REVIEW: Diggin' Agra Culture

Agra, Anniesland

The Time: February 16, 8.15pm 

Booking Name: Christopher Nolan 

The Pub Aforehand: Lock 27, Crow Road 

In Attendance: Trampy, The Tramp, The Bulldosa, Rumpole Of The Balti, Ravi Peshwari and Sir Spicy Lover

Décor: On a bit of Crow Road that seems to boast a disproportionate amount of restaurants, Agra stands out due to excellent signage. Inside, the vibe is sleek and modern with an appreciative nod to the past with period portraits on the wall.

Expectations: The Duke used to live very near Agra but had never sampled its spicy wares ... this was to be a mystery mission.

The Experience:

Like Iggy Pop once barked, “ch-ch-ch-ch-changes”. The still-nascent 2011 is supposed to be the year that TATTGOC switches things up, experiments with the form and kneels before Lady Gaga and Girl Talk to fully embrace remix culture, because everything is a remix, baby. So, in that pathbreaking spirit, the Tramps opted to change the February meet-up from boring old traditional Thursday night to a finger-snappin’, hellzapoppin Wednesday night ... in Anniesland. Can they help it? No. They were Born This Way. And what was the upshot? In all truth, a slightly less populous turnout than they had initially hoped.

(Read more ...)

Which was especially a shame because the designated meet-up spot was a pretty nice boozer, nestling on the banks of the Forth and Clyde canal. The Tramps and Ravi Peshwari arrived reasonably early, hiking from the train station past a mighty Morrison’s to get to Lock 27, an establishment that – both inside and out – had something of the “Lou’s Bar from Neighbours” about it. In that it had the perfect blend of cosiness and real ales. Rumpole Of The Balti had opted to cycle his way to the rendezvous, while Sir Spicy Lover and The Bulldosa opted for public transport. So comfortable were the secret six in their couches and easy chairs, it was actually quite a task to prod them towards their dinner (and in point of fact, both The Tramp and Rumple Of The Balti would return to the very same pub soon after TATTGOC’s official visit – don’t blame it on the sunshine, don’t blame it on the moonlight, don’t blame it on the good times ... blame it on the puggy.)

Although TATTGOC founding father The Duke had been resident in Anniesland during both Prohibition and the Cuban Missile Crisis, a quirk of work-related fate meant that he could not accompany our heroes on their current mission; nevertheless, they were confident about where they were headed, not least because they had already passed Agra en route to Lock 27, and had been cheered by the smart look of the place and the fact that there were other diners clearly enjoying their dinner inside. But as they boomeranged back, the fateful old TATTGOC curse had come into play in that they were the only diners in attendance – although there remained a steady stream of takeout orders throughout the night, suggesting that Agra is in robust health. And in truth, the Curry Club has become so used to being the only diners in an establishment that anything else might unsettle and frighten them.

Settling in and hanging up their jackets, the six pistols surveyed the menus with acute interest, and while it may not be entirely clear who first spotted that there were cocktails featured among the drinks options, we’re going to go right ahead and point the finger at Rumpole Of The Balti for suggesting that the brotherhood get their Carrie Bradshaw on and actually partake. For of the many rules and by-laws that have accrued in the long and variegated history of Curry Club, there is one maxim that is particularly easy to remember – when the membership dips to just six, it’s easy to get a consensus on a rock-the-boat manoeuvre, be it opting for elaborate starters that can be more easily shared among a smaller, more manageable grouping or just saying to hell with it all, let’s order some goddamn cocktails.

Of the various choices, no-one opted for Sex In Mumbai (“vodka sex’d-up with peach schnapps, lime, orange and cranberry joice”), possibly because it sounded a little like the sort of location-specific Facebook sidebar advert you’d get after successfully bouncing your proxy in order to surf sauciness. There were those, though, who could not resist the temptation of an Agra Splash (“white rum, blue curacao and orange juice with sweet and sour mix”), while the order was rounded out with a couple of classic Tom Collins and a "Margaritha" (Although when this last arrived for Ravi Peshwari, it wasn’t so much margeritha as “I can’t believe it’s not better” – ZING!)

OK, so the idea of cocktails turned out to be more appealing than the actual reality of cocktails, but it was something different and enjoyable so spirits remained relatively high. The Tramp had cannily ordered up a couple of chef’s combo appetisers to start, with an additional side of haggis pakora, and there was pleasingly plenty to go around. It was at this point that Trampy recalled the impetus for the entire outing: Pilau Talk: The Legends legend Tam Cowan had delivered a very positive review of Agra in the Daily Record late last year, and as well as the usual excellent patter – one of Tam’s guests apparently attacked the poppadoms and spiced onions “like a tramp eating soup” – close-friends-get-to-call-him-TC also noted that Agra was formerly the Chandigarh in the west end, in the premises now occupied by cock-about-town hooting gallery Booly Mardy’s. (The original Agra, of course, is the city in Northern India where the Taj Mahal is.)

Confronted with a choice of “normal” bottles and mighty 660ml Cobras, the assembled Curry Clubbers were happily upsold to the heftier beers, the better to wash down the intriguing starters, a schizophrenic mix of delicious chicken chaat and seekh kebab with the odd onion ring thrown in for good measure (the haggis pakora got a healthy thumbs-up all round too). When calculating the rice/naan equation for a larger group, the Tramps tend to aim low to reduce wastage but something about the gleam in Sir Spicy Lover’s eye meant it seemed appropriate to order almost a man-to-man marking system with the Agra sundries. Three rice and three naan were requested – garlic, peshwari and the promisingly spicy kashmiri naan instead of the usual, predictable “plain”. For tonight, the Curry Club were the princes of the universe!

If sometimes the Curry Club fears petite rice bowls and bonsai naans, this was not to be one of those times: Agra deals in bulk product, and after the hefty rice had been transported to the table, and the lithesome naans delivered, there almost wasn’t enough space for the main dishes themselves, a flotilla of spicy lamb creations that sizzled and smelled delicious (the lamb shakuti came in for particular praise). To the untrained eye, it would look like there was little chance of the entire feast being devoured by just six currynauts but thanks to the unrushed atmosphere, the brave and the bold slowly wound their way toward an impressive conclusion, polishing off all but the very last remnants of rice. True, there were some shaky moments – like when The Tramp mocked Trampy for the manner in which his beloved iPhone met its watery fate – but for the most part, it seemed like the most mannered viking banquet in recorded history. The soothing soundtrack and sophisticated surroundings undoubtedly helped, as did the very reasonable bill.

After bidding their kind host farewell, our currynaut heroes stumbled out into the Anniesland air, strolling towards the train station, heads buzzing with ideas on how to keep the improvisational nature of TATTGOC 2011 alive. Perhaps there should be guest curators? Perhaps they should unexpectedly visit another city? And, as their bodies instinctively redirected blood flow to their digestive systems, the Tramps had a light-headed vision ... where better to lead TATTGOC than to the very last place anyone could ever imagine? A restaurant already embedded in whispered Curry Club lore, albeit one with a new facade. Could they pull it off? It would certainly be a daring manoeuvre. Almost as daring as that idea for an irregular weekend blog update they’d been kicking about: Sundrie Bloody Sundrie. The future is unwritten ...

Range Of Drinks: Cocktails and massive Cobras ... nae bad.

Highlights: Seriously hearty helpings, massive naans, good value, tasteful décor. 

Lowlights: Pretty definitely not the world’s best cocktails. 

The Verdict: A very Agra-eeable experience! 

The Damage: £128.80 (tip: £13.20)

Cafe Salma, Charing Cross
Kabana, Seaward Street
The Shenaz, Charing Cross
Madras Palace, Charing Cross


The Tramp said...

The Duke was actually also one of the founding fathers of Anniesland itself.

And yes, the Lamb Shakuti was spectacular - highly recommended.

The Duke said...

Sheesh-mahal! If I'd known Agra was the Chadigarh transplanted I'd have made a special effort to come.