be able to decimate all those cans of beer stacked like intercontinental ballistic missiles in the fridge …
Or will they? As the darts resumed, this time in the form of the more combative game Killer – where players compete to attain the status of “killer” and then ruthlessly eliminate anyone else who might be a threat, or just anyone else who happens to be in the firing line – it seemed as if the Curry Club was going to give it a damn good try. And that was before Sir Spicy Lover produced, like God’s own conjuror, a bottle of Armangnac he’d brought as a gift for the hosts. How did the evening continue from there? Freed from the stifling confines of a restaurant, the Curry Club became all it could be, and then some. So what happened? To be honest, that depends on who you ask …
Range Of Drinks: The Banana Leaf menu offers a comprehensive range of teas and soft drinks. Everyone brought their own booze, though, so there was quite a barmy selection, from bottles of Cobra to cans of Carling, via Red Stripe, Budvar, that Armangnac and more.
Highlights: Authentic, spicy fare at a very reasonable price. Plus: a freakin’ metre-long dosa!
Lowlight: Our bumper order did seem to take an agonisingly long time to arrive.
The Verdict: A surprisingly homely experience!
The Damage: £61.70 (tip: £8.30)
So for the love of King Of The Rocketmen, how did it end? If you have any pertinent or useful information relating to the further events of the May instalment of the Curry Club, let us know in the comments below
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was there – which meant a lot of jokes about politicians and their expenses – as was Katharine Brown, the newly crowned Miss Scotland, who towered over everyone else in spectacular heels and a tiara that only added more inches. With two media sponsors in the form of The Sunday Post and The Sun, there were also a fair few journalists. Arguably, one element was missing: a delegation from the city’s tangiest grassroots culinary blog, Trampy And The Tramp's Glasgow Of Curry. Hang on … who are these surprisingly dapper and yet ruggedly handsome fellows? Would it be presumptuous to assume that these bad boys are about to put the "riot" in "Marriott Hotel"?
Curry Lover Of The Year: Alex Salmond (goan yersel, Eck!)
Best Supermarket Curry Of The Year: Asda
Team Of The Year: The Ashoka, Glasgow
Chef Of The Year: Jaffar Hussian of Kabana, Glasgow
Takeaway Of The Year: Kebab Mahal, Edinburgh
Lifetime Achievement Award: Mr Ali Ahmed Aslam
The Sunday Post Restaurant of the Year: Cinnamon, Aberdeen
Curry King Of The Year: Mr Balbir Singh Sumal
Many thanks to Faiza and Angie from Oceanic for being such good sports and having us along; the man with the official camera was Tom Finnie. All in all, an awesome night – so should we start saving now to reserve a full TATTGOC table for 2010?
Nickname: Sir Spicy Lover
So how did that nickname come about? On my recent travels, a waiter, worried about the chilli content of my requested dish, asked politely if I was a “spicy lover”. What can I say? Well, if the spice is right. As Curry Club names go, it's fairly average. Rumpole Of The Balti, now that's a name! [Editor’s Note: The Tramp, upon first hearing Spicy Lover’s nickname, instinctively added “Sir” … and since The Tramp obviously has the power to bestow curry knighthoods, it has since stuck.]
Favourite Glasgow curry house: Mother India's Cafe. I used to live just around the corner. It was like a home from home. Except the queue was shorter to get into my own home.
Second favourite Glasgow curry house: I’m yet to find one. Still very much a plump, fluffy pakora virgin of the Glasgow curry-loving scene. Looking for the wise brethren of the Curry Club to show me the light. But the nae frills charm of Edinburgh's Kebab Mehal is still second to naan. Chicken Madras and Tark Dhal. Mmmhh ...
Favourite Glasgow curry takeaway: The Ashoka. But the rest of the curry brethren are constantly recommending the Shish Mahal, and it's just down the road from where I live now. The Shapla on Easter Road was my local in Edinburgh and it was as good as any proper curry restaurant. How many times can I use the word “Edinburgh” before I’m barred? [Editor's Note: You're barred.]
All-time favourite curry dish: Lamb with Spinach (Paalag Gosht) or Sour Chickpeas (Khatte Chhole). Love dhals too.
All-time curry idol: Susie Curry? Nah, it has to be curry guru Madhur Jaffrey. Her Curry Bible is essential bedtime reading.
Rice or naan? I'm more of a chapati man myself. But I'd probably go for rice.
Favourite curry lager: I recently discovered the joys of Lal Toofan at my first Curry Club outing. Superb pint glass too. But there’s nothing much wrong with Tennent’s cooking lager to help dowse the flames.
Favourite post-curry whisky: Edradour. Highland Park. Or a wee cocktail: Whisky Mac or Rusty Nail. Enjoyed from a hipflask ... it tastes sweeter.
What's the most exotic place you've had a curry? The Banana Leaf Apolo in Singapore. I had read and dreamed about their famous fish head curry (pictured) for many moons. Big, juicy (but rather ugly) heads of red snapper are scooped out of a cauldron and an industrial-sized ladle generously spoons lots of deep, red, spicy gravy all over them. The only way to find all the hidden bits of flesh in the head is to get stuck in with your hands. Finger-lickin' great! And Mel Gibson apparently agrees ...
(The Kisimul Cafe on the Isle of Barra serves a mean curry too. Does that count as exotic?)
Can you actually make a decent curry yourself at home? I try, and have lots of fun in the process. Not sure how authentic they are but they certainly taste half-decent.
If so, can we all come round for our tea? Aye, of course. Just bring the beers.
If you could enjoy a curry dinner-for-two with anyone, either alive or dead, who would it be? Johnny Cash.
What creature or object would you say best symbolises your personality (which will also determine the picture at the top of the post)? According to my special lady friend, a “hairy-faced sloth”.
A valuable insight, there, into the mind of Sir Spicy Lover. Notice how he discreetly reinforced the idea that "Cash" is king. To be honest, that more than made up for any Edinburgh curry chat. Comments, etc, below.
Ravi had commandeered the whole of the restaurant from 2pm to accommodate his guests and it wasn’t long before the place was filling up. The Tramp and Trampette (nickname pending approval) were among the first to arrive, closely followed by Rumpole Of The Balti’s better half, who reported that the Curry Club’s in-house legal counsel would be slightly late due to him having his hair done (the resulting do was magnificent). Soon enough, everyone had arrived and it was on with the ordering … so what of the meal?
The Wee Curry Shop may well be diminutive in size but it punches above its weight when it comes to the cooking. Uncharacteristically, The Tramp opted to skip a starter but did manage to pinch some of that most Scottish of curry fusion dishes – Haggis Pakora – and mighty fine it was too, bringing back memories of (and a bit of reminiscing about) the sadly long-gone pakora paradise that was Murphy’s Pakora Bar. Although a few of our party ordered from the standard menu, most of the assembled squad opted for the Thali lunch.
After selecting from chicken, lamb, fish or vegetable curry, you are presented with your own personal Thali platter consisting of your chosen curry, the vegetarian dish of the day (a daal in our case), basmati rice, raita, lime pickle and a chapati. Mmmm. And all the while Ravi’s partner Fadge Mahal kept the fizz flowing – never were our glasses empty. The meal was rounded off with an amazing pedal steel-shaped birthday cake (just visible in the left-hand corner of the first photo) and then it was off to the pub to continue the celebrations long into the night.
All in all, it was a cracking day of curry and partying. So let's all raise a glass and also a cheer for Ravi Peshwari – happy birthday, sir, from the entire TATTGOC brotherhood!
**["SHATNER'S BASSOON" IS APPARENTLY OK, THOUGH]