REVIEW: Punjabs For The Boys

Punjabi, Paisley Road West

The Time: April 21, 8.15pm 

Booking Name: Greg Baker!

The Pub Aforehand: The 78, Kelvinhaugh Street

In Attendance: Trampy, The Tramp, The Bulldosa, The Duke, The Gheezer, Sir Spicy Lover and – receiving his first TATTGOC cap – Bobo Balti.

Décor: Very black frontage with a big neon sign, but cosy inside, with intriguing art on the walls and an elaborate roof that is among the best TATTGOC has experienced.

Expectations: The Punjabi came recommended by a good friend who said the venerable restaurant and takeaway had been there “forever”. After a few experiences where restaurants have been targeted, just to close when TATTGOC hoves into view, the Punjabi always felt like a keeper.

The Experience:

What’s the opposite of serendipity? That’s what the Tramps found themselves wondering after a rollercoaster week in the run-up to the April/Easter TATTGOC outing. After cutting about the west end for the past few expeditions, it was decided that it was time for the Curry Club to take those broken wings and learn to fly again to Southie (which is what we would call the Southside if we were Boston crime writer Dennis Lehane. Southie! It sounds cool! Southie!) The last time the TATTGOC faithful assembled south of the mighty Clyde it was to cart a crate of Kingfisher to The Viceroy, which was a pretty pleasant evening all round according to this field report. (And Kabana doesn't technically count since it was delivered.)

(Click here to read more ...)

It genuinely feels like Punjabi has been on TATTGOC’s hitlist for aeons – The Bulldosa and Trampy actually did a quick recce on the day of the Pope’s visit to Bellahouston Park last year, and were extremely impressed by the elaborate roof inside and the extensive menu. The only snag, really, was selecting a decent pub nearby: there are apparently a few Ibrox boozers that are supposed to be alright but it was decided by Trampal decree that those that wanted to meet up for a drink aforehand should probably do it in The Lismore in Partick, then jump the Kelvinhall tube over. Mind you, best-laid plans, aft agley, naught but grief and pain, etc.

But what about the anti-serendipity? Turns out just days before the scheduled outing, news trickled down to TATTGOC Towers that the Punjabi were opening a brand new outlet, Punjabi Charing Cross, in the shadow of the Mitchell Library on North Street. Just a stone’s throw from TATTGOC’s most-visited Curry Club pub The Avalon! Would it just be easier to check out this brand-new offshoot than schlep over to Castle Greyskull? The Tramps turned the problem over in their hive mind, and for a good long time it looked as if convenience was going to win out. But in the end, the Punjabi Charing Cross was scheduled to officially open the day after TATTGOC’s fixed date. Unable to match up schedules, Ibrox was in the crosshairs. Still: an adventure!

The original pub plan to meet in the Lismore fell apart almost immediately, with The Bulldosa and TATTGOC greenhorn Bobo Balti starting very early in Lebowski’s. A few notable Curry Clubbers – including Rumpole Of The Balti and Rogan Josh Homme – were unable to attend due to Easter commitments, while The Tramp, The Duke and Sir Spicy Lover had signalled their intention to head straight for the restaurant. So Trampy went with the flow and headed for Lebowski’s, which was hoachin’ on what would only be the beginning of Glasgow’s golden summer of 2011.

Almost too hoachin’, as a point of fact, and so our hardy trio headed up to The 78 for some Williams Bros ales to await the two-wheeled arrival of The Gheezer. As the deadline to head south – to head to Southie – approached, it was decided that a taxi would be the wisest option to transport our heroes. But what about The Gheezer on his bicycle? “I’ll probably get there before you,” he intoned impishly, before vanishing down some secret sidestreet that presumably only couriers are allowed to know about. To the Punjabi!

The Tramp himself arrived at roughly the same time as the taxi, with The Gheezer only slightly behind. So it was an advance guard of five Curry Clubbers who trooped through the black frontage of Punjabi. The table had been booked in the name of "Greg", to honour a good friend of TATTGOC who was not only travelling in India but also sending back regular updates of the delicious fare he was sampling. There were poppadoms and onions on the table already, so the gang got wired in while waiting for The Duke and Sir Spicy Lover to arrive, which didn't take long. TATTGOC apprentice Bobo Balti was officially introduced to the table, and took all the jokes about how first-timers were required to pay the entire bill in good spirit. There were also some other diners tucking in and a steady stream of takeaway orders being fulfilled: a promising sign.

While skimming the sturdy menu, there was a chance to soak in the surroundings; the Punjabi has some interesting murals on the wall, plus that eye-catching roof feature. A compact but well-stocked bar occupies one corner while the bathrooms are tucked away through a set of almost Wild West swing-doors. With no Kingfisher on tap, the crew were forced to go for a notable rival but in all honesty it was tasty enough. There were confabs about the starter selection; with The Tramp currently on some special dietary requirements, it was decided to go for a couple of large chef's platters and an additional tandoori chicken, with The Bulldosa surprisingly stepping up to the plate and taking charge of the whole affair. With a mixed grill among the mains (complete with rice on the side), the official rice/naan equation was a little more involved than usual, but thanks to the Bulldosa's mental fleetness, it seemed to boil down to two rice, and the habitual tricolore of naans (plain, peshwari, garlic).

With this order logged with the efficient waiter,  Curry Club became the usual salon of opinions and ideas, an open exchange of viewpoints and rebuttals. Movies, as ever, were a hot topic, but there was also room for discussion of the other arts and even politics. Partly this was because the starters took a fair wee while to arrive, but when the plates did descend, there was a perfectly reasonably explanation: the succulent-looking chicken tandoori took a little bit longer to prepare than the other starters. As the crew fell about the chef's platters, making a beeline for a distinctive-looking chicken kebab, it was The Tramp who got the first bite of the impressive tandoori chicken. How did it rate? With a look of contentment on his face, The Tramp adopted his near-legendary "Bombay Dazzler" two-thumbs-up pose. While there were pakoras among the chef's platters, overall this was one of the meatiest starter selections ever consumed by Curry Club.

Not long after the demolished starters were cleared away, the mains began to arrive. At one end of the table, there was a pardesi showcase, with both a chicken tikka and lamb tikka of the rich, spinachy dish being ordered. There was more spinach featured in a delicious-looking lamb mulaider, while the lamb noori – apparently a staff favourite – came in an especially tangy, north Indian Punjabi sauce. Topping it all off was The Tramp's mixed grill, a smorgasbord of sizzling meat, including another chicken kebab in a reasonably amusing shape (see if you can spot it in the pictures). The naans, too, were mighty impressive. Despite the sunny weather and hefty starters, the crew got wired in. Was some of this enthusiasm intended to impress newcomer Bobo Balti and assure him he was dining amongst legends? Probably not. It was hunger, most likely. Laced with a little bit of gluttony.

In fact, it was such a good feed (and such a reasonable bill) that there were murmurs of leading an expedition to the fully operational Punjabi Charing Cross for May’s official outing. Two in a row? In the month where TATTGOC will inevitably have to pass on the crown of Curry Lovers Of The Year, perhaps grasping for some other historic first would be appropriate ...

Range Of Drinks: Tennent’s and Cobra on tap.

Highlights: Meaty starters and main dishes that won much praise, truly impressive roof decoration, a nice homely feel and an admirable policy of "no chips on their own".

Lowlights: A bit of a wait for the starters, but definitely worth it in the end.

The Verdict: A charming experience!

The Damage: £101.85 (tip: £11.15)

Rasoi, Partick Cross
Agra, Anniesland
Cafe Salma, Charing Cross
Kabana, Seaward Street


Trampy said...

Punjabi Charing Cross is now open, looking forward to checking it out ...