REVIEW: Mad(ras) Men

Madras Palace, Charing Cross

The Time: October 22, 8.30pm

Booking Name: Cameron Virtue (as chosen by The Bulldosa)

The Pub Aforehand: The Bon Accord, North Street

In Attendance: The Bulldosa, Trampy, The Tramp, Ravi Peshwari, The Gheezer ... and a returning special guest!

Decor: Large and airy, neutral colours and art prints on the wall, the odd pot plant.

Expectations: Few Clubbers recognised the name initally but there were flickers of recognition when they were informed that the Madras Palace was previously Panjea, with the award-winning chef PJ. That seemed to stoke up anticipation of a good feed.

The Experience:

October is a good month for revolutions. Just ask the Russians. But what on Earth would TATTGOC be like if long-time spicy architects Trampy and The Tramp were overthrown? That was the tantalising prospect of October’s recent official meet-up, where long-suffering lieutenant The Bulldosa took up the reins to organise what would undoubtedly be the most spectacular TATTGOC to date ...

At least, that was the plan. And the wind of change was blowing through from the very outset, when The Bulldosa – perhaps puffed with confidence after the success of September’s visit to The Viceroy, a venue that canny young BuDo had both discovered and recommended – announced that for only the third (or maybe fourth) time in TATTGOC’s history, it would not take place on the usual Thursday night. Nay, it would take place on a Friday, allowing even more rambunctious carousal than usual. A potentially volatile situation!

One immediate upshot of meeting on a Friday was the busyness of the pub aforehand – the Bon Accord, Charing Cross’s destination boozer for the real ale crowd, was stowed by 7pm, where youngling mastermind The Bulldosa sat, alone, waiting for the first domino in his elaborate schema to fall. The Gheezer was first to arrive, closely followed by The Tramps, who both had a cheerful countenance and notable spring in their step having shucked off the heavy logistical load of TATTGOC responsibility (The Tramp still had his trusty camera though). Then Ravi Peshwari arrived, giving the thumbs-up to Inveralmond Brewery's ale Ossian as a pre-curry sharpener. Those offering their apologies included Sir Spicy Lover (babysitting), Rogan Josh Homme (London Film Festival) and Rabbie Shankar (working late and “wet pants”). The Bulldosa did have one special ace to play however ... a special returning guest.

There seemed to be a lot of chat about the travails of backing up Windows 7, but more intriguing was some bar-room reminiscence over the “Croy hold”. While it sounded suspiciously like a mixed martial arts move, it was actually an ancient technique of cradling a crisp packet that ensured anyone dipping their hand in didn’t walk off with the whole bag. Useful knowledge indeed. With the mystery guest en route, a calm and collected Bulldosa led his merry band out the back of the Bon Accord and round the corner to reveal their handy destination: the mighty Madras Palace.

The name is new but the place has been around for a while. Formerly Panjea, and before that PJ’s (and before even that a garage), the current incarnation retains a selection of notable press clippings in the vestibule to attest to its spicy provenance. Inside, it’s a big, single room – large enough to accommodate a decent bar and a separate but notably comfortable-looking waiting area for those picking up takeaways. In a burst of initial enthusiasm, the Bulldosa had initially enquired about a table for eight or so but it looked like it would be another six-strong outing, although the promised wild card/wild rover had yet to materialise. The restaurant was pretty much empty but some inviting mood music and tantalising odours made it seem most welcoming.

The Madras Palace boasted Kingfisher on tap and since that venerable company have been kind enough to support the blog, it seemed appropriate to order up a round. Clearly comfortable in his leading role, the Bulldosa rapped out how things would go down – for only the second (or maybe third) time in TATTGOC history, we’d be chowing down on a buffet. The assembled Curry Clubbers got a sneak preview of their choices as they attended the buffet to pick up some poppadoms and selected dips (including, to Ravi Peshwari’s approval, some jalapeno chilis alongside the usual mango chutney and spiced onions). Just as the team cracked into their poppadoms, the mystery guest swung in the door like Dick Turpin, or perhaps Zorro: it was none other than The Birmingham Wan, who’d returned from his current home of Leeds to report back to his TATTGOC brethren!

A master storyteller and raconteur, The Birmingham Wan began regaling the table with tales of northern England – once a cold Kingfisher had been pressed into his palm, of course. The appearance of the final attendee also heralded the arrival, after a few minutes, of the mixed starters, a wide selection of pakora that arrived on two enormous plates. Firing into the chicken, mixed vegetable and mushroom offerings (plus a few awesome onion rings), every Clubber was keen to note how fresh these pakora tasted – literally, as if they’d just been made. The considerable piles were slowly demolished, while conversation inexplicably shifted to the topic of Cyril Sneer, the demented, distinctive villain from incomprehensible cartoon series The Raccoons.

Another round of Kingfishers was sought, while the Clubbers took a wee break between courses. The Bulldosa confessed he’d been swayed to undertake the buffet option to avoid tangling with the ever-knotty rice/naan equation but to that end, he had only half-succeeded; while Clubbers would be able to help themselves to as much or little rice as they desired during their visit to the buffet proper, there was still the responsibility of ordering a la carte naans for the assembled. With bold authority that belied his nervousness, the Bulldosa requested the classic tricolore of plain, garlic and peshwari.

You might imagine that the arrival of these naans would be the starter gun for the buffet scramble but some Clubbers couldn’t contain themselves, so determined where they to get stuck in. At previous buffets, Trampy had been slightly disheartened when the selections were advertised by a pre-painted guide, suggesting that the same six or seven dishes were trotted out without any variation. At the Madras Palace, it appeared there was considerably more turnover, with scrawled jumbo Post-Its identifying the day’s dishes – standards like aloo gobi and chicken korma but also lamb katima and lamb pallak, and a fantastic potato and aubergine dish. Plates piled high, Bulldosa’s not-so-secret six got stuck in. By this time, there were a few more patrons in the restaurant and it felt a bit more “Friday night”. There was no rush, though; quite the opposite. Everything about the set-up seemed designed to put everyone at ease, and some of the more tactical Curry Clubbers were already weighing up their digestive options to ensure a second visit to the buffet, or at the very least an ice-cream from the alluring Electro Freeze machine.

It all seemed to be going pretty well, but when the main course plates were spirited away, The Bulldosa sprang his second surprise of the evening – forcing the Tramps to rummage in a supermarket carrier bag to reveal ... matching black wigs and warty noses? Trampy and The Tramp were suddenly transformed into Vampy and The Vamp, although glancing in any nearby mirror would probably have broken it. The founders of TATTGOC may be handsome, almost dangerously masculine men but they make for a brace of fairly terrifying witches. Let's just say Elvira needn't worry about any mistress-of-the-dark competition anytime soon.

In fact, it looked like a particularly hellish Stars In Their Eyes instalment in which two bearded brickies had both decided to emulate late-career Cher. "Where's your wiccan hat?" asked one Clubber. "On my wiccan head!" replied Trampy. The hideous rubber noses were passed around for general hijinx, including some unwelcome trouser-based manipulations that would give even Grotbags pause (there's some pictorial evidence in the sidebar slideshow but be warned: those conks go in some fairly unsavoury places).

Remaining in costume, the Tramps flounced across the restaurant to keep their appointment with the Electro Freeze, squeezing out Mr Whippy-style bowlfuls of ice-cream to which they added the requisite strawberry sauce. TATTGOC has never been big on desserts – although it might be time to reinstate the customary brandy as a digestif – but these topped off the meal splendidly. After Bulldosa took care of the (extremely reasonable) bill, there was even time to have a nosy around the second floor, a spacious function room that often plays host to curry karaoke evenings. While Ravi Peshwari asked a series of increasingly specific questions about the sound system, Trampy noticed with appreciation that a bloody hockey mask adorned one of the bar taps in preparation for Halloween. All in all, a highly successful outing which, despite some bad weather, left everyone truly satisfied. Madras Palace and The Bulldosa, TATTGOC salutes you!

And while you might imagine things will get back to normal next month, bear in mind it will be the blog's second birthday ...

Range Of Drinks: The mighty Kingfisher on tap, and Tennent’s too.

Highlights: Attentive service, wide range of buffet dishes.

Lowlights: The smallish turnout was emphasised by a lack of other diners.

The Verdict: A filling – and fulfilling – experience!

The Damage: £108.00 (tip £12)


SOME OTHER RECENT TATTGOC OUTINGS

The Viceroy, Paisley Road
Thali, Merchant City
Alishan Tandoori, Battlefield Road
Chillies West End, Woodlands Road

Tastin' With The Tramps: Bakin' The Nation's Noodle!


Recently, TATTGOC has 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 on the menu this time? It's a brand-new flavour of The Nation's Noodle. Let's go tastin' with The Tramps!

The Product: The Nation's Noodle, Chip Shop Curry flavour


The Pitch: A tip of the hat to the PR company handling The Nation's Noodle account. Mere days after news broke that TATTGOC had been awarded Scottish Curry Lovers Of The Year 2010, a keen PR representative got in touch with the blog and suggested – nay, DEMANDED – that we be sent a stack of Chip Shop Curry flavour noodles. At that time (like, about six months ago) this mysterious new flavour had yet to hit supermarket and all-night garage shelves. Super!


The Packaging: At first glance, you might well mistake the black pot of the The Nation's Noodle for a Pot Noodle (specifically the black-potted Bombay Bad Boy flavour). It might also be confusing because The Nation's Noodle is produced by Golden Wonder and, hey, didn't Golden Wonder used to make Pot Noodle? So what happened? After a period of online investigation, The Tramp discovered that Golden Wonder were bought by Unilever in 1995, and then sold on to another company in 2006 (except Unilever hung on to the Pot Noodle brand). So Golden Wonder launched The Nation's Noodle (in seven different flavours) to compete directly with their former product, essentially plotting to murder its own offspring. It's like a classic Greek tragedy! Except instead of blood you have those little sachets of sauce ... although, rather disappointingly, The Nation's Noodle doesn't contain those little sachets of sauce. See? No sachets ...


The Process: So simple to prepare, even a child could do it (although you probably wouldn't want your kid to be mucking about with boiling water). The traditional "fill line" seemed a little lower than The Tramps remembered but maybe they were just proportionally bigger. So after adding the suggested amount of boiling water, The Tramps then had to wait for five minutes ...


... and one stir later, the noodles were good to go. But it was only at this late stage that Trampy realised that The Nation's Noodle included sultanas in their Curry Chip Shop recipe. He no like sultanas! Or any dried fruit! Still, the noodles seemed to rehydrate OK.


So after some initially tentative forkfuls, what did the Tramps think?

Trampy says: "Grrr, sultanas. And there are bits of apple in here too. Still, I like noodles and these ones are OK, although I had a different sort of flavour in my head ... I think chip shop curry sauce is maybe more of an English thing, like mushy peas? I could be wrong. It seems like sacrilege for a curry lover to say this but I almost wish we'd been sent one of the other flavours. [THREE MINUTES LATER] Hey, I totally ate all of it, even some of the sultanas! I guess I must have been hungry ..."


The Tramp says: "My initial reaction was shock that there was no sachet involved. In terms of taste, it's not very spicy but it does have that mild powdered curry sauce feel to it. The taste improved towards the bottom of the pot as it thickened up a bit. It's been many years since I've had a potted noodle so this was an interesting experiment. I wouldn't necessarily go out of my way to buy it ... but I am now intrigued enough to try some rival brands. It would be very easy to mistake The Nation's Noodle for a Pot Noodle on the shelf, which I assume must be deliberate."


The Verdict: As far as instant hot snacks targeted at young men aged 12-30 are concerned, The Nation's Noodle ticks a lot of boxes. And while this particular taste test might not have got the Tramps jumping up and down in excitement, it has alerted them to the many different curry-flavoured instant noodles that are currently available. Which means more analysis ahead!

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!

PREVIOUSLY DEVOURED
Mr Singh's Bangras!


From Our Foreign Curryspondent ... Dateline: Kerala!

(The TATTGOC brotherhood extends around the globe, and we welcome reports of curry expeditions beyond Glasgow – the man known as Fight For Your Right Chapati has been on our Missing In Action photo roll call since day one and hails from the same hometown as Tikka MaBaws. Currently on an Indian odyssey with Saagatha Christie, this is his first official spicy dispatch but you can follow their ongoing adventures at Kotdb - On The Move)

Greetings from India, TATTGOC faithful. Myself and Saagatha Christie are a month into a three-month Indian odyssey and the food has been by far the highlight of our trip so far. In the north we were treated to incredible rich curries and side dishes with a huge array of breads to mop them up with. I thought that east London was good for Asian food but it isn't even close to the stuff we have been served, breakfast, lunch and dinner all over India. Rotis, naans, chapatis and parathas brought to your table freshly made and glistening with ghee. One particular paratha we ate was mixed with potato and the result was like a giant tattie scone. We got served three slices of this with our thali and I worked out that it was equivalent to around nine tattie scones. Gut-busting heaven. My diet has been high-fat, high-carb, mostly vegetarian ... but maximum taste and flavour.

I've eaten my own body weight in bread and half of that in paneer cheese. The occasional chicken dish such as Delhi's United Coffee House butter chicken is some of the finest food I have ever eaten. A new dish to me is Malai Kofta, which is paneer cheese and potato in crumb-coated balls, deep-fried (kind of like a cheesy potato croquette) which sits in an exquisite creamy, spicy, cashew sauce (or gravy as the sauces are known here). "Delicious gravies" is a phrase which is as nice to say and hear in an Indian accent as the "gravies" are to taste. Amazing dhals (spicy or cooling), curd, fried okra and various pickles and chutneys all add to the depth of variety in the cuisine. I really could eat it all day, every day.

In our favourite restaurant in Fort Cochin, Dal Roti, the owner (a real character who reminds us of one of the guys that Eddie Murphy plays in the barbershop of Coming To America) told us that there are thousands of dishes in India – all which have a particular combination of spices passed down through generations. Change an ingredient slightly or the quantity of spice and you change the dish. Gordon Ramsay apparently cooked in the Dal Roti kitchen during his recent TV tour of India and used olive oil instead of coconut oil. Ramsay's meal was deemed inferior in a taste-off between him and the Dal Roti cooks. Ye cannae teach yer granny to suck eggs!

This, according to the owner, means that India is a nation of cooks, not chefs. They do not necessarily innovate; they follow the wisdom of thousands of years. I'm in no position to argue with that.

While in Kerala, myself and Saagatha Christie went on a day's cookery course with Nimmy Paul. We learned a whole host of Keralan dishes and then got to eat them. We learned to make sambar (a heart vegetable broth kind of like a dhal), rasaam (a fiery soup), marinated and shallow fried Karimmen or Black Pearl fish (like a perch) and Keralan prawn curry.

That was just for lunch ... our evening meal was as follows:


- Drumstick soup (drumstick is a vegetable called murungakkai ... nope, me neither)
- Paneer and potato curry with rice pancake
- Roast chicken, dhal and chapati
- Ginger cake and ice cream

All washed down with delicious Kingfisher beer.

The highlight for me was learning how to make my own paneer cheese. It's incredibly easy, actually. All you need is milk and lime. Bring the milk almost to the boil then add the juice of one lime. Turn off the heat and stir. Then drain off the liquid with a muslin cloth and put something heavy on it for a few minutes. Hey presto, delicious cheese!

We also made our own chapatis and paratha. A great day!

An honourable mention also goes to the massive blue King Prawns we bought beside the canal on a backwater boat trip in Kerala. The crew cooked them up for us and it was amazing – a really fiery, delicious treat.

That's all for now. I'm off to get some lunch ...

Perhaps Inevitably, The Race To Be Curry Capital Hots Up


Since we last reported on the new, revivified Curry Capital competition, the four restaurants that will represent Glasgow have been selected. They are:

Balbir's, 7 Church Street
KoolBa, 109 Candleriggs
Mister Singh's, 149 Elderslie Street
Mother India's Cafe, 1355 Argyle Street

As The Tramp might say, "oaft!" It's pretty strong team, we think you'll agree. But to genuinely get behind Glasgow's bid to win the crown for a record fourth time, you need to vote once (vote often). The closing date is November 1 and the overall winner will be announced in December. So get ye to:

www.glasgow.gov.uk/currycapital

Tell your friends!

REVIEW: Of Vice And Men

The Viceroy, Paisley Road

The Time: September 30, 8pm

Booking Name: None required.

The Pub Aforehand: The Old Toll Bar, Paisley Road West

In Attendance: Trampy, The Tramp, The Bulldosa, Rabbie Shankar, Sir Spicy Lover and Ravi Peshwari

Decor: Just a couple of doors down from the legendary Grand Ole Opry, The Viceroy boasts classic signage that makes it look like burnished part of Glasgow’s rich curry heritage; inside, it’s bright and notably spotless, with a compact buffet station in one corner and tasteful art prints on its neutral walls.

Expectations:
With no Curry Clubber claiming previous experience of The Viceroy, and a surprising lack of information about the establishment available online, this was truly to be a journey into the unknown.

The Experience:

With almost two years of curry safari under their straining belts, the Tramps have spent a considerable amount of time grappling with the rice/naan equation. But what’s the golden ratio for TATTGOC itself? Some months the membership expands to more than a dozen, with an attendant ruckus you can probably imagine. For other outings, natural shrinkage asserts itself, bringing the numbers down to more biddable levels. So is there a perfect headcount? Turns out six ain’t bad – instead of various rambling, shouty, divergent debates raging around a sauce-spattered, rice-scattered table, there can be just one Big Conversation ... albeit a rambling, shouty, divergent one.

Six souls: that was the scenario being silently considered by the Tramps in the appealing environs of The Old Toll Bar. For this was September’s official TATTGOC outing, squeaking in under the wire at the very end of the month. When you’ve spent as much time together as the Tramps, you come to value these calm little moments before the storm. No need for talk. Just lager-augmented meditation. While not the most soothing pub in Glasgow – that honour falls to The Laurieston – the Old Toll Bar manages to be cosy yet characterful (and, unlike many nearby hostelries of unknown complexion, it has windows).

Ravi Peshwari was first to arrive, and keen to share news of his latest technological acquisition. The Bulldosa was next, closely followed by Rabbie Shankar and Sir Spicy Lover, who managed to catch TATTGOC’s slackest of loose cannons right in the act of ordering drinks, therefore reaping the fizzy rewards. Among the general chit-chat and ribald bonhomie, there seemed to be a more intense level of anticipation than usual. The Viceroy, it seems, was an almost totally unknown quality, although everyone had a story about the nearby Grand Ole Opry, mostly of the rootin-tootin variety: the admirable but possibly confusing bar queueing system, late-night encounters with the chuck wagon and dramatic six-gun shootouts (staged, for the most part). But before you knew it, it was time to saddle up and mosey on over the road.

The Viceroy isn’t the biggest restaurant – with a capacity of perhaps 40 diners – and, in a callback to the early days of TATTGOC, it was practically empty when the squad arrived. Having the place to yourself can be a bonus, though, and there was certainly a warm welcome – which was made even warmer and more welcoming when, even as the Clubbers were still arranging themselves around the group table, a tray of six lagers materialised. Telepathy? Magic? A reasonable deduction after surveying this louche party? Nope. (Well, maybe that last one). The Viceroy is BYOB, and so was the first chance for TATTGOC to take advantage, en masse, of some of the free lager Kingfisher kindly sent up in support of the blog. The Tramps had dropped off a case earlier, and the Viceroy staff were kind enough to keep it chilled while awaiting the full crew.

Even for these grizzled curry veterans, The Viceroy’s extensive menu took quite a while to properly parse – no great inconvenience when you have free lager, though. A request for poppadoms was placed, belayed and then sort-of placed again – the customary brittle discs arrived with spiced onions and also a thin, aromatic curry sauce which was a table-wide hit. Sensing hunger pangs, The Tramp whipped everyone toward a starter consensus, ensuring that there would be a spicy chop for each Clubber, on top of the shared tandoori and vegetarian platters. It seemed a winning ruse, and while the stylish square starter sideplates seemed slightly at odds with the cheerful red paper tableclothes, it hardly mattered when the sizzling dishes arrived. The selections were uniformly excellent, and the “one man, one chop” strategy appeared to survive its first contact with the enemy.

While ordering the mains, the rice/naan equation was poised at two rice and three naan (two normal, one peshwari). The Tramp had privately suggested he was going to abandon rice from now on in favour of a naan-only accompaniment, partly inspired by comments from the epochal Pilau Talk: The Legends series, where many respondents noted that eating rice simply met less space for curry. Will this actually affect the equation in future or just mean The Tramp will be grabby-grabby with the naan? Time will tell. In the meantime: more Kingfisher!

With bopping background music and another couple of tables in, there was an amiable atmosphere brewing in the Viceroy, and after such great starters, various Clubbers began to enquire as to how the Tramps stumbled onto the place. Turns out it was actually The Bulldosa who first spotted it while working nearby. After noting the classic signage, BuDo was also intrigued by a handwritten note in the window encouraging passers-by to try this “happy and cosy place”. Winningly, it invited interested parties to “come in and see our arrangement ... or come in for a chat”. That definitely sounds TATTGOC-friendly. There were also posters advertising a 2-for-1 curry offer, although that applied to a set menu and everyone knows the untameable free-thinkers of Curry Club generally prefer the wide open prairies of a la carte selections.

These self-same selections began to descend, served in sturdy curry pots and wafting enviable aromas down the table. Trampy had been tempted to plump for a vindaloo after spotting it on the menu, but had chickened out at the last-minute – is there a way to order a vindaloo without sounding like ... well ... a bit of a prick? His replacement choice, chicken tikka achari ghosht, may not have been as dangerously hot, but it was still delicious. The Bulldosa’s lamb tikka bhoona got the sage nod of approval, while Ravi Peshwari went further, eventually declaring his chicken tikka makhani masala as the best dish he’d ever experienced as part of TATTGOC – high praise indeed. The rice and naan were enthusiastically received too, especially the super-sweet peshwari. It occurred to Trampy that at one point Sir Spicy Lover had suggested ordering an additional side dish – perhaps a saag – but that the request had got lost somewhere in the shuffle. He vowed to do better next time.

It’s traditional to get a tableshot of TATTGOC doing what they do best, but in this instance they were pre-empted by the waiter, who took a picture of the chomping crew for the restaurant’s own records (it’s unclear whether this portrait was taken before or after an impressive number of empty Kingfisher bottles began congregating at one end of the table). Despite the bountiful starters, there were clean plates and dishes all round, and a rousing murmur of appreciation for the Viceroy’s efforts. As the waiter presented the extremely reasonable bill, Sir Spicy Lover enquired as to how long the place had been open. Just six weeks, as it turned out. Hopefully it can carve out a niche among Southside curry lovers (although there already looks to be competition opening just a couple of doors down – a place called "Mr India’s Thali", already painted as a possible TATTGOC destination in 2011).

As the sated squad took their leave and mustered for the traditional groupshot outside the restaurant – which resulted in a surprisingly athletic, Kwikfit-inspired, we-are-the-boys-to-trust-OI! synchronised leap in the air – the Tramps sprang their last surprise of the evening. Breaking news: they wouldn’t be organising an October meet-up. Instead, it would be left to the fevered imagination of The Bulldosa, the belated completion of a blood oath sworn many months earlier. Considering his instrumental involvement in uncovering The Viceroy, surely nothing could go wrong with BuDo in charge the same month as Halloween. Right? RIGHT?

Range Of Drinks: BYOB! Which meant a crate of Kingfisher ... The Viceroy kindly took possession of the lager early while the Tramps waited for the gang to assemble in the pub.

Highlights: Wide range of dishes, spotlessly clean, and terrific food across the board. BYOB a real bonus too.

Lowlights: Perhaps a little brightly-lit for intimate dining.

The Verdict: An enthralling experience!

The Damage: £94.75 (tip £13.25)

The Viceroy doesn't have a website but if you fancy checking out this TATTGOC-approved curryhouse, it's at 480 Paisley Road, G5 8RE and you can ring them at 0141 429 4161

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