REVIEW: Back To The Fuchsia

Shimla Pinks, Pollokshields

The Time: December 17, 8.30pm

Booking Name:
Mr Werner Herzog

The Pub Aforehand:
M J Heraghty's, Pollokshaws Road

In Attendance: Trampy, The Tramp, Rabbie Shankar, Rogan Josh Homme, Jalfrezi, The Gheezer, The Birmingham Wan and The Bulldosa

Decor: Miami Vice-like nitespot.

Expectations: No Clubber appeared to have direct experience of Shimla Pinks beyond the odd takeaway experience – but there were some fearsome reviews online.

The Experience:

'Twas the night afore Christmas
When all through the curryhouse

Not a starter was stirring

Not even a samosa.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, apparently, but Christmas is also a period when social diaries begin to burst at the seams, as everyone turns their thoughts toward getting properly festive at every opportunity. (And “festive”, in this context, obviously means “smashed”.) This planted some cumin seeds of doubts in the Tramps’ buzzing hive mind: would the monthly curry summit be overwhelmed by other commitments? And even if a proper squad was assembled, would the chosen restaurant be overrun by office parties pulling crackers, poppers and each other? Last year, the Curry Club managed to avoid anything too Christmassy by heading to a venue that only really comes alive after midnight. This year, the decision was taken to honour that jolly man in the red suit who lives at the north pole by heading even further south of the river to Pollokshaws, into the neon-and-salmon embrace of Shimla Pinks.

Almost as soon as the venue was announced, some Clubbers cried “foul”. For doesn’t TATTGOC’s hastily assembled mission statement promise to avoid those Glasgow curryhouses that are either “longstanding institutions” or “cannily-marketed chains”? And isn’t Shimla Pinks a chain, with at least one another outlet in Johnstone, and almost an institution, in that most Glasgow folks have heard of it? In their typically gracious and diplomatic manner, the Tramps promptly quashed all disaccord by shouting considerably louder than the dissenters. Clubbers were invited to vote with their feet: if you dinnae fancy one in the Pinks, dinnae turn up to the pub. And so the debate was amiably defused.

In the end, eight fine currynauts braved the elements to assemble in M J Heraghty’s, one of Glasgow’s oldest boozers and one so packed with history and characters – including venerable diarist Jack “The Hat” McLean – it could almost warrant a blog entry in and of itself. Suffice to say it was warm and welcoming, and will likely host some members of the Curry Club again sometime soon. It’s rare that anything occurs on the journey between pub and curryhouse that merits a mention but as the hungry mob ambled up Pollokshaws Road, there was obviously a little Christmas magic in the air, as some cheeky elf had daubed some pertinent graffiti on the side of a recently boarded-up off-licence that seemed like a greeting aimed squarely at TATTGOC’s very own The Gheezer. Luckily, there was also a chance to gather pictorial evidence.

As for Shimla Pinks itself, from the outside it looks the very picture of a modern curryhouse, forgoing the usual traditional accoutrements to focus on clean lines, slick signage and eyecatching marketing posters. Trampy’s heart sank a little. Surely this was exactly the kind of place – part cocktail bar, part restaurant – that would be targeted by massed festive outings? He needn’t have worried: on entering, it rapidly became clear the place was empty. In fact, once the squad had arranged themselves around a central table, it almost looked as if TATTGOC had booked out the entire restaurant to ensure discretion and privacy during their undoubtedly wild shindig. Despite the lack of other customers, the service was a little slow to warm up – although this allowed ample time to marvel at the interior, with many walls decadently splashed with pink, and festooned with Christmas decorations too.

In a little while, though, the first round of pints was ordered and the usual selection of poppadoms and dips requested. Thoughts turned to those who couldn’t make it – notably Sir Spicy Lover, who had been tasked with policing a school disco, and Ravi Peshwari, whose musical commitments with The Invisible Republic had unfortunately clashed with TATTGOC. While the team chomped down on their ’doms, The Tramp efficiently lined up a spread of pakora, samosa and tandoori platters. When the dishes arrived and were placed down, it looked as if one end of the table would be favoured with the tastiest tandoori bites – but in an uncharacteristic display of peace on Earth and goodwill to all men, the platters were smoothly rotated so each member got an opportunity to sample everything. After some fair-to-middling starter experiences in the past few months, this one was declared extremely satisfactory.

Then came the first surprise of the evening. With Jalfrezi, one of the babies of TATTGOC, about to hit 30, the Tramps had prepared a special gift for him. In the early months of 2009, Jalfrezi had enlivened a Maryhill expedition by preparing a sign in his flat window, cunningly placed to catch the curry troupe’s eye as they soldiered past. It read, simply, “Jalfrezi Salutes You” (you can relive the moment here). In a reciprocal mark of respect, TATTGOC had prepared a special T-shirt to be manufactured with the slogan “Curry Club Salutes Me”, in striking red and yellow. Jalfrezi seemed generally moved when he revealed his birthday gift, and immediately wriggled inside it. Much manly saluting ensued.

These hijinx preluded the arrival of the main courses, a selection of lamb and chicken curries that were as boldly coloured as the décor, and wafting tantalising odours to boot. The Tramp had originally worked out the naan/rice equation to be something like three naans and three rice. Immediately, it seemed clear that Shimla Pinks's tiny bowls of rice would not be sufficient, so a top-up bowl was requested. If the lack of rice was slightly disappointing, it was more than made up for by the generously proportioned naan. None of your pre-cut nonsense here either; they arrived, still steaming from the oven, in their natural billowing form, soon to be torn asunder by eager hands. The curries appeared to get a thumbs-up all round, with Trampy particularly impressed by his lamb sharabi. Perhaps he felt a certain kinship as this dish is, like himself, generously marinaded in whisky.

During the customary silence as TATTGOC chows down, some other parties had entered, creating a sense of atmos over and above the seasonal music being piped in. As the membership’s progress slowed, the second surprise of the evening was unveiled: a festive lucky dip, where each member would be encouraged to rummage in the Tramps’ sack. The Bulldosa was first to roll up his sleeve, and he came away with a self-improvement DVD: John Thomson’s Red-Hot Poker (2 discs!). The Birmingham Wan was next, withdrawing some strange torch tool with inbuilt spirit level, which would undoubtedly aid him in his engineering work. Rogan Josh Homme, perhaps thinking of Peter Duncan’s gruesome fate in Flash Gordon, was in and out in a flash, clutching a box of chocolate Brazils (The Gheezer, similarly, scored some jellied fruit).

Grinning Jalfrezi continued his run of luck by claiming the largest mystery prize, which turned out to be a Michael Jackson calendar (“100% Unofficial”) that could also be pressed into service as a mask. Of all the mystery gifts, however, it was Rabbie Shankar’s furry reindeer harness that caught the most attention, perhaps because its extended red nose looked alarmingly similar to a gimp ball. Although it took some effort to remove the fake antlers from Shankar’s head, this terrifying masque was soon being passed around the entire table. Everyone, it seemed, wanted to look like a grotesque reindeer. This might explain why there are very few pictures of the food, yet dozens of TATTGOC currynauts gurning with fuzzy horns.

By this time, the jig was most definitely up. Perhaps because of Jalfrezi’s distinctive T-shirt, one of the waiters was keen to know more about Curry Club. Trampy, usually the loudmouthed communications expert, leaned back casually in his chair, allowing Jalfrezi, The Gheezer, Rabbie Shankar and Rogan Josh Homme to deal with a rapid-fire line of questioning about the Club and its aims. Do we take the piss out of curryhouses online? No, they replied. We sort of take the piss out of ourselves.

As the fairly reasonable bill arrived, accompanied by a glass of jellybeans, the very last of TATTGOC’s Christmas surprises was sprung. This was an extra present for The Bulldosa, a man whose commitment to TATTGOC could never be questioned, although he invariably radiates a sense that he could organise things better than the pair o’ bams nominally in charge. So that was his gift: The Bulldosa would be given short-term executive powers to arrange and execute TATTGOC’s January meet-up, in any way he saw fit. To his credit, he seemed genuinely excited. And what better way to start a new year than with a new regime? But would The Bulldosa be a benevolent balti ruler or ruthless dansak dictator? Pinochet? Chavez? Kinnock? Not long to find out ...

Range Of Drinks: Tennent’s and Cobra on draught, and a vast array of spirits. Cocktails probably wouldn’t be out of the question either.

Highlights: Distinctive décor; decent main courses made even better by awesome naans.

Lowlights: Lugubrious service initially; teeny tiny rice portions.

The Verdict: A suitably seasonal experience!

The Damage: £185.00 (tip: £23.00)


Ice Ghee said...

Is the John Thomson of John Thomson's red Hot Poker the former Coogan-sidekick now collapsed-faced Rovers Return habitue? I prefer the Peter Baynham's Blistering Bridge dvd.

Patrick Marber said...

It is the very same John Thomson: Fat Bob. Bob The Blob. Fat Blobby Bastard Bob.