REVIEW: Neel Diamond

The Neelim, Scotstoun

The Time: May 20, 8.15pm

Booking Name: Neil Marshall

The Pub Aforehand:
McNabb’s Lounge Bar, Dumbarton Road

In Attendance: Trampy, The Tramp, The Duke, The Bulldosa, Rogan Josh Homme, The Gheezer, Ravi Peshwari and the return of Sir Spicy Lover.

The Neelim’s spacious dining room has lots of nice features, including evocative prints on the walls and more intimate booths created by dividing walls that resemble the Taj Mahal's dome. Also a cracking minibar.

Not many of the troops were that familiar with Scotstoun, although The Bulldosa did celebrate his 30th birthday at an excellent venue on South Street recently. Online reviews of Neelim were glowing enough to prompt a TATTGOC visit.

The Experience:

“So this is what you start talking about when you’re 30?” So asked The Bulldosa, his handsome features contorted into a Gordon Brown-esque frown as he nursed a Guinness in McNabbs Lounge Bar. Having just entered his third decade on this Earth, TATTGOC’s self-appointed third-in-command and most youthful member was feigning bemusement as various Curry Club elders debated invasive dental surgery and, more enthusiastically, the awesomeness of having your own shed.

Thankfully, the appreciation of curry can be a lifelong passion, and it was this pure, wholesome love of spicy fare that had brought eight currynauts to sunny Scotstoun. After an aborted attempt to get the bus en masse from Partick Travel Interchange – apparently the 9, 42 or 62 would have been fine – it soon became clear all of the crew would be heading westward under their own steam. It fell to The Tramp’s obliging concomitant Mumbai Me A Pony to give Trampy, The Tramp, The Bulldosa and Ravi Peshwari a lift out to McNabbs (her wee Peugeot runabout performed admirably in the circumstances, after the fleshy Tetris required to fit everybody in the back). Passing a premises with CLOSEING DOWN SALE painted crudely in big letters on the front set the right tone of merriment.

McNabbs is situated mere doors down from the Neelim and is clearly all geared up for the World Cup – if the international bunting outside wasn’t a giveaway, inside there were dozens of full-size flags hanging from the ceiling. Like the United Nations it resembled, there was also plenty of debate going on among patrons. The arrival of The Duke, Rogan Josh Homme and the belated return of Sir Spicy Lover kept TATTGOC’s agenda skewed toward growed-up stuff. These included some cracking new pictures of Sir Spicy’s fine young curry cub, a wee boy charged with spearheading the next generation of Curry Club (GOCA Juniors?). There was also, inevitably, some chat about the recent, irritatingly drab Robin Hood movie, its elephantine staging and lumbering pace sucking all the joy from the spry legend of Robbie and his merry men.

But where was The Gheezer? At the Neelim already, it turned out, so the seven-strong crew downed pints and set off for the short amble to the restaurant. Even this stroll was incident-packed, however, with a pack of dolled-up ladies standing outside the Neelim smoking. As we approached, a random bam on the street asked where exactly our municipal seven were headed and, tellingly: were we all brothers? It was with some pride that the crew answered, almost en masse: “We’re off for a curry. And yes, we are all brothers, though not by blood.”

Walking into the Neelim was like walking into the Moulin Rouge – a joyful pandemonium predicated on a 40th birthday party in full knickerbocker swing. Banners proclaiming the landmark date criss-crossed Neelim booths, looking, at first glance, suspiciously like Police Line: Do Not Cross tape. But if there was a felony in progress, it was merely partying with intent, and the infectious bonhomie brought smiles to the faces of the entire crew, grins that grew even wider when they spotted The Gheezer sitting, alone, at the TATTGOC table, his only companion a pint of Kingfisher. It brought back a flood of memories concerning the trip to the other Shish Mahal where, through slipshod organization, The Bulldosa was first to arrive and there was absolutely no-one else in the restaurant.

After somehow forgetting to order poppadoms during the April visit, The Tramp was determined to set things right. The Neelim’s ringbound, wipe-clean menu had a plethora of starter options and while TATTGOC’s first founding father hatched an appropriate strategy, his brother-in-arms Trampy sorted out the drinks. Normally, everyone has the same foamy pint and since The Gheezer had opted for Kingfisher, it made sense to go all in with the King – although there were some who preferred the crisp taste and lower ABV of Tennent’s. A rather inelegant compromise was reached, made all the more confused by the perfect inversion of the order when the pints arrived – no matter, in a short space of time, everyone was clutching a pint in one hand and the menu in the other, weighing up the main course options.

After securing poppadoms, The Tramp ordered up a couple of chef’s platters – those delectable trays of chicken tikka and pakora starters – and, noting the range of pooris and dosas, added a couple of those too. The 40th was winding down by the time the starters arrived, but if the baton of gaiety and raucousness was to be passed to anyone, who better than a massed TATTGOC? With surprising finesse, The Tramp sliced up the mushroom dosa into eight morsels to be passed around; the chicken tikka poori that had landed up at the other end of the table was rather more messily divided.

Discussion turned to the release of wicky-wild-wild west videogame Red Dead Redemption, which had been described by Wired magazine as “Grand Theft Horse” according to Ravi Peshwari. While an accurate description in that “horses” replace “autos” in the bracingly violent, exhiliratingly free-roaming game, surely they could have come up with something snappier? “Rio Grande Theft Auto” was an early contender, while cineaste Rogan Josh Homme favoured “Grand Theft Oater”. As quickly as the rivalry ignited, it came to a definitive stop when one wag – not Trampy, perhaps surprisingly (to him) – suggested “Grand Theft Tonto”. Game over.

Whether by accident or design, the eight main courses ordered up by the Curry Club showcased the range of the Neelim’s menu: Ravi Peswari had gone for a tandoori mixed grill, while both The Gheezer and Rogan Josh Homme had doubled-up with double dosas. Sir Spicy Lover and The Tramp went for Chicken Murgh Korma, looking for an extra kick in their creaminess while Trampy opted for Chicken Tikka Masalander, partly because the list of ingredients were spicily enticing but also because on the page, it looked a bit like “Highlander” and even just invoking the title of Christopher Lambert’s immortal decapitation fable is enough to trigger feelings of pleasure and wellbeing in his brainpan. This wide-ranging order was testament to the capacious tastes of TATTGOC’s currynauts but I don’t mind telling you it plays all merry hell with the rice/naan equation. Ravi’s mixed grill came with its own rice and naan, while the dosas also came with rice. In the end, the Tramps erred on the side of bounteousness, ordering up three bowls of pilau rice and the usual tricolore of naans (plain, garlic, peshwari).

When it arrived, it was undoubtedly a feast. The dosas, in particular, looked extremely tasty, and the naans were some of the biggest TATTGOC had ever seen. The brace of spicy kormas got raves while The Bulldosa finished off every drop of his meal in record time. Ravi’s tandoori mixed grill was a feast for the eyes but something had gone a bit wrong with the lamb – Trampy and The Tramp swooped on Ravi’s dish to claim a morsel for themselves but were unable to eat it because of an odd whiff. Ever the trooper, Ravi focused on the positive and gave the rest of his dish a thumbs up. And then, too soon, it was over, and while there was still a fair bit of naan and rice left over, everyone declared themselves sated. For Sir Spicy Lover, it was a triumphant return to TATTGOC – incredibly it had been six months since he last attended, and he expressed amazement at some of the changes during his sabbatical, notably the luxurious growth of Rogan Josh Homme’s beard and The Bulldosa’s rippling physique. Who knows what will have changed by the next time?

It’s become a TATTGOC tradition to go for one last pint at the end of the night but the ample food – and joining in with “Happy Birthday” – had taken its toll. Perhaps another sign of their encroaching age, the assembled currynauts chose to say their goodbyes outside the Neelim, after staging one last World Cup-referencing photo for the record. Could things get any more old-fashioned? Mibbe. In the cab back home, Trampy and The Tramp could be heard discussing the possibility of starting up a pipesmoking blog – once they reach 50, of course. Little did they know that in a few days, on picking up the Sunday Post, their lives would be changed


Range Of Drinks: Tennent’s and Kingfisher.

Highlights: That party atmosphere, parachute-sized naans, plenty of food to go around.

Lowlights: Something went seriously wrong with Ravi’s lamb, and arriving in the wake of the big party meant it took a while to get our order in – mind you, we were also holding off for the possible arrival of Rabbie Shankar so no harm, no foul.

The Verdict: A gem of an experience!

The Damage: £165.40 (tip: £18.60)


Paul said...

Time for a retrun to the Neelim for me. Had a takeaway many moons ago from there.

Carol Vorderman said...

I love being pedantic and take great pleasure in pointing out that the mighty Bulldosa has actually just entered his fourth decade.