Some Pilau Talk With ... Roy Beers!

Everyone in the TATTGOC brotherhood loves curry – we even have an award that says so! But surely we could still learn a thing or two from other prominent curry lovers? And maybe even go round to their house for tea? In the special summer series we're calling Pilau Talk: The Legends, Trampy and The Tramp will be asking well-kent faces to recommend some of their favourite curry haunts and recall some of their most memorable spicy experiences. Next up is Roy Beers, the veteran journalist and editor who informatively and entertainingly blogs about Glasgow's eating and drinking scene over at Pat's West End Guide (appropriately enough, Mr Beers also has a regular column in The Publican). Over to Roy ...

What are some of your favourite Glasgow curryhouses, past or present?
In the remote past (the 1970s!) – they included the “old” Koh-i-Noor on Gibson Street – the one that famously collapsed into the River Kelvin – and, also on Gibson Street, the Shish Mahal, the Himalaya, the Maharajah and the Shalimar. Now, sadly, there isn’t a single Indian restaurant there (although of course the Shish relocated to just around the corner in Park Road).

Much more recently my favourites include The Den at Dining In at Mother India, and all the Wee Curry Shops. My number one favourite is The Den – I don’t think it gets much better than this.

And your favourite Glasgow curry takeaway?
That’s easy. Mr India’s Balti And Dosa House in Hyndland Street, Partick. It is an unassuming place which doesn’t open during the day or for the pub crowd, and does its stuff to absolute perfection.

What’s your all-time favourite curry dish, the one to which you always return?
Various versions of chicken and spinach (saag) curry.

And if you had to choose just one accompaniment, would it be rice or naan?
I’d much rather have a vegetable paratha than either, or even a tandoori roti – but if forced, it would be boiled rice done “properly”.

Could we trouble you for an anecdote – a beloved curry-related memory?
In 1983 while dining with my wife in The Shalimar, Gibson Street, we were at a mixed table with three strangers – one of whom (I’ve known him ever since) was Brian D Finch, an academic sort of chap who likes the odd pint. He took exception to a couple of English “yahs” two tables away who were decrying the cuisine in loud, sneering voices.

After asking them to desist a couple of times he said: “That’s it!” and flung a chapati at one of them, scoring a direct hit on his face, custard pie-style – and the ricochet of chapati on to the diner’s plate caused a fairly colourful mess. This gent, humiliated and spattered with curry, insisted the police were called, and the management politely asked everyone to remain seated pending their arrival.

Brian (an academic with assorted religion-related degrees) admitted his crime – while claiming provocation by way of mitigation – and was led away by the somewhat bemused officers. They took him home in their van, and although charged with assault (with a chapati) he was subsequently admonished in court. This must be one of Glasgow’s few recorded cases of a chapati being used as an offensive weapon.

Restaurants are generally much less exciting these days.

Where’s the most exotic place you've had a curry?
Nowhere that would really qualify as “exotic”, although I remember an excellent meal in a Sikh restaurant in the Leidseplein in Amsterdam a few years back; but my first ever curry certainly seemed exotic – I was 16, it was the late 70s, and I went to a Bengali restaurant just off Carnaby Street in still-Swinging London: I had a chicken biryani and was completely amazed and entranced by the whole experience.

Can you actually make a decent curry yourself at home?
Yes – but I’m way too lazy most of the time; why bother when “the real thing” is available from places like Banana Leaf and Mr India’s just a few minutes away? However I make a competent daal with channa daal, black cardamoms and loads of garlic – very filling, tasty, and costs next to nothing.

Can the TATTGOC brotherhood come round for our tea?
Hypothetically, yes ... so long as you bring a carryout, don’t mind me smoking at every available opportunity (except when cooking), and of course do all the washing up. Maybe better also get some mango sorbet from Peckham’s on the way here ...

If you could enjoy a curry dinner-for-two with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be?
My wife, of course. However assuming she’s elsewhere that night, the smartypants answer is Dharamjit Singh, venerable author of several classic books on Indian cookery and also history. Everything he does is far too laborious for modern tastes (he despises convenience foods and shop-bought preparations), but I learned how to cook rice from him.

And finally, with your distinctive surname, do you have a favoured beverage that you enjoy with your curry?
Drink doesn’t work with Indian food as an accompaniment; numerous attempts have been made to persuade me otherwise, but in vain, and wine is particularly pointless. Any old premium lager would do, if a drink were essential, but nothing too gaseous – if it’s a BYOB shop, a bottle of Tyskie from Poland would be nice to take in.

However I’d rather leave the restaurant not too stuffed and have a couple of pints of good cask ale in the pub about an hour later.

Cheers Roy! And check back in a week's time to see who's next in the curry questionnaire hotseat ...

Tom Shields
Fred MacAulay
Ian Cowie aka Mr Snax
Diner Tec


Melanie Garrett said...

Don't suppose you can recall exactly when the 'old' Koh-I-Noor fell into the river? I was discussing it with my father-in-law recently and we were curious. Many thanks!

The Tramp said...

Hey Melanie, interesting one this - I'd have thought that plenty of folk would remember exactly when it happened but no-one seems able to pin it down. I was talking to my Dad about it after you posted this and he reckons it was probably 1978 or 1979 - he's certain it wasn't into the 80's yet and must've been the end of the 70's. Next time I'm in the Koh-I-Noor down on North Street I'll ask and see if we can get a definite answer. If you've found out in the meantime then let us know! Cheers...