REVIEW: Have I Got Shenaz For You

The Shenaz, Charing Cross 

The Time: November 18, 8.15pm

Booking Name: Alan Smithee

The Pub Aforehand: The Avalon, Kent Road

In Attendance: Trampy, The Tramp, The Bulldosa, Ravi Peshwari, Rogan Josh Homme, Rabbie Shankar, The Duke ... and TATTGOC debutante Garlic Bam

The Shenaz has clearly been done up relatively recently, with tastefully exposed brickwork, smart chairs and some eye-catching art prints.

While still regarded as one of the grand old ladies of the Glasgow curry scene, The Shenaz apparently went through a bit of a wobble a few years ago, according to some unverifiable online reports and a long anecdote from a taxi driver that Ravi Peshwari once encountered. Since this was such a special occasion, the Tramps were obviously hoping The Shenaz would knock it out of the park ...

The Experience:

George Eliot once said: “I desire no future that breaks the ties of the past.” Well, if it was ties of the past that the admired Victorian novelist was after, she would have been charmed and gratified by the second anniversary meet-up of TATTGOC. On such occasions, the roustabouts and neer-do-well’s of Curry Club traditionally don their best togs and break out the neckties. Some are black. Some are blue. Some have so much food of them they should be stored in the fridge rather than the wardrobe. But, blimey, don’t they make TATTGOC look handsome? Or at least, like the Glasgow chapter of the Edward Woodward Equaliser Wardrobe Appreciation Society?

That was the masculine scene in the Avalon – also the bar aforehand of choice for last year’s 12-month milestone – as eight sturdy fellows reflected on another packed year of curry lovin’. All were veterans, except for neophyte Garlic Bam, a fellow who had been included in all the wild, fevered ambitions of TATTGOC from day one but had chosen not to attend any meet-ups for his own, intensely personal reasons. For the most part, the Curry Club are a forward-looking bunch, often curious about what future curryhouses are scheduled and always attempting to intuit who will get the next round. But this was also a time for reflection. Sure, TATTGOC had been recognised at the Scottish Curry Awards 2010 back in June. But it had also lost some of its most committed members. Both Jalfrezi and The Birmingham Wan had felt the riptide pull of non-Glasgow-based employment opportunities. Would an economic mistral carry off any more of the brotherhood in the months ahead?

If all that sounds a bit maudlin, the mood in the Avalon was generally upbeat, especially when it was revealed by Trampy and The Tramp that the evening’s venue would be The Shenaz. One of Glasgow’s oldest continuing curryhouses, The Shenaz has been opposite the Mitchell Library on Granville Street since 1963. Close scrutiny of the TATTGOC charter might suggest that the Curry Club avoids the most venerable Glasgow curryhouses in favour of seeking out potential new legends but on occasions such as anniversaries, it’s nice to go somewhere where there’s a sporting chance there will be other diners to share the spicy joy.

And blimey, were there plenty at The Shenaz! A cursory headcount by The Tramp suggested that this was the busiest restaurant TATTGOC had ever visited, the decent-sized dining room packed with animated patrons, which surely bode well for the tucker. Once the eight-strong team got settled, an order of eight Kingfishers was placed and the menu was set upon. Puzzling over the starters, the Tramps put their heads together to work out a stratagem – in recent months, lamb chops had become their go-to opening dish, but while The Shenaz offered some intriguing-sounding starters (including “Moonlight Tikka” and “Lamb Tikka Orange”), there didn’t appear to be a lamb chop option. Trampy took it up on himself to order up some Tandoori Chicken in lieu of chops, bulking out the order with mixed platters for two. In discussion with the waiter, however, it transpired that the Tandoori Chicken was just one plump breast, ill-suited to sharing. In the end, three mixed platters-for-two were chosen. Boo-yah!

Perhaps the logicistical pressure was beginning to get to Trampy. Within seconds of the three platters touching down, an enthusiastic dunking of a mushroom pakora into some pink sauce resulted in the last thing that anyone wanted to happen – a massive dribble on his royal blue tie (and a little bit stuck in his patchy beard, but no-one wanted to look at that). Long-time readers will recall that TATTGOC’s first anniversary included a mildly competitive element – the member who had spattered the most curry on himself won a silk necktie (a competition won, of course, by Sir Spicy Lover). In the absence of Sir Spicy Lover, who was conscientiously attending a conference in London, Trampy had nevertheless set the pace for spicy spillage ...

The rice-naan equation had similarly got a little slapdash, with the Tramps ordering up two saffron rice, two boiled rice and the usual troika of plain, garlic and peshwari naan – a total of seven sundries, almost a man-to-man marking system! However, TATTGOC’s grinning overlords were confident that by keeping the starter order under control, the assembled troops would have a decent chance of getting through all their feast. From the broad Shenaz selection, three Curry Clubbers had chosen to plump for one of the house specials, a Lamb Rogan Josh that promised that is was “different from any other place” due to the lamb being cooked from raw in garlic and yoghurt. The resulting dish received an enthusiastic thumbs-up from everyone who piled in to get a lovin' spoonful, the lamb deliciously moist and flavoursome.

Another Shenaz Original was their Special Beef, a rich and strong curry made with topside beef and plenty of methi. Genuinely unusual, it was praised by those who tried it although the Lamb Rogan Josh was still judged the favourite. For his part, The Tramp quietly enjoyed a Ceylonese Lamb Bhoona, spicier than his usual fare but all the tastier for it. Despite the masses of rice and naan, there were generally clean plates all round, and the brotherhood soon settled into their usual post-curry longeur. The place had thinned out a little, although even when packed, the service had never missed a beat. The consensus at the table was that The Shenaz had immediately taken its place among the best places TATTGOC had visited – and that was before each member was gifted with a commemorative keyring.

As the conversation wound down, and the last pints of Kingfisher were horse-traded between those that were full and those that were firsty, there arrived palate-cleansing bowls of sugar-coated fennel and even little chunks of pineapple, which involved some unpleasant taunting of Trampy, due to his legendary – perhaps mythical – allergy to the prickly Lilt ingredient. Unusually, there was no speechifying, no grandstanding, no filibustering. Perhaps the Tramps were saving it for the Christmas meet-up. After two years, 24 curryhouses and innumerable instances of loosening their belts, you might think they were losing their enthusiasm for seeking out unusual curry in Glasgow. Could the Curry Lovers Of The Year be suffering from performance anxiety? Or were they even running out of potential places to visit? COULD THIS BE THE END OF TATTGOC? In the immortal words of the Delgados: No Danger.

Range Of Drinks: Kingfisher on tap, which is all we needed to know.

Highlights: Fantastic food, attentive service even in a mobbed environment and a free keyring too.

Pineapple? Seriously?

The Verdict: A momentous experience!

The Damage: £168.35 (tip £19.65)

Madras Palace, Charing Cross
The Viceroy, Paisley Road
Thali, Merchant City
Alishan Tandoori, Battlefield Road