REVIEW: Let The Good Times Rawal

Rawalpindi, Sauchiehall Street

The Time: October 22, 8.30pm

Booking Name:
Mr Brian De Palma

The Pub Aforehand:
Nico’s, just up the road

In Attendance: A dirty half-dozen: Trampy, The Tramp, The Bulldosa, The Duke, Rabbie Shankar and Sir Spicy Lover

Decor: Outside – municipal swimming pool. Inside – recently refurbished and super swank.

No-one present had any first-hand experience, but with Rawalpindi being so central and so long-standing, there were two competing theories. One, it had thrived because of its terrific food. Two, it had thrived because people who find themselves hungry on Sauchiehall Street lack imagination.

The Experience:

Even the greenest TATTGOC initiate knows that each of these breathless reports from our monthly outings comes illustrated with certain vital pictures: a group portrait of the assembled currynauts outside the establishment, a representation of the restaurant menu (harder than it sounds – some of those babies are so heavily laminated they reflect the flash with the intensity of a white dwarf [the celestial body, not the official Games Workshop magazine]) and a final shot of the bill, usually half-obscured by grubby tenners. Well, after almost a year, our standards are slipping a little. Or maybe it's time to just go crazy and mix things up a bit. In other words, one out of three ain’t bad.

This month, picture duties were split between ever-scheming TATTGOC guerilla-leader-in-waiting The Bulldosa – with a very nice 10.1 mexapixel Sony Sumthin-Or-Other – and The Tramp himself, whose chunky, “proper-looking” SLR contains more advanced technology and programming than most communication satellites launched in the 1990s. The division of labour was thus: Bulldosa would handle the in-restaurant action, The Tramp providing some haunting Annie Leibowitz-style portraits. Unfortunately, due to punishing work commitments, The Tramp wasn’t able to develop his pictures in time. That’s why the “bull pic” – to use the journalistic term for “big picture at the top of an article” – is actually a picture of The Tramp taking a picture of the rest of the crew, which is pretty mindblowing if you stop and think about it. That’s not just breaking the fourth wall – that’s breaking it, carefully rebuilding it, leaving it for a few years for everyone to get used to the idea of a fourth wall again, then smashing it when they least expect it.

As you might have gathered, this was a slightly more impovisatory meet-up than usual, perhaps because of the relatively compact group. Received wisdom – the kind you often hear in Received Pronunciation – suggests that a group of 10+ males of a certain age would be rowdier and more unpredictable than one of just six alpha males; the more empty barrels, the louder the noise. But simmer down TATTGOC to its hardened core of members – the Chapati Illuminati, if you like – and literally anything can happen.

The designated meeting point was Nico’s, a once-proud Sauchiehall Street institution that in ancient times served as a trendy feeder bar for the rash of student-tailored nightclubs that seemed to specialise in filling up young 'uns with 50p vodkas before firing them onto a pheremone-saturated dancefloor to see what would transpire – think of it as a very early Large Hardon Collider. Those days are long past, though, and now Nico’s is the natural habitat for more mature (and predominantly male) drinkers: bikers, grebos, businessmen, tramps. One such hobo – our very own Trampy – sat alone, fretting over a pint of Tennent’s. Only the fact that it had cost a mere £1.80 warmed his miserish heart.

A combination of flu, ennui, the London Film Festival and Celtic being in some diddy cup had reduced the curry strike team to just six but, Trampy mused, they were so battle-hardened he could easily imagine them as a tightly-knit group of squaddies in an Andy McNab fiction. As well as The Tramp and The Bulldosa – forever locked in a doomed battle of oneupmanship – there was The Duke, always level-headed in a tight spot. Sir Spicy Lover’s enthusiasm for curry made him the equal of three normal men, and if you were heading into a curry house unknown, who better to have your back than veteran Rabbie Shankar? By the time these five others were wedged around the table, batting round “bant” and comparing war stories from the past month, Trampy was beginning to feel like he could take on the whole Empire himself. Let’s roll!

Lots of places on Sauchiehall Street have doormen, but the fellow in traditional dress outside Rawalpindi serves a slightly different function – welcoming customers rather than turning them away. He was also happy to pose with our currynauts as The Tramp composed a presumably lovely portrait (one that we’ll hopefully post at a later date). The outside of the restaurant seems mostly unchanged from when it opened three decades ago – the year that Margaret Thatcher was elected, the Sony Walkman first came out and Pink Floyd released The Wall. Inside, though, the recent refurbishment has transformed the place into somewhere pretty swanky, possibly too swanky for TATTGOC.

After ordering up a round of Cobras, the Tramps sort out the starters. We allow ourselves to be upsold a little on the poppadoms, with two each rather than our usual “wan”, possibly the result of too many cheap pints of Tennent’s tanned too quickly. And as well as the usual pakora and chef’s platter starters, Trampy wheedles for “something nice for a change” to take advantage of the Club’s leaner turnout (it’s easier to achieve a consensus with less bodies). With that, a prawn dosa is added to the order, and the Curry Clubbers settle in, occasionally drowning out the atmospheric background music with their explosive laughter at off-colour subjects.

The Tramp and The Bulldosa return to their default setting of needling each other, climaxing in The Bulldosa taking a series of candid portraits of The Tramp grouching and grousing like bear with a sore bellend (a small selection of those shots are available in the accompanying slideshow to your right). At one end of the table, Rabbie Shankar revealed a gift – apparently for himself – of a highly stylised mug. From your reporter’s end of the feast, it was hard to catch the drift of the chat, but perhaps it was something to do with a fire sale at the troubled Lighthouse?

The starters, incidentally, were fine and dandy, arriving on stylish plates that would not have looked too much out of place at one of the Lighthouse’s many exhibitions about fancy-dan design. The dosa was spry and tasty, and could be carved up into six helpings with ease. After a long-ish but not entirely unwelcome wait, the main courses arrived (unfortunately, just when our smoking party was outside, cracking jokes with the doorman). Though there’s no official ruling about waiting for all members to be present before tucking in, most Clubbers began early dips into their tantalising tea. The rice/naan loadout had been kept to two rice and two naan (a garlic and a peshwari) but once battle was joined, it was clear that more sundries would be needed – an additional plain naan was added to our order. After visiting a number of restaurants where the naans come pre-cut, The Tramp, in particular, was relieved to note that Rawalpindi allow you to do your own ripping. Appropriately, everyone got tore in.

Portions were adequate enough to quiet most of the table for the duration, although there was one instance that brought on a prolonged bout of possibly-too-loud laughter. Luckily, we got a shot of the event that sparked the hilarity (pictured left). Can you see what caused the merriment? That’s right. The curry looks like a croissant. Good times!

As people wiped at the tears rolling down their cheeks – partly from curry heat, partly from the croissant incident – it seemed appropriate to order up a final round of digestifs. Usually, in accordance with the TATTGOC charter, this would be a round of brandys but after a special Chapati Illumanti vote, the assembled ended up plumping for a round of whiskys (there was one abstention in favour of sambuca). Arriving in cute little shotglasses on a tray, the scene seemed briefly reminiscent of the drinking competition that first introduced cinema audiences to the wondrous Marion Ravenwood in Raiders Of The Lost Ark. Only money changing hands and Mongolians shouting “pestori!” would have made it seem any more authentic (we had to make do with mongoloids).

A fine evening’s curry then, even if the final, generally indecipherable bill appeared to have crept into the upper echelons of Curry Club expenditure. At £34 each, it didn’t compare too favourably with most of our other outings, and Trampy – who prides himself at keeping a little running total updated in his head like Scrooge McDuck – couldn’t fathom how it had crept so high. But it is not in the TATTGOC nature to complain so the crew promptly stumped up and sallied out, heads held high. A few more abortive picture attempts outside still failed to get the actual signage in shot, but did reveal that Trampy had somehow conspired to get curry slathered all down his purple polo shirt, which become a somewhat disproportionate source of hilarity. After lingering so long in Rawalpindi though, most hard-working Curry Clubbers were looking for their beds. The blood brothers of unit Ravi Two Zero chastely embraced and disappeared into the night. Next time: it’s only been a bloody year of Curry Club! Hang onto your hats!

Range Of Drinks: Tennent’s and Cobra on draught; an impressive range of spirits (including “whisky”, “special whisky” and “malt whisky”)

Highlights: Nicely refurbished; lovely crockery; charming doorman; above average food.

Lowlights: Unexpected longeurs between courses; that indecipherable bill.

The Verdict: A surprisingly pleasant, if immoderate, experience!

The Damage: £204 (tip: £25.60)

Taking A Break From All Your Worries

Spotify, Spotify ... Spotify Done To Deserve This?

Following in the mindbending wake of The Tramp's last Jukebox Puri – a continuing musical education for us all – we thought it was high time TATTGOC ("the brand") jumped on the Spotify bandwagon. So here we go! Wait til you hear about ... [ZZTSSZZZ]

... Hi, I'm Tristan from TATTGOC. Have you thought about upgrading to TATTGOC Premium? It gives you full access to TATTGOC without any of those annoying interruptions ...

[ZZTSSZZZ] ... Huh? Oh yeah, in our continued half-hearted efforts to discreetly monetize the blog, we've followed in Spotify's footsteps by offering visitors the option of subscribing to an optimized version of Trampy And The Tramp's Glasgow Of Curry that removes all those tedious, annoying parts. So if you sign up for TATTGOC Premium, you get full, uninhibited access to the blog, without any further Thursday updates or inane comments. So the whole thing is roughly about a million times more enjoyable.

Anyway, that's not important right now. The point of this post is to draw attention to This Charming Naan: The Many Moods Of TATTGOC Vol 1, an almost hour-long curry-themed musical jamboree that represents the first and possibly last TATTGOC playlist to ever exist on Spotify! So what in the Sam Hill is on there? Let's check the motherlovin' running order (if you're Spotified up, click here and it should launch through Spotify, fingers crossed):

OK, let's go deeper on some of the highlights. In a rare instance of self-control, Trampy didn't want to resort to revisionist wordplay (that meant no Tears On My Pilau, Nothing Compares 2 Vindaloo or When Doves Karahi), so each song had to stand on its own merit with its original title. Jorge Ben's thumping classic Taj Mahal was an early lock simply because Rod ripped it off wholesale for Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?

There are dozens of Ruby Tuesday covers on Spotify, and we almost went for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra version, but Bobby Goldsboro's reading had an ineffable, haunting quality that seemed to chime with the TATTGOC philosophy. Perhaps the greatest discoveries on the list, though, are the Torpedo Boyz, Japanese – German? Martian? – beat merchants who doff their space helmets to Deee-Lite, presumably accompanied by a swannee whistle sound effect. And while we still have no idea who Wilmer X is, his rousing and borderline incomprehensible bar-room boogie Girls Vindaloo ("I like 'em hot, I like 'em spicy / I don't go for the cold and icy") meant there was absolutely no need to include Fat Les. So we're grateful to you, Mr X.

When it came to rounding off the playlist, there was really only one choice: the traditional Brandy. And Trampy got to further indulge his unexpected love of flagrantly commercial R&B with a final smooth cut from ex-Destiny's Child diva Michelle Williams.

Even once the tracklist was finalised, it still took a little while to settle on an appropriate title for the mix. First of all, we were gonna call it:

Then there was a sudden surge for the Connery-esque:

And it may yet still become:

Any more for any more? If you have a favourite curry-evoking musical selection, let us know. (And a special TATTGOC merit badge to anyone who finds a Tim Curry track that's actually listenable. We almost included his hammy rendition of My Funny Valentine but it was just ... too ... painful.)

Curry Club Close-Up: Some Pilau Talk With The Birmingham Wan

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, continuing with a legend who effortlessly straddles the spheres of both curry and darts.

Name: The Birmingham Wan

How did that nickname come about?
It’s to do with the fact I lived for about three years in our nation’s second city – and home of the Balti – Birmingham. That combined with the years I spent in jail wrongly accused of a minor terrorist attack in the 1980s. It never got the press attention that some of the other cases did, but those showers still haunt me.

Favourite Glasgow curry house: I'd like to be a bit more "Well there’s this little place that no one has heard of …" but I’m afraid I’m a Mother India boy. I live just round the corner and it’s pretty hard to beat.

Second favourite Glasgow curry house:
I still lament the loss of the Shalimar on Gibson Street. I used to go there when I was at university and have many happy memories of their £10 buffet. While the food wasn't spectacular, they served the best pint of Tennent’s lager in Glasgow, ice-cold with a thick creamy head. Even my old man commented on how good it was when I took him there. Interestingly enough, my mates and I would go every New Year's Day and book in under the name of someone famous ... a tradition that has been carried on by a certain world-famous Curry Club I now frequent.

Favourite Glasgow curry takeaway: I’d like to give a shout out to Condorrat’s very own Spice Magic. Not strictly Glasgow, but it was the favourite curry establishment of the Japanese wife of one of my best friends, so who can argue with that? Also, ever since Gregory’s Girl, Cumbernauld has rarely been portrayed in a positive light. So here’s one for the good guys.

All-time favourite curry dish: For a starter, the fish and ginger pakora from Mother India makes my nuts tingle it’s so good. For a main course I like a lamb saag or a fish curry (nothing too creamy and the spicier the better). I think well-cooked lamb is the sign of a proper curry house – any halfwit could knock up a decent enough chicken dish. I also love a bit of tattie in a curry ...

All-time curry idol: My uncle Sean. He once spent a summer winkling naans for a living. If that don’t demand respect I don’t know what does. Well done to Sean and all the other unheralded winklers out there – keep up the good work.

Rice or naan? Rice. It's got to be boiled though. I just don’t understand fried rice, why make it greasy? I also like a chapati and I do have a growing fondness for a garlic naan. Can’t understand the sweet naan thing though – it doesn’t float my boat. And the stuff with the meat through it is just taking the piss, really.

Favourite curry lager: As long as it's wet, cold and not brewed in Dennistoun, then you're heading in the right direction.

What's the most exotic place you've had a curry? I've eaten curry in Melaka in Malaysia, had a curried stingray in Singapore and a good few spicy dinners in Tokyo. Despite that recent Foreign Curryspondent report, curries in Japan have improved significantly since I first went there six years ago. They used to be awful but I was there in the summer and had a few belters.

Can you actually make a decent curry yourself at home? As much as I don’t like to blow my own trumpet (silly saying – why own a trumpet if you're not going to blow it?) I can knock up a reasonable haddock and potato number.

If so, can we all come round for our tea? If you sign the relevant risk assessment and liability waiver forms, of course you are welcome.

If you could enjoy a curry dinner-for-two with anyone, either alive or dead, who would it be?
I’d have to say God. Then if he doesn’t exist I’ll just have to eat for the both of us. If he does I’d like to hear what he’s got to say for himself (or herself).

Is there anything you paticularly miss about your time in Birmingham? The choice and diversity of the curry was amazing. There was a restaurant on Ladypool Road, deep in the heart of the Balti Triangle, called the Al Frash, and I loved it. The tandoori fish and aubergine side dish was enough to make me rigid with delight. I also found a place that did a tikka Scotch Egg, which was nice.

What creature or object would you say best symbolises your personality? For the picture, like? I’d have to say a panda bear wearing a jetpack with laser beams for eyes and a cheeky grin is how I've always seen myself. Either that or Jimmy Nail in Spender will do.

A fascinating insight, there, into the mind of The Birmingham Wan. Who will be next to bare their curry soul? And will Ravi Peshwari ever answer those questions? Stay tuned ...

It's Not Right But It's Oche

The Pursuit Of Mappyness

Spare a thought for the very earliest cartographers. With much of the globe – or "tabletop", as they perhaps envisioned it – unexplored, there was always a ton of empty, white parchment that needed to be filled in. Often, they would simply inscribe hic sunt dracones ("Here Be Dragons"), implying that they'd dutifully sent some junior cartographer to recce that bit but he'd never returned, although someone found a burnt sandal nearby, but never mind that: who's going to pay for the replacement theodolite 'cos those things are really expensive and shouldn't someone really be talking to HR about this?

In a similar trailblazingly jobsworthy spirit, Trampy and The Tramp are proud to present their own usefully annotated Google Map, chronicling TATTGOC's spicy odyssey to date. If there were just a bit more white space, we'd probably inscribe hic erant vesica ("Here Were Bawbags") somewhere ... maybe over the St Rollox Business And Retail Park. To see the whole thing in a bit more detail, click here. And feel free to add another five-star rating to go along with the one we gave ourselves ...