Spot The Balti Competition

We interrupt our normal programming to bring you an exclusive image from a curry-flavoured remake of Carlito's Way starring Rumpole Of The Balti (here's the original scene to refresh your memory). But for the full lowdown on what happened when TATTGOC rolled east to become TATTCOC (Trampy And The Tramp's Capital Of Curry), you'll just have to tune in next week ...

"Old Age Cures Us Of Our Youth"

Living ascetically on the opposite side of the world, TATTGOC's puckish Japan correspondent and tyro ninja scholar Makhni Knife has been unable to experience any official Curry Club meet-ups in person (with one notable exception).

Perhaps due to his diligent study of Eastern philosophy and mysticism, Makhni does often seem to be there in pungent spirit: how else to explain TATTGOC's signature mix of rigorously observed ceremony and feral enthusiasm?

Today is Makhni Knife's birthday, and while we'll surely raise a faux-mocking glass to his steadily advancing years during Curry Club's pathbreaking visit to Scotland's capital tomorrow evening, in the meantime Trampy and The Tramp wish to formally extend their most honourable congratulations, in what has become something of an annual tradition. We hope other members of the TATTGOC brotherhood will add their voices to the chorus of congratulations in the comments below. Keep it clean, though, eh lads?


The Tramp's Jukebox Puri: Mathar (Knows Best)

Unbelievable. That's the only way to describe the fact that The Tramp hasn't cranked up his jukebox since last September. To be honest, the chance encounter with that hideous rock'n'roll jukebox during the same month's TATTGOC outing to Sibbo's Delhi Dhabba was enough to make me wheel my machine into a cupboard and forget about it. It's taken until now to recover from not only the 50s soundtrack of that night but also from the substandard meal that was served up to half the crew.

But now, with the dust sheet removed, a bit of spit and polish and new needle fitted, it's time to plug the Wurlitzer in and serve up a tasty dose of Indian-themed music to pass the time until the next curry outing. A 20p piece has been fed into the beast, the numbers have been tapped in, the vinyl has hit spindle and the needle is about to drop on ... Mathar.

I fully expect Mathar to be familiar to all our readers here at TATTGOC. The track was everywhere during the mid-90s Acid Jazz era and was, quite frankly, somewhat overexposed. Having not heard the track in years it recently popped up on an excellent CD of Brendan Lynch re-edits which was compiled for me by fellow TATTGOCer, and famed muso, Lime Pickle. Upon relistening to the number, and then reading up a little on its history, it became an obvious candidate for the Jukebox Puri treatment. So here we go ...

The version of Mathar most people will be familiar with was first released in 1993 by Indian Vibes on the French label Yellow Productions before being picked up and widely released by Virgin, first in 1994 and then again in 1998. Indian Vibes was actually a pseudonym of ex-The Jam/Style Council mod rocker Paul Weller. The recording of Mathar by Weller roughly coincided with his teaming up with Brendan Lynch who produced the Modfather's successful self-titled solo album and is credited with expanding Weller's sound into the emerging acid jazz scene. Popularised by DJs such as Gilles Peterson, acid jazz fused more traditional jazz/funk sounds with dance music, bringing jazz to a new, younger audience.

Featuring Weller on the electric sitar, Mathar is actually a cover of a much earlier jazz recording, also called Mathar, laid down by short-lived jazz outfit The Dave Pike Set in 1969. American jazz artist Pike moved over to Europe in the 1960s and formed The Dave Pike Set with a group of European artists and recorded the album Noisy Silence, Gentle Noise. Described as a "further exploration into funky jazz with brilliant guitar work and Indian influences" the standout track, and the one for which the album is most famous, is our very own Mathar. All very well and good, I hear you say, but what are the differences? To be honest, there aren't that many ...

Both versions start off slowly, a solo sitar twanging hypnotically away before the main track kicks in. The Indian Vibes cover version drops the original's acoustic guitar and adds a significantly beefed up drum track (the drums on the Dave Pike Set version sound very low in the mix, although they're still undeniably dynamite). The original version then veers dangerously close to noodly jazz wank in the middle before thankfully coming to its senses and steering back to the good stuff before completely losing the listener's interest (which, it doesn't). Mercifully, Indian Vibes only vaguely begins to noodle before remembering the lessons from the past and getting back into the groove. Below you'll find both versions for your listening pleasure, to compare and contrast. The Indian Vibes version gets my vote for the awesome psychedelic video that went with the track. Those that know the The Tramp well know how much I like things to be wigged out – and this cosmic video certainly does the job and gets the thumbs up from me. That said, Dave Pike looks like a very suave Lucifer there, just chilling with his vibraphone ...

The Dave Pike Set – Mathar:

Indian Vibes – Mathar:

So there we have it, two awesome versions of one great track. And if you'd like to have a standalone version of the original, click the link below.

The Dave Pike Set - Mathar

REVIEW: Grill-ty Pleasure

Dubai Grill, Tradeston

The Time: January 21, 8pm

Booking Name:
The Hughes Brothers

The Pub Aforehand:
The Laurieston, Bridge Street

In Attendance:
Trampy, The Tramp, The Duke, The Gheezer, Ravi Peshwari and Rumpole Of The Balti

A pristine-looking diner and takeaway so recently refurbished that during our visit, some of the furniture – and crockery! – still had price stickers on.

After a bracing afternoon recce of three curry houses in the Tradeston area, the Tramps reckoned the Dubai Grill looked the most promising. They also discovered a new Egyptian restaurant that looked intriguing, if a little outside the prescribed culinary compass of TATTGOC.

The Experience:

January, that cruellest of months, is named for the Roman god Janus. In the magnificent art and literature passed down to us through the aeons, Janus is most commonly represented with two faces. One looks forward, the other behind; one is bearded, the other smooth. History does not record whether Janus wore glasses too but on the facial hair evidence alone, it seems like he might well be allowed to join Curry Club, so long as having two gobs didn’t mean he ate and drank twice as much as anyone else in the gang.

So, January, that cruellest of months. Everyone’s either broke, on a health kick, grumpy or some combination of the three, and it’s become a TATTGOC tradition to forego booze in the first month of the year to placate those with brand-new gym memberships and/or overdraft limit reminders. It’s also a good chance to try out some unlicensed premises that, anecdotally, offer some of the best curry-eating in Glasgow. As you may remember from our December report, the first outing of 2010 was originally going to be spearheaded by The Bulldosa but due to reasons too infernal and somnolent to go into, that excursion will take place later in the year.

Despite – or perhaps because of – Bulldosa’s lack of involvement, it was a stripped-down squad that assembled on a chilly January eve. TATTGOC’s effervescent good luck charm Jalfrezi was making a pilgrimage to Brighton. Noted cinephile Rogan Josh Homme was gorging on new movies at an undisclosed multiplex in England. Rabbie Shankar was inter-railing round Europe. And Lime Pickle was preparing body, mind and wallet for a trip to Australia. All terrible excuses, truth be told. But one faithful currynaut had an irrefutably good reason to miss the January meet: Sir Spicy Lover who, along with his own spicy loved one, had just welcomed a baby boy into this world. To wee Jamie, TATTGOC’s first official Curry Cub, we salute you!

So it was a leaner, fitter crew of six lithe members that mustered in Bridge Street’s most well-regarded local, The Laurieston. A typically well-attended wake in the main bar meant our hungry six-pack retired to the lounge, with its solid, comfortable chairs, deactivated service ringers and excellent golden oldie jukebox. The Curry Club habitually samples a new pub along with each new restaurant but since January is, as we can all agree, the cruellest of months, it felt like a kindness to convene in familiar surroundings.

The target was the Dubai Grill on Wallace Street, nestled somewhere among that outwardly grim industrial patchwork of warehouses and storage units that comprise the Tradeston area. Formerly Faz’s Curry House – in fact, a painted, peeling advertising mural for Faz’s is still visible atop the towering block – the Dubai Grill had caught The Tramp’s eye and, on closer inspection, seemed clean, bright, well-appointed and, vitally, cheap. As our heroes approached, it also seemed rammed with a large family party of 30 or so, including cute wee kids running about, which gifted the place a lively ambiance all too rarely experienced by TATTGOC. For once, it seemed, The Duke might not be the loudest individual in the restaurant.

Having learned from the near-disastrous levels of lassi-guzzling during last January’s meet-up, The Tramp cautiously ordered a jug of mango lassi to be divvied up among the group (if you want to know more about this most delicious beverage, check out The Tramp’s Currypedia entry from last week). Cautiously sipping rather than hungrily gulping the fragrant, fruity drink, the squad reviewed the Dubai Grill menu, which covered a fairly wide geographical area. As well as traditional curries, there were also dishes with Lebanese, Syrian and Persian influences (and with the takeaway next door, you could also get pizzas, burgers, southern-fried chicken and, of course, chips). How does the Dubai Grill compare with curry houses actually situated in Dubai? No-one can say for sure, but our regular Foreign Curryspondent Tikka Mabaws has a few valuable pointers.

The Tramp immediately requested some poppadoms and chutneys, and they arrived with some delicious pickles and sauces. A brace of mixed pakora was deemed hearty enough to get things started, but the waiting staff also threw in an extra dish of treats – the team must have looked like they had serious appetites. Another jug of lassi soon followed, although at this point, Clubbers were still sipping their glasses cautiously rather than shotgunning them like particularly creamy pints of lager. This lull was also a chance for the assembled to share their hopes and fears for the new year ahead, compare fractured memories of Hogmanay hi-jinx and generally moan about The Bulldosa utterly failing to get his act together (midway through the meal, the Tramps each received a mournful text message from the man himself, wondering how the evening was proceeding without his enervating/enlivening presence).

Most of the crew opted for choices from the traditional section of the menu, which featured everything from a range of soothing kormas to a couple of dishes cooked in a handi clay pot. With most menu options already arriving complete with sundries, the traditional rice/naan equation was something of a shot in the dark – to be on the safe side, though, the Tramps selected an extra garlic naan and another portion of rice to ensure there was enough to go round. Considering the busyness of the restaurant, the first dishes arrived promptly, generous portions in brand-new bowls, wafting out aromas of ginger and coriander goodness up the table.

Four hungry currynauts literally rubbed their hands together with glee at the prospect of this spicy feast. For Ravi Peshwari and Trampy, however, disaster loomed. Having both ordered the recommended chef’s special of Malai Tikka (chicken marinaded in almonds, chillis, lime juice and cream, then char-grilled and served with salad, rice and special curry sauce), they were informed that due to a mix-up, their tea would be arriving a bit late. No matter. The others tucked in, with Rumpole Of The Balti seemingly losing his legally-trained mind by offering up his juicy grilled lamb chops to the rest of the table. This selfless act inspired some Pay-It-Forward-style curry sharing, with Ravi Peshwari and Trampy doing fairly well out of it. As time wore on, an apologetic waiter brought along an extra chicken curry dish to help tide them over – this too was sacrificed to the greater group, and was notable for containing a serious heat kick that tickled even the most jaded palates. More lassi!

When the Malai Tikka finally arrived, most of the Curry Club were finishing up. With some prompting, though, most managed to find enough room to try this incredibly succulent chicken, which was even more heavenly when paired with its accompanying sauce. Though no words were spoken, a knowing look between Ravi and Trampy seemed to acknowledge that they had done remarkably well out of the whole snafu – as well as dining like kings from the dishes of their peers, and scoffing most of the extra curry offered as recompense, they could also linger over their own char-grilled chicken without having to fend off advances from their groaning, sated peers. The table seemed to agree: this was one of the best curry experiences in TATTGOC’s short history, even without booze.

As the dust settled, the manager came over to apologise for the delay, even offering to knock a dish off the final bill. Yet the food had been so enjoyable, the atmosphere so vibrant and the service so good, the Tramps gallantly waved away any suggestion of a discount (this magnanimous gesture was perhaps spurred on by the fact that the manager was an attractive young woman). So, with plenty of time to go back to The Laurieston for a nightcap, it was time for the final scores on the doors. When the bill arrived, it was remarkably cheap, working out at a little over £12.50 a head for a two-course feast for six. Perhaps Trampy, though, had consumed too much. “£20 each should cover it, lads,” proclaimed TATTGOC’s self-appointed man-of-letters with his usual booming confidence, unaware that his mental arithmetic was as unexercised as the rest of him. Onward to February! And ... Edinburgh!? Surely not ...

Range Of Drinks: Unlicensed, but a range of soft drinks, lassis and hot drinks, including Moroccan mint tea.

Highlights: Attentive service, delicious lassis, impressive main courses – all at a great value price.

Lowlights: Having to wait for the Malai Tikka was a pain, but was dealt with efficiently, and awesomely, by offering free food.

The Verdict: A heartwarming experience!

The Damage: £67.30! (tip: £8.70)