REVIEW: Charing-A-Ding-Ding!

Punjabi Charing Cross

The Time: July 14, 8.15pm

Booking Name: Lloyd Kaufman

The Pub Aforehand: The Avalon, nr Mitchell Library

In Attendance: Trampy, The Tramp, The Duke, The Gheezer, Ravi Peshwari, Rabbie Shankar and Onion Bah-G

Decor: Formerly a pub, the Punjabi refit has retained the large original bar but refreshed the rest of the spacious room, with Parma Violet walls, carefully deployed art and a logo-ed mirror. Very attractive hanging baskets outside too ...

Expectations: TATTGOC rated the original Punjabi near Ibrox, so hopes were high for this brand extension, not least because Hector over at Curry-Heute had given it the thumbs-up.

The Experience:

TATTGOC’s ramshackle constitution isn’t just a founding document – it can sometimes be a confounding one as well. There may be some truths in there that are held to be self-evident – nae credit cards allowed – but there’s also scope for interpretation. Technically, the Curry Club isn’t supposed to visit any curryhouses that are part of a chain. But wasn’t there a visit to Shimla Pinks one Christmas? And now this latest conundrum: the venerable Southside curryhouse Punjabi, which TATTGOC visited earlier this year, recently opened a second venue at Charing Cross. Does that constitute a chain? Is this second Punjabi out-of-bounds? Well?

(Click here to read on ...)

After a legislative hearing that went on late into the night, the Tramps decided that the Punjabi Charing Cross was a legitimate TATTGOC target because ... well, cos they said so. That’s what comes from living in a Trampocracy. Partly, it was because they had very much enjoyed their visit to the original Punjabi back in April, and it would be an opportunity to compare and contrast curries with that outing still relatively fresh in their minds. Also, since Punjabi Charing Cross had taken over premises that had previously been various pubs, it would be the first time TATTGOC had ever gone to a curryhouse that had formerly been a pub they had also visited beforehand on a curry outing. It would be going a level deeper into the curry dream. It would be like ...


That was the theory, in any case. The weird, possibly dreamy theory of déjà vu was elevated by the decision to meet up in the Avalon beforehand, a Charing Cross houff that has been host to the Curry Club not once but twice before. With its comfy seats, reasonable prices and lounge (with dartboard) this is one Avalon that almost lives up to its mythical name. Usually, Trampy and The Tramp are the first to set up shop in the pub waiting for the rest of the Club to assemble, but on this fateful and balmy night, Trampy skidded through the doorway a good 15 minutes late to see The Duke, The Gheezer and Rabbie Shankar already settled in. TATTGOC’s burly co-founder had been held up for the most agreeable of reasons – an extended whisky tasting to introduce the new Laphroaig Triple Cask variation to market. Smoky and a little sozzled, he took his stool and earwigged as The Duke and The Gheezer recounted their recent gig-going experience witnessing The Sisters Of Mercy. It sounded like an epic engagement ...

In due course, The Tramp arrived, with Ravi Peshwari and the man known only as Onion Bah-G in tow. Seven has always seemed a lucky number for TATTGOC outings – in fact, it was a shabbily magnificent seven that visited the original Punjabi back in April. (It can make the final bill a little tricker to work out, but only because Trampy insists on trying to do it in his head.) After a quick libation and a gossipy catch-up, the assembled squad ambled round the corner to the nearby Punjabi. Last time they had wandered through the doors, the venue was called Mitchell’s and it was precursor to a curry at Sibbo’s Delhi Dhabba that remains one of the most divisive experiences in TATTGOC history. Would this outing be equally dramatic?

Probably not, judging by the warm and relaxed welcome. The crew settled themselves into an expansive table up the back, preloaded with plentiful poppadoms and dips. With Cobra on tap, they logged an order for a mere six pints, as football gaffer Ravi Peshwari was keeping off the booze (surprising, considering the stress of organising the weekly TATTGOC-affiliated fitba night). What had formerly been quite a downtrodden pub had been done up in style: classy, but still comfortable. The prospect of getting high quality food in bar-like surroundings brought to mind the nearby Chinaski’s in its prime. A considerable amount of time had passed since the last official meet-up, so spicy appetites were whetted.

Silence descended as our heroes scanned the menu, the Tramps beginning to plot their starter strategy. But there was no need. The head waiter – perhaps owner? – subtly caught their eye and made a proposal: he’d sort out a range of starters for everyone to share. Always keen to shirk off any responsibility, the Tramps enthusiastically agreed. Were there any vegetarians? No, they replied firmly. Oh, except Onion Bah-G. That apparently would not be a problem. Starter situation taken care of! They could get used to this ...

The starters arrived very promptly – so promptly, in fact, that there hadn’t even been a chance to place the order for the mains. But the Curry Club have never been ones to delay gratification, so the handsomely-bound menus were carelessly tossed to one side once the chow touched down. There were six spicy lamb chops, succulent, delicious and easy to divvy up. Also mixed pakora, and – for veggie Onion Bah-G – another discrete portion of fish pakora with dip. These were all starters well-known to these TATTGOC veterans. Less familiar were the two keema padoras; light, fluffy breads topped with spicy mince. It would be reductive, if not entirely inaccurate, to describe them as spicy mince pizzas, but they were absolutely delicious. It was almost as if the owner had read TATTGOC's mind, or placed a love of padoras into their collective consciousness. In other words, an example of ...


Such tasty starters didn’t last long, and the Tramps were champing at the bit to get their main order in, particularly considering the longueurs during the last official outing. The crew announced their individual intentions crisply and clearly. The notorious rice/naan equation? On one hand, the Tramps erred on the side of caution by ordering just two portions of rice. On the other, they tore up the rulebook and stuffed its tattered remains dismissively into their gobs by abandoning the traditional plain/garlic/peshwari mantra of naan-ordering. Instead, in unspoken agreement, they took things up a notch by ordering garlic, peshwari and the tantalising kashmiri. For who really wants plain naan when you could try something spicier?

Talk turned to some of the boisterous celebrations surrounding The Tramp’s imminent nuptials, but none of the anecdotes are particularly suitable for recounting here. Elsewhere in the restaurant, there were signs of satisfied tables arriving and leaving, and one TATTGOC scout reported that there was a private dining room (with its own bar) downstairs. For Trampy, this portion of the evening passed in a bit of a blur, possibly because of the amount of Laphroaig he had consumed earlier. There was a fair amount of analysis of the TATTGOC-affiliated football night, and a general expression of relief that the level of catastrophic injuries had settled down after the absolute bloody carnage of the first few fixtures.

Before long, the mains began to arrive. The Gheezer and Ravi Peshwari had doubled up and both gone for Chicken Tikka Punjabi, while Rabbie Shankar had gone for the chef’s speciality Chicken On The Bone. The Duke had opted for Lamb Tikka Karahi, while the Tramps had gone for Lamb Noori and Lamb Shakuti in their respective Ant-and-Dec order. For veggie Onion Bah-G, it was King Prawn Sweet Chilli Tiger, which smelled delicious. Somehow, room was found on the table for the three enormous naans, but when the rice arrived it became clear that the equation had been slightly misjudged; an order for another portion was placed, and it arrived promptly. Needless to say, a’body got wired in.

With the additional rice, there was plenty of food to go round, and the dishes were passed around accompanied by appreciative murmurs. The Tramp praised the creamy spice of his Shakuti, and the pungent onion notes of Trampy's Lamb Noori also received a thumbs-up. Pretty much all of the enormous naans were devoured, and with (mostly) clean plates and karahis, it felt like an agreeable feast but not an overpowering one. As the plates were being cleared, there was an unexpected fillip when a round of whiskies was proposed, an ancient TATTGOC tradition that had been mothballed with the advent of the credit crunch. And so, it was an uncharacteristically sophisticated finale to one of the more enjoyable TATTGOC outings in recent memory. Swaying slightly for the photos outside, the four Clubbers who had been to both the original Punjabi and the new version found it hard to choose a favourite, suggesting a return visit to the Ibrox original may be on the cards sometime in TATTGOC's glowing future.

It was a different four Clubbers who pitched up back at the Avalon for a cheeky nightcap. And while those four souls were sitting in the pub, nursing their pints, suddenly the same idea jumped into their heads. Because what's more powerful than an idea? An idea involving arrows and numbers ...

I I I I I N N N . . . O N E

Range Of Drinks: Cobra and others on tap, and a well-stocked bar of spirits.

Highlights: Delectable starters, solid main courses, warm and laidback service.

Lowlights: Almost £4 for a pint of Cobra? Jinkeys!

The Verdict: Another charming experience!

The Damage: £153.50 (tip: £16.50)

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