REVIEW: Alishan’s Starting To Happen*

Alishan, Battlefield Road

The Time: July 14, 8pm

Booking Name:
George Lucas

The Pub Aforehand:
Clockwork Beer Co, Cathcart Road

In Attendance:
Trampy, Ravi Peshwari, The Gheezer, Rogan Josh Homme, Sir Spicy Lover and special east coast guest All Tomorrow’s Bhajis

With a traditional facade and interior, the Alishan immediately seemed like somewhere TATTGOC would feel immediately at ease.

Expectations: No-one in the party had visited this place before but some folk had uncovered a pretty glowing recommendation attributed to The Herald – that the Alishan was one of the five best places to have a curry in Glasgow. No-one was quite sure when that article was published though …

The Experience:

How do you react when someone insists you’re irrevocably set in your ways? The first instinct is to huffily proclaim that you remain as flexible – in physical, emotional and scheduling terms – as you were as a tearaway teen, in those heady days when your breast ached for new experiences and greedily gorged when such encounters presented themselves. Underneath the petrifying crust of daily routine there still burns within you an explosive, improvisational core – and any illusion of staid inflexibility exists only to protect friends and family from your true, devil-may-care nature, such is its vesuvian intensity. For the very same reason, did not Zorro masquerade as feckless nobleman Don Diego de la Vega? ’Tis is a necessary charade; a quotidian skin to better blend with the sadsack norms alongside you in the Five Items Or Less queue. Little do they suspect, as they shuffle forward – clutching their Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference Gruyere & Garlic Fougasse while mentally preparing their evening’s iPlayer playlist – that if you were to truly embrace your unpredictable nature, they would be left reeling in the garden of your turbulence. Reeling, I tell you! REELING!

(In other words: TATTGOC’s July outing was on a Wednesday rather than the traditional Thursday.)

Yep, sometimes the Tramps just like to shake things up. And it genuinely seemed like a good idea at the time, although judging by the torrential chuckdown that dampened the entire evening, one or more of the ancient elemental gods were unhappy at the relatively last-minute date change. In their haste to appear virile and vital, our hairy heroes were also perhaps hung by their own retard – the fact that silver-tongued usurper The Bulldosa would be prevented from attending because of a previous engagement may have been merely regrettable, but when news broke that The Tramp himself would be scunnered, it felt more like this particular Wednesday had somehow been cursed. Had TATTGOC – wittingly or, more likely, not – done something to anger Odin himself?

These were the questions that preoccupied Trampy as he sat in the Clockwork Beer Co, a most pleasant southside microbrewery. He was accompanied by All Tomorrow’s Bhajis (ATB), a brother from TATTGOC’s east coast chapter who could almost have sailed over for the evening’s celebration, such was the torrent. Clutching their microbrewed ales had prompted some welcome discussion about BrewDog, those crazy hopheads in Fraserburgh who have apparently made it their mission to turn out mindbending concoctions (most recently that 55% brew that comes packaged in a very surprised-looking woodland animal: Yogi Beer, if you like). They were joined by Ravi Peshwari, fresh from a body- and mind-cleansing trip to Nepal and full of tales of the horizon-broadening experience. The Gheezer and Rogan Josh Homme arrived soon after, expressing similar, squelchy discomfort at the punishing rain. The various pints went down smoothly, but it looked likely to be a moist trek to the restaurant – until Mr Peshwari revealed he’d brought the Ravimobile, which transported our band directly to the fabled Alishan in style and relative comfort.

Sir Spicy Lover was in situ already, parked in alongside a ruddy great fishtank, supping a pint and thumbing through the Alishan’s substantial-looking menu. After the traditional high-fives and secret handshakes, the hardy, non-tardy cadre of Curry Clubbers settled into their default setting of booze and bonhomie, with refreshing pints of Tennent’s on draught and a go-on-then-why-not? double-round of poppadoms and attendant dips. Thinking Sir Spicy might already have the measure of the menu, he was asked to summarise it for everyone else, like a more piquant version of Mark Lawrenson. Sir Spicy confessed that he’d barely scratched the surface of the selection, and it was only when opening the protective covers that the rest of the Clubbers grasped just how expansive the Alishan offerings were (you can get a flavour of the evening menu and the mouthwatering descriptions of dishes on the Alishan website). Perhaps it was just as well that there was a double-dose of poppadoms, as this was clearly going to take a while. Any time not spent mulling over the various options was spent checking out the reassuring décor, a callback to classic curryhouse design with additional evocative art and those two magnificent and well-populated fishtanks. On this midweek evening, TATTGOC had the place pretty much to themselves bar another small table, but a steady stream of customers collecting takeaway suggested that the Alishan dominates its local catchment area.

While the dizzying array of main dishes had slowed things to a crawl as those assembled weighed up their options, the crew reached a reasonably rapid consensus when it came to the starters. As with TATTGOC’s six-strong Rawalpindi visit, it was tacitly decided to push the boat out a little, ordering up a selection of Bombay pakora, a special mixed Tikka (featuring chicken and lamb Tikka, plus a sheikh kebab) and a mushroom chaat. Despite being determined not to repeat June’s disastrous over-ordering of starters – what’s now being called Chilliesgate – Trampy couldn’t quite help himself from ordering another dish of veg pakora, perhaps because he could sense it would take a while to log the main course order, but possibly just because he is inherently greedy. At this relatively early juncture, there was still a dim chance that The Tramp would make an appearance but he crushed those hopes with a stoic but clearly emotionally-charged text message; the only correct way to respond was to send a cameraphone picture of the crew soberly saluting their absent captain. (At least, they were supposed to look sober.)

Back to that epic menu, which was starting to make the Dead Sea Scrolls look like The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Luckily, an attendant waiter was on hand to guide our merry band – The Gheezer wanted to know a bit more about the difference between the balti and karahi selections, which appeared to be cooked in a very similar fashion. After setting The Gheezer straight, the waiter then guided Sir Spicy Lover toward the lamb dish which was right for him. With the main courses locked, it came down to the old rice/naan equation – and at this point, Trampy lost his nerve somewhat. In the ongoing series of Pilau Talk: The Legends Q&As with other notable curry lovers, The Tramp had remarked that very few interviewees seemed that enthusiastic about either rice or naan, preferring a roti or some other sundry. With just six Curry Clubbers present – a presumably manageable control group – perhaps this the perfect moment to mix things up with some paratha, chapati or roti? Sadly, Don Diego won out over Zorro on the night: a garlic naan, a peshwari naan and three pilau rice was the final outcome.

The Tramp is usually responsible for visually documenting TATTGOC outings but in his absence Rogan Josh Homme had brought along a smart-looking camera to capture those candidly magical manly moments (and he did a fantastic job too). As the starters arrived, there were still a few poppadom stragglers left which The Gheezer insisted remain on the table "just in case". The tikka selection was a standout, carved up among the secret six. Ravi Peshwari, who had expressed a particular interest in the Bombay pakora gave the resulting dish a firm thumbs-up, although it did appear that the mint sauce accompaniment promised in the menu got a little lost in the shuffle. Sir Spicy expertly carved up the chaat, which was fairly and evenly distributed around the table, a surprisingly dainty task considering the sheer masculinity on display. With the additional veg pakora on hand to sate any extra appetites, it seemed like TATTGOC had got its starter groove back. Onwards!

As the starter plates were cleared, The Gheezer remained steadfast in his belief that someone might want to return to the one remaining poppadom – and so it sat alone, at the head of the table, a brittle symbol of eternal optimism. The main courses arrived in old-school stainless-steel dishes, which seemed entirely fitting with the Alishan's comforting milieu, and the three pilau rice dishes – each easily bifurcated among the troop – had that vibrant yellow-orange-red tricolour that screams "classic curryhouse", only outshone by a particularly raffish chicken tikka achari that seemed almost to pulse with redness. The generously-proportioned naans were pretty good too. Perhaps it was because so many Clubbers had been humbled by the abundance of June's outing, but these six set about their dinners with an almost Michael Mann-esque level of icy, assured professionalism, truly worthy to be called Curry Lovers of this – or any – year. There would be no need for doggy bags this time, no sir.

There was, however, a general agreement that the Alishan was exactly the sort of place that TATTGOC was founded to experience and, unlike the weather, it had not let the assembled down. After the eminently reasonable bill was settled, the six men arranged themselves to face the rain. As they were filing out, an eagle-eyed Clubber spotted a familiar face on a wall of press clippings and photographs. There was one (no, two!) vintage pictures of Alex Salmond – Scotland’s First Minister and recent TATTGOC correspondent – looking hale and hearty after an Alishan feed. It seemed cosmically appropriate that TATTGOC, proud holders of the Curry Lover(s) of the Year 2010 title, should be following in the historical footsteps of the Curry Lover of the Year 2009. But where would they lead us next? It was something to ponder, as the team hurriedly piled back into the Ravimobile, like a cumin-scented pack of wet spaniels ...

Range Of Drinks: Tennent’s on tap, and a well-stocked selection of spirits.

Highlights: Good service, ambience and décor; generally top-notch food.

The extensive menu took a while to navigate but we got there in the end.

The Verdict:
A near-overwhelming experience!

The Damage:
£121.10 (tip £12.90)

* In case not everyone’s a Lemonheads fan, here’s what inspired the post title.


The Tramp said...

I am gutted that I wasn't able to make this one - the Alishan does definitely seem to be exactly the sort of place TATTGOC was founded to sniff out. Top quality write up and a cracking night all round from the sounds of it then.

I should point out that upon my late arrival back into Glasgow that evening Mumbai Me A Pony and I tucked into the Golden Ratio of Indian take-aways - the classic Shish Mahal order of hasina lamb chops, veg pakora, lamb korma, pilau rice and naan. As awesome as it was it still wasn't curry club... I look forward to trying out the Alishan sometime in the future.