Some Pilau Talk With ... Iain Banks!

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 Iain Banks, the bestselling author who will celebrate a prolific 25 years of writing with a special event at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on August 16. His most recent book, Transition, recently came out in paperback (it also has its own iPhone app, and even made a brief cameo in Sherlock the other week) while his next science fiction novel Surface Detail – another tale of the near-utopia Culture – will be published in October. Over to Iain ...

What are some of your favourite curryhouses, past or present?
Past: the old Bangalore in Greenock, Koh-i-Noor in Glasgow, Star of India in London, the Rajdoots in Manchester and Dublin and Khushi's and the Veranda in Edinburgh (recent past, Roti in Edinburgh).

These days: Mother India in Glasgow, Veeraswamy in London, and – past and present – the Omar Khayyam in Edinburgh, where I've been going for about 20 years.

And your favourite curry takeaway?
We rarely get takeaways.

What’s your all-time favourite curry dish?
Can't argue with the statistics; the Omar Khayyam's chicken jaipuri, hot. Or maybe tarka dall/dall tarka, which is kind of my reference dish, the one I order every time in new restaurants to see what their take on it is (if it's thin and watery and basically the dall soup, the brow tends to furrow).

And if you had to choose just one accompaniment, would it be rice or naan?
That would be the aforementioned tarka dall, or a potato dish – bombay potato, for example. Forced to choose between rice and naan I'd go for a naan (probably peshwari) and then not eat three-quarters of it.

Could we trouble you for an anecdote – a beloved curry-related memory?
The genuinely interesting ones are far too scurrilous. The most repeatable involves the hi-tech designer sink in the gents at a certain London curry joint just last year, and a drunken but – I still maintain – perfectly understandable mistake ... However, I've said too much already.

Where’s the most exotic place you've had a curry?
I had a naan on my head once, worn as an attractive hat, in a curryhouse in London whose name escapes me. Oh, see what you mean; Manhattan, probably (though the curry itself was predictably bland). Or possibly Lerwick (pretty good).

Can you actually make a decent curry yourself at home?
No. I can follow a recipe but I just don't get any pleasure from cooking.

Can the TATTGOC brotherhood come round for our tea?
See above.

If you could enjoy a curry dinner-for-two with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be?
My smashing girlfriend, thanks. Eating with a dead person might make the conversation a little one-sided.

And finally, we know the Culture is a near-utopia where humans can choose to live forever, swap sex on a whim and synthesise mindbending drugs to release directly into their bloodstream, but what are the curries like?
I've never thought. But very good, I'm sure.

Tom Shields
Fred MacAulay
Ian Cowie aka Mr Snax
Diner Tec
Roy Beers


Big John fae Inverness said...

Dear Mr Banks, I enjoyed your book "Raw Spirit", the non-fictional account of your travels around Scotland with pals as you undertook the challenge of searching distilleries for the "perfect dram". As much as I enjoyed your single malt whisky recommendations may I advise you that your preferred choice of curry house in Inverness overlooking the river has changed hands several times hence, in large part due to uncleanliness and rat infestation in the kitchen.
Next time try "Sams" on Church Street or the "Raja" on Post Office lane. Ta.