Tastin' With The Tramps: A hot date with Mr Singh's Bangras!


Another week, another thrilling new feature here at TATTGOC ... who, since their win at the Scottish Curry Awards 2010 have been putting a considerable amount of effort into sourcing free curry-related products. For who better to be a spicy focus group than the Curry Lovers Of The Year 2010? That's the thinking behind Tastin' With The Tramps, a taste test with a difference in that ... in that ... actually, it's pretty much what you would expect from a standard taste test. So what's first up? An exciting new range of spicy sausages, known as Mr Singh's Bangras. Let's go tastin' with The Tramps! (And special guest tasters The Bulldosa and Mumbai Me A Pony!)

The Product: Mr Singh's Bangras


The Pitch: "A marriage of two of Britain’s great loves – sausages and Indian food, Mr. Singh’s Bangras are quite unlike any other sausage. The Bangra was first created in the 1940s in Shimla by Harnam Singh – organic butcher and chef to the Indian army. The recipe has been passed down through the Singh generations from the foothills of the Indian Himalayas to London. These delicious spicy sausages have been lovingly reproduced by Harnam’s grandson, Daljit Singh and The Cinnamon Club’s Executive Chef Vivek Singh."


The Packaging: Sleek and stylish in a strikingly-designed black sleeve, these generously-proportioned sausages undoubtedly stand out on the supermarket shelf (they're currently only available in Tesco and some other stockists in the south of England but agents working on behalf of Mr Singh were kind enough to send some up north to TATTGOC Towers). Even through the packaging, the inherent spiciness was detectable. Tantalising!


The Process: There was some debate over how best to prepare the Bangras, and whether they should be cooked up as part of a recipe. In the end, TATTGOC's gourmand The Tramp decided it would be best just to fry them and judge them on their own merits. No bread, no mash, no sauce ... just Original Recipe Bangras (consisting of British Farm-assured pork sausages apparently weaponised with cardamom, onions and cloves).

The Tramp sizzled them up on the stove, following the pack advice that it was better not to prick these particular bangers before cooking them, and in ten minutes or so there was a tempting pan full of 12 Bangras. The aroma wafting around the kitchen was mouthwatering, and while there was a fair amount of fat coming off them, it was, y'know, the good kind. Armed with kitchen towel and some bottles of Kingfisher to cleanse the palate between bites, The Tramp marched the test subjects through to the official evaluation area, where Trampy and Bulldosa were anticpating their first brush with Bangras. Three men, 12 sausages ... what was the verdict?


Trampy says: "Wow, there's quite a lot of fat coming off these sausages ... which is great. They've been in my fridge for a few days and I couldn't get over how spicy they smelled. Usually I don't feel sausages are spicy enough for me but these have a real kick to them. They also feel considerably more meaty and substantial than your usual banger, even the premium ones. A triumph!"


The Tramp says: "Mmmm. These Bangras are almost reminiscent of a Spanish chorizo sausage ... it's difficult to single out any flavour but they all work well together and there's a fiery aftertaste. I was pleasantly suprised at how spicy they were. It's a thumbs-up from The Tramp."


Guest taster Bulldosa says:
"I've had two so far and ... it's just nice to have a spicy sausage for a change. I think this product could probably carve out a niche. They would probably go down very well in Scotland, although up here we'd probably cook them in batter and eat them with chips and curry sauce. But I would buy them even if they weren't free."

(Guest taster Mumbai Me A Pony missed the formal evaluation session but when presented with the surviving Bangra gave it a thumbs-up, noting its fieriness.)

The Verdict: Spicy, meaty, fiery ... these were the watchwords of the evaluation session, resulting in a unanimous thumbs-up from TATTGOC for Mr Singh's Bangras. Between mouthfuls, the panel did wonder aloud what sort of dishes one could create using such spicy sausages, and what the best accompaniment might be. "Sweet potato mash," suggested The Tramp. "A roll," suggested Trampy. The tasting panel agreed they would also like to try the Date & Apricot Bangra variant, which is either the hallmark of keen, enquiring minds or just a thinly disguised effort to get some more free sausages. For more info about Mr Singh's Bangras, plus details of stockists and availability (and a fun sausage-balancing game), visit www.bangras.com

Do you have a curry-related foodstuff you're launching into the crowded modern marketplace where a recommendation from appropriate enthusiasts might help? If so, drop us an introductory line at trampyandthetramp@gmail.com and see YOUR product featured on ... Tastin' With The Tramps!




Some Pilau Talk With ... Dominik Diamond!

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 Q&A 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. And for the final instalment, we're honoured to present an absolute legend-with-a-capital-L: Dominik Diamond, journalist, broadcaster and author. Now resident in Nova Scotia – where he tills the land with his bare hands, raises a family in the honest Canadian air, composes a trenchant weekly newspaper column and utterly dominates the FM airwaves – Diamond also recently published a memoir, Celtic & Me, which is as raw and uncompromising as you would expect from GamesMaster's eternal godhead. What on earth will he do next? Keep up by visiting his natty official website. Over to Dominik ...

What are some of your favourite Glasgow curryhouses, past or present?
Mother India for special occasions and the Ashoka South Side for your regular Southside dining needs. And Mister Singh's in Charing Cross was THE Beat 106/Xfm curryhouse of choice.

And your favourite Glasgow curry takeaway?
Shahed's on Pollokshaws Road. Danny Singh's at Shawlands Cross. That one that used to be on the corner of Albert Drive and Darnley Street in Pollokshields in 2006. It was what I call "hardcore" – a restaurant downstairs that didn’t allow alcohol and a separate dining room for women. I worried about whether it was right I should frequent a place with segregation like that, but then I remembered that for years Heraghty’s didn’t have a lady’s loo and that never bothered me.

The reason I mention that place in was that for six months my wife and I were utterly addicted to their tandoori lamb chops. They were just the most concentrated meat/spice taste sensation ever. They would batter your tastebuds like the dust at the bottom of packet of dry-roasted peanuts. The problem was that, for some reason, they went STRAIGHT through me. Seriously. The next morning I would have the hot runs. The fact that I STILL carried on ordering and eating them tells you how good they were. Then the place shut down.

Funny that.

What’s your all-time favourite curry dish, the one to which you always return?
Mughlai Chicken. Sure, I will happily gnarl my through a dry tandoori chicken but at heart I’m a big creamy-buttery-sauce-with-almonds kind of guy.

And if you had to choose just one accompaniment, would it be rice or naan?
Peshwari naan for the win. There is NOTHING, I repeat NOTHING that beats the sweet and sour of a very sweet naan where the fruit, the sugar and the almonds spill out onto the main curry plate. Again with the almonds. What’s that about? Was I never given enough almonds as a child?

Could we trouble you for an anecdote – a beloved curry-related memory?
I was in Mister Singh’s one night with Scottish comedy writer and columnist of note Rikki Brown. We had invited our showbiz columnist pal and "Scotland’s prettiest ginger girl" Martel Maxwell along but she called that evening to say she was in bed with the flu. After a mixed tandoori starter none other than the popular musical combo Take That walked in, fresh from a gig at the SECC. I have checked the internet and it would appear this was probably after their Ultimate Tour of 2006 AKA the Welcome Back Take That tour. (No Robbie)

I texted Martel the message: "hahaha Take That in Mister Singh’s, bet you’re REALLY sick now!" Within seven minutes the door burst open and a perfectly made-up Martel Maxwell sashays in wearing a dress that made her look "pretty AND available". After a brief hello to Rikki she batters right onto Take That’s table, gets the quotes, gets the pictures, gets the job DONE. Then sits down and finishes off our food.

Now THAT is how you keep a media career in the pink.

Where’s the most exotic place you've had a curry?
Not a curry as such but I did have spicy pig-blood stew in Pampanga, Philippines during the Crucify Me documentary. I was guest of honour in the village and was sleeping in a hut in the garden of the chief of police. I awoke in the morning to the sound of thudding. I opened the door wearing just my pants to be greeted by the sight of a gaggle of lovely Philippino mums hacking a whole pig to bits with choppers and whatnot, gleefully pulling its intestines out in the baking sun. They cooked the meal in the pig’s blood with spices, hence the name. As guest of honour I had to sit that evening and eat it PLUS ask for seconds. I’m sure over time I would have acquired a taste but back then it was a culinary crucifixion.

Can you actually make a decent curry yourself at home?
Nope. I have still to find a decent recipe. Nigel Slater's are nice but taste nothing like curry shop curries. I can make a cracking Thai curry though.

Can the TATTGOC brotherhood come round for our tea?
Yes, if you bring a takeway from ANY Glasgow curryhouse. There are NO Indian restaurants on the South Shore of Nova Scotia. My wife is a dab hand at Indonesian curries but I swear I have only had one curry in the last 18 months, and that was store-bought in a jar and pish. The life of an immigrant is hard.

If you could enjoy a curry dinner-for-two with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be?
Judas Iscariot. To ask him how much of Jesus Christ Superstar is based on fact.

And finally, you've got a new book out called Celtic & Me – could you give us a thali-style taster of what it's about? And what compelled you to write it now?
I approached a publisher about doing a book about my new life in Nova Scotia – the whole back-to-basics stuff on the fledgling farm etc. They said it didn’t feel like the story had an end point yet and instead asked if I wanted to write a book about my life as a Celtic fan. Having turned 40 and emigrated I have closed the box on the first half of my life so I thought – let’s do it. Let’s get all that stuff written down now.

So what’s it about? It is not your standard dull sports book: on this day we went to this match and Henrik wore shorts. It’s about my complicated relationship with Celtic Football Club and the effect that had on my increasingly-complicated life. How you can be a seemingly indestructible guy in your 20s talking a lot of ill-thought-out stuff on live national radio and not giving a fuck but going slightly mad underneath because you know you’re really not built for this stuff. Then you end up living in Glasgow years later with young kids and a very public face and the trouble that causes.

It’s about how depression, insomnia, recreational partying and Sectarianism can nearly kill you, but God and family can step in and save you. But it’s funny rather than whiney. And there are funny stories involving famous people and bands and how Scotland had the greatest music radio station in the history of the world ever and the suits ruined it.

And it’s about kebabs. Lots of kebabs.

Cheers Dominik! And big thanks to all the Legends who gave up their time to talk curry with the Tramps ... we'll always remember that spicy summer of 2010 ...

PREVIOUSLY ON PILAU TALK: THE LEGENDS
Tom Shields
Fred MacAulay
Ian Cowie aka Mr Snax
Diner Tec
Roy Beers
Iain Banks
Norman Blake
Tam Cowan

Could Glasgow Be Curry Capital Of Britain ... Again?

A wise Curry Clubber once said: "If you can't be with the naan you love, love the naan you're with." So even though TATTGOC is a notably dedicated – possibly the pre-eminent – cheerleader for Glasgow's spicy culinary scene, the brotherhood are boosters in the best sense of the word, supporting all forms of curry in all locales, be they foreign or domestic.

(Hell, we've even travelled en masse to Edinburgh for a TATTGOC outing! Although those were admittedly very special circumstances.)

So when it comes to the oddly recurring debate about exactly which town has the best curry, Trampy and The Tramp will generally speak up for Glasgow but avoid trash-talking other places out of hand. But will we be able to maintain that imperturbable mask of bearded diplomacy when confronted by Curry Capital Of Britain 2010, the recently defibrillated search for the UK's spiciest city? Or will there be cheap jibes, muck-spreading and name-calling directed at possible rivals like Edinburgh, Birmingham and Bradford? Hmmm ...

First things first: to help decide which restaurants go forward to represent Glasgow in this competition, the council are encouraging people to nominate their favourite curryhouse. You can read all about it at:

www.glasgow.gov.uk/currycapital

The closing date for this initial selection stage is October 4, and you can click here to go straight to the online form (remember, it's "Shish" not "Sheesh"). From these nominations, four restaurants will go forward to represent Glasgow. Terrific curry, obviously, is important but cities are also judged on ethnic community support and success. The overall winner will be announced on December 8. So, realistically, what are Glasgow's chances?


Pretty good, if past form is anything to go by. Although the Curry Capital has been on hiatus since 2007, Glasgow has taken the title three times since the competition began in 2001. Other previous winners include London West, Birmingham and Bradford, while the current holder is Leicester, who took the 2007 crown. (I know, I know ... Leicester? But check out their credentials and you'll see they made a compelling case.)

So which Glasgow restaurants previously stepped up to represent the city? Let's check the historical teamsheets ...

2002: Winners!
Glasgow represented by Ashoka Flame, Ashoka At The Mill (no relation), the late Creme De La Creme and the mighty Shish Mahal.

2003: Winners!
Glasgow represented by Ashoka Flame, Creme De La Creme, Shish Mahal and Mr Singh's.

2006: Winners!
Glasgow represented by Ashoka Flame, The Dhabba, Panjea and Shish Mahal.

2007: Joint Runners-Up (with Bradford and Manchester)
Glasgow represented by India Quay, Ashoka Flame, Panjea, Mother India and Ashoka Ashton Lane.

So who would be a useful addition to a 2010 squad? As well as recurring names from bids past, it would be nice to see one of the many fine curryhouses in Tradeston represent, while Charan Gill's vibrant Slumdog is a textbook example of a 21st century curryhouse (stylish and modern in approach yet mindful and celebratory of heritage). For sheer "wow!" factor, the Merchant City's Urban Pind is impressively big and brassy, while the "healthy Indian cuisine" strapline of Scottish Curry Awards 2010 Restaurant Of The Year Bukharah might chime with the judges. But never mind what we think – click here to choose for yourself.

Now, what restaurants might best reflect the wide-ranging yet subtle nuances of curry in Edinburgh? Hmmm ...

Who cares! GLASVEGAZ RULEZ!!

(Main image: a detail taken from Ifan Bates's awesome Trampy and The Tramp illustration from the recent Sunday Herald feature)

From Our Foreign Curryspondent ... Dateline: Cambodia!

(The TATTGOC brotherhood extends around the globe, and we welcome reports of curry expeditions beyond Glasgow – here chief Foreign Curryspondent Tikka MaBaws files another spicy dispatch – complete with recipe! – from his globetrotting journey with Phall From Grace. Follow their ongoing adventures at travel/photo blog I Done A Holiday)

A Beginner's Guide To Cambodian Curry

As Phall From Grace and I bumble our way around the world, it's hard to get away from a travelling cliché: more often than not, food provides structure to long, unemployed days on the road. Sadly, in places like China it doesn't matter how you try to structure things, the scran is largely pish. Things are better south in Vietnam – nowhere in the world will you find better spring rolls; few places have better coffee either. But while there's plenty of spice in China (anything to disguise the greasy, bony dreadfulness of the food) and plenty of tasty snacks in 'Nam, there's a chronic lack of decent curry in both.

And then we arrived in Cambodia. We expected plenty before getting here - historical glory and modern horror in spades - but who could have guessed that it'd be this plucky little nation that'd pull out not just curry, but some of the very finest that this Foreign Curryspondent has ever tasted? It's not just me who thinks so either, but someone who Actually Knows What He's Talking About.

“I didn't know much about Cambodian cuisine before I got here – even if you Google it, you don't get much help,” says chef Wayan Mawa. After settling in Siem Reap as head chef of perhaps the swankiest hotel in the country, the Indonesian is now deep into a love affair with what he calls “royal Khmer” cuisine.

As we walk around a market in downtown Siem Reap, he points out over 50 ingredients that can potentially go into Cambodian dishes. From lotus flowers, to pig heads (that's not a metaphor for anything), to frog-skin aubergines, it's fair to say you won't find many of them in an average Dennistoun Lidl. But while they're selling fried locusts and deep-fried tarantulas on sticks outside (in Cambodia that is, though possibly in Denny as well), Chef Mawa's scran is an altogether more regal affair – and naturally at the top of his menu you'll find curry.

He specialises in two particular types: royal Khmer and amok. The latter is regarded as the national dish and is typically cooked with fish (hardly surprising given the importance of the Mekong River in these parts), though it also suits chicken well. In all cases it is uniformly delicious. Even one poisonous offering we had in Phnom Penh tasted fantastic, until it started coming out our noses and gave a new meaning to the phrase “to run(s) amok”.

“This country is completely different to the others,” says the jolly Balinese cook. “Thai and Vietnamese food is not really involved in real Cambodian cuisine, either. The Lok Lac [delicious fried beef] and Khmer curry is more similar to central Javanese food, for example.”

This I quite believe, but the amok, full of lime leaves and baby aubergines, could hardly taste more Thai. Surely Cambodia has taken some influence from its neighbour there? “Actually it was the other way around,” replies Mawa, dismissing my childish question with healthy disdain. “Amok was created here and influenced the Thai food. When the Thais attacked Siem Reap they took everything, including some of the recipes. Now they use coconuts in Thailand too, but the dishes are much thinner – Cambodia uses coconut milk like nowhere else.”

We head outside to the grounds of the hotel and chef gives me a tour of his spice garden. He's growing some potent-looking chillies out here, but they play a surprisingly low-key role in Cambodian cooking. Instead, some locals in rural parts use them to line their gardens in order to fend off spice-phobic elephants. Ordinarily I can't stand coconut-based curries, but the royal Khmer curry and amok rely heavily on it and include almost no chilli at all. I'm almost embarrassed that my pyromania has seemingly vanished. As if to console me, the chef ushers us into his kitchen to begin what is nominally a cooking class. In fact it's more like a demonstration, but I get to wear a hat that - after some not inconsiderable adjustments - almost fits. Meanwhile, Mawa prepares the ingredients and explains that Cambodian curry is absolutely nothing like, say, an Indian korma.

“Cambodian curry only uses coconut milk, it's a thicker curry, but very simple. In India they use cashew nuts and yoghurt, and cook it for a long time,” he says as I imagine him giving me a tender hug. “In Cambodia the cooking time shouldn't be over five minutes.” The result is that all of the individual ingredients retain their wonderful individual flavours, rather than being boiled into a homogeneous whole.

Mawa has been here for three years and recently began a cooking class within the hotel. He's also published a book on royal Khmer cuisine (you can find a recipe below). Though he's not native to these parts, he loves the food and would love to see it exported around the world. The question barely needs asking, but I do so anyway. What is his favourite dish?

“This one,” he says with a smile, waving a ladle over a gently steaming pan of royal Khmer curry. “You don't need anything extra, it's very simple: just rice and curry... And the amok – I cannot resist.”

Tikka MaBaws, out.

Kari Sach Moan (Royal red curry)

Ingredients
500 grams chicken, cubed
1 onion, cubed
200 grams sweet potato, large cubes
1 cup coconut milk
2 teaspoons of fish sauce
2 teaspoons of sugar
½ teaspoon of salt
2 teaspoons of curry powder
2 teaspoons chopped peanuts
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons of red curry paste, or to taste

Method
Place a pot over medium-high heat; add the oil and sauté the paste until it smells fragrant. Add the chicken pieces and then the rest of the ingredients. Allow simmering until the chicken is tender. Check the seasoning to make sure the curry is well flavoured.

Serve the curry in a bowl and decorate with grilled fruit on sugar cane skewers. (Or, as is more likely in Scotland, with rice.)

PREVIOUS CURRYSPONDENCE FROM TIKKA MABAWS
Dateline: Nepal!

Dateline: Sri Lanka!
Dateline: Dubai!

REVIEW: Thalis Of The City

Thali, Merchant City

The Time: August 25, 8pm

Booking Name: G Virtue (booking online precluded any movie-derived nom-nom de plume)

The Pub Aforehand: The Press Bar, Albion Street

In Attendance: Pretty much the full Bhoona: Trampy, The Tramp, Jalfrezi, The Bulldosa, The Duke, Rabbie Shankar, Rumpole Of The Balti, Ravi Peshwari, The Gheezer, Rogan Josh Homme, Sir Spicy Lover and, flying in for one night only (again) Karahi ... CHOP!

Decor: Tucked down an Albion Street doorway, Thali is modern in style but sumptuously decorated, in keeping with its upscale Merchant City location. Certainly one of the swankier places that TATTGOC has visited.

Expectations: Thali wasn’t a totally unknown quantity as Trampy and The Tramp had visited it soon after it first opened in early 2009. TATTGOC's spicy chieftains had been impressed at the quality of the various katoris – but could Thali withstand the force of a full-bore Curry Club outing?

(Addendum: All this talk of thali reminds me that we already have a Thali Ho in the extended brotherhood - she and Lord Of The Dansak filed an intriguing curryspondence from Bath late last year.)

The Experience:

Whenever they are asked to define the essence of TATTGOC – a situation that comes up more often than you might think – the Tramps have a useful stock answer: “It is like the sea, I think.” Allusive, brooding, darkly poetic ... and almost entirely meaningless.

But if there ever was a true TATTGOC masterplan, part of it was going to be plotting a pleasing, possibly cloud-shaped dot-to-dot pattern on the map of Glasgow, with each point representing an establishment the brotherhood had visited. In the early months, the Tramps would choose their next destination by a process of opposition: after eating in the west, they’d aim their wagons east. Similarly, a North Glesga curry would be followed by an excursion south of the river. Over the past 21 months, though, the resulting distribution hasn’t been as aesthetically pleasing as hoped – check out the dedicated TATTGOC Google map and you’ll see it’s more of a wonky cruciform than a spicy Spirograph. Last month, a highly-motivated Objectivist managed to spell out “READ AYN RAND” by using his GPS as a graffiti spraycan while driving 12000 miles across the US. The Tramps’ cherished dream of inscribing “HERE BE BAWBAGS” over No Mean City seems doomed to failure in comparison.

Still, since no Glasgow curryhouse should be outwith TATTGOC’s bailiwick it seems strange that the brotherhood has never ventured to the Merchant City. There is no higher concentration of high-class curryhouses, from the north/south double-punch of The Dhabba and The Dhakin to the award-winning, Persian-tinged KoolBa. After the venerable Café India burned down at Charing Cross, it relocated to the Merchant City, and if that didn’t make the district crowded enough, the lavish, 150-cover Urban Pind opened last year, complete with garden swing, soothing water wheel and alarming life-size dummies in traditional dress (Sir Spicy Lover and Trampy dined on tandoori quail there a year ago, and gave it a cautious thumbs-up). So why has it taken so long for TATTGOC to stick a pin in the Merchant City? To borrow a phrase from the merchant in Resident Evil 4: Not enough cash. Those places are expensive, and TATTGOC likes to keep things reasonable whenever possible.

Thank heavens, then, for plucky Thali on Albion Street. This handsomely-furnished tapas-style restaurant does a 2-for-1 deal called Thali Wednesdays, perhaps inspired by Orange’s similar cinema ticket offer, which brought it well within the Curry Club’s preferred financial parameters. August’s meet-up was of particular importance because it was to be a formal farewell to founder member Jalfrezi, one of the brotherhood’s most mercurial and committed members, and the man who memorably saluted TATTGOC after an epic journey to Maryhill. Big London beckons for wee Jalfrezi – but the capital’s gain is the Curry Club’s loss, and it seems doubly painful after so recently saying cheerio to The Birmingham Wan. (Ironically, as some members of TATTGOC continue to expand, so the membership contracts.) But this was not to be a night for wallowing in melancholy or gloominess. Onwards, to The Press Bar!

Tucked under the refurbished Herald building – now a black vitralite-encased honeycomb of start-up offices and expensive flats – The Press Bar has been going on for almost a decade now since its pre-installed customer base of boozy journos and inky-fingered print workers left the building. It’s a no-nonsense boozer, which is attractive in the vicinity of the Merchant City, which, for good or ill, is Glasgow’s flash-and-cash centriole. The Tramp and The Duke, invigorated by a late-afternoon viewing of The Expendables, were the first to arrive, setting up shop in one of the bar’s various booths in preparation for assembling their own crack team of macho action men. Trampy turned up next, in the company of a special guest star: London flyboy Karahi ... CHOP!, on a well-timed overnight stopover in Glasgow. Rogan Josh Homme and Ravi Peshwari were next, so presently the empty Tennent’s glasses began to pile up. A dozen Clubbers were expected in total, so the group had to swiftly relocate to a bigger booth upon the arrival of The Bulldosa, The Gheezer, Rabbie Shankar, Sir Spicy Lover and, the hero of the hour, Jalfrezi himself. The only man missing from this murghi dozen was Rumpole Of The Balti, who arrived at the very last minute, looking sharp but mysteriously laden down with bags. Thus assembled, the squad threaded their way down Albion Street toward Thali, a journey captured in almost flickbook-esque fashion by The Tramp’s insistent paparazzi-ing.

Taking advantage of the sunny evening, the group shot was captured before the Curry Club crossed the Thali threshold. Inside the atmospherically-lit restaurant, they arranged themselves around their long table with a minimum of fuss. Each Clubber received a complimentary metal goblet of nimbu pani lemon water – intriguingly savoury and refreshing to some palates, slightly brackish to others – but there was also lager on tap, so a hefty round was quickly ordered. The Thali concept is reasonably simple but involves ordering various little tapas-style dishes, so to avoid the now-legendary Chillies West End Over-Ordering Fiasco Of June 2010, the Tramps were keen to keep a handle on things. In the first instance: simple starters. After establishing that there were four lamb chops per portion – marinated in spices, ginger, garlic and yoghurt, then roasted over hot coals – the Tramps ordered up three dishes so each Clubber would definitely get to gnaw on one. Additionally, they ordered up some sharing platters of mixed pakora, erring on the side of non-gluttony just to be safe.

While all this was going on, the squad were getting to grips with the thali concept, helpfully explained by a diagram on each paper placemat; starting with a “base thali” (comprising rice, naan, salad and either a wee dish of daal or raita), you then add two or three little katori dishes, which then all arrive on your own discreet metal tray, easily defended from the fork attacks of nearby diners. Everyone agreed to choose three katoris each, assuming that would probably be sufficient. (Sadly, there was no need to calculate a rice/naan equation, since everyone would get their own personal ration accompanying their thali.)

With that considerable order locked in (intriguingly, everyone chose daal over raita), the brotherhood relaxed into full-on chat mode, eager to hear about Jalfrezi’s new placement at one of the most famous hospitals in the world. Rumpole Of The Balti revealed that he was also moving on from one of his jobs, and had come straight to Curry Club from his own leaving do (with some impressive parting gifts, including a serious-looking grater). Talk of gifts prompted The Gheezer to unveil a surprise present for the Tramps he’d brought back from a recent visit to Venice – some curry-flavoured pasta. (“It was either that or novelty grappa,” he explained. Why not both?) Look out for a future post in which the Tramps put that pasta to good use ...

Presently, the lamb chops and mixed pakora arrived and, with everyone secure in the knowledge that there was going to be one chop each, there was none of the usual grabby-grabby horseplay when such sizzling treats descend. Everyone praised the chops – juicy, spicy and ever-so tasty – but there were somehow one or two left after the first go-round, which made for some intense horse-trading.

The range of mixed pakora was a cut above too, and the overall amount seemed to be just about right. A second round of lager was ordered up, although The Tramp and The Bulldosa controversially opted for cooling lassis instead, perhaps testament to the spiciness of the chops.

Considering how orders can get mixed up en route to the table even when Clubbers have only ordered one curry dish each – usually because they’ve half-forgotten what it is that they selected in the first place rather than through any fault of service – the smooth, efficient arrival of everyone’s thali tray in exactly the right place was most impressive. With an equal number of vegetarian and meat options on the menu – which you can see for yourself online – it appeared that most of the brotherhood had opted for at least one veg dish. Bhoona gosht seemed to be a popular choice, and the prawn malabari received fulsome praise from somewhere down the table. For his part, Trampy finds it hard not to order a dish that involves ladyfingers, and his bhindi – okra sautéed with onions and masala blend, then dusted with mango powder – was delicious. Ravi Peshwari, a man who knows his curry, suggested that Thali was his favourite TATTGOC excursion to date, an impression perhaps helped by the impressive turnout and agreeable weather. There seemed to be a murmuring agreement around the table that this was a particularly impressive outing. And while the katori dishes all looked wee and cute, they were also deceptively deep – certainly everyone was sated.

As the chowing wound down, The Tramp tinkled some empty katoris to get everyone’s attention and herald a few announcements. In the first instance, the Tramps wished to confirm that the blog was now supported by Kingfisher Premium Lager, an informal relationship that had developed after a chance meeting at the Scottish Curry Awards 2010 earlier this year. Would this arrangement affect TATTGOC’s hallowed editorial independence? Not at all. But it would definitely mean the next trip to a BYOB establishment would involve drinking lots of Kingfisher Premium Lager. Secondly, Trampy forwarded a motion to wish Rogan Josh Homme a happy birthday, which seemed to be passed enthusiastically by all around the table – TATTGOC’s resident movie scholar then received the brand-new film tome from Vern, the critical talent behind Seagalogy, the essential guide to the filmography of Steven Seagal.

Finally, a toast was raised to Jalfrezi – the man, the legend – and he took possession of a parting gift from his spicy friends. In the past, it’s often been a customised T-shirt but since Jalfrezi had already got one for Christmas, he had to make do with an inscribed copy of the Shish Mahal Cook Book. Apparently The Bulldosa has been making good use of his gifted copy, so hopefully it will serve Jalfrezi well down in London too. Unfortunately, the batteries in the official TATTGOC camera had failed by this point, so the only evidence we have of the main man receiving his keepsake is this blurry cameraphone pic, courtesy of Karahi ... CHOP!, who was luckily on standby. But rest assured Jalfrezi's wee face was shining, and his acceptance speech seemed heartfelt. And after settling the very reasonable bill, the brotherhood decamped, almost en masse, over the road to Blackfriars for a convivial nightcap round a jammed table. It was a heartwarming scene, although admittedly things would never be quite the same again ...

Range Of Drinks: Cobra on tap, and a well-stocked selection of bottled beers and spirits.

Highlights: Fantastic lamb chops; delicious, surprisingly filling katoris; great value overall.

Lowlights: The nimbu pani lemon water wasn’t to everyone’s taste.

The Verdict: A kaleidoscopic experience!

The Damage: £214.45 (tip £25.55)

STOP PRESS: Since TATTGOC’s visit, Thali has rejigged its menu, with newly added katoris (including butter chicken) and some more starters, desserts and even cocktails too. The Thali Wednesdays offer still stands but you have to book online to take advantage of it – sign up for updates on the Thali website to get the skinny.

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