REVIEW: Polo Loungin'

Killermont Polo Club, Maryhill Road

The Time: December 15, 8.30pm

Booking Name: John McClane

The Place Aforehand: The First And Last, Maryhill Road

In Attendance: Trampy, The Tramp, The Bulldosa, Rogan Josh Homme, The Duke, Rabbie Shankar, Sir Spicy Lover, Bobo Balti, Ravi Peshari, Rumpole Of The Balti and Makhni Knife.

Decor: A large, lovely detached house set back off Maryhill Road, the Killermont Polo Club is as classy as its name suggests, with various rooms decorated with polo paraphernalia. It genuinely feels more like a club than a restaurant, despite the big buffet bubbling away in one of the main reception rooms.

Expectations: A few Curry Clubbers had experience of this Glasgow stalwart; New York-based foreign curryspondent Martin Jalrezi had even reviewed it for a local paper before he left for The New World. The general consensus was that this was a classy joint with a rich history, and therefore the perfect place for TATTGOC’s combined third birthday/fourth Xmas bash.

The Experience:

Timing is everything. The Curry Club learned that the hard way earlier this month, when the third birthday/fourth Christmas party coincided with the arrival of Hurricane Bawbag, therefore stymieing the much-anticipated bacchanal. The weather was certainly better a week later, as Trampy, The Tramp and an elite scouting party headed to Maryhill by train, only to discover their connection had been cancelled. A short taxi trip later, they finally arrived at The First And Last – so-called because it’s the first pub you hit coming from Milngavie and the last pub on Maryhill Road – only to discover they had missed the opportunity for some free pints of Caledonia Best, the new brew from Tennent’s, by a matter of minutes. Again, timing is everything.

But on such a special night, the universe slowly realigned and clicked into lockstep with the whims of TATTGOC. Having been founded in November 2008, birthday and Christmas celebrations had always been close together, and this was the year the Tramps simply decided to smush them both together, skimming the best impromptu traditions from both. So, as usual, each Curry Clubber was expected to wear a tie – nay, an actual suit! – the usual strict criteria about where to go would be festively relaxed (you could make a convincing argument that the Killermont Polo Club is a Glasgow institution) and there would also be the traditional rummage through Santa's bulging sack, a highlight of Chrimbo parties past.

Over time, The First And Last filled up with the full complement of ten besuited currynauts, exchanging stories of windy woe and supping Tennent’s, whisky and even some Caledonia Best. To the untrained eye, the assembled corps perhaps looked like they had recently appeared before the beak, and were happily toasting their continued liberty. Or perhaps they were simply marking the completion of a Grattan catalogue menswear photoshoot. (“Look! A yacht!”) Squint a little, and it could almost be a grown-up Blazin’ Squad making a Burton-supported bid for man-band stardom. And to look at them, you wouldn’t expect them to know much about the traditional sport of polo. But that wasn’t gonna stop them tramping to the nearby Polo Club en masse.

As gimmicks go, adopting the old-fashioned preppiness and implied privilege of polo is a pretty good one, and it suits the Killermont Polo Club, which almost looks like a country club with its massive car park and welcoming awning. The Curry Club had booked for ten although there was a slim chance that The Bulldosa would attend in time – and had a dining room practically to themselves, seated around a configuration of a rectangular and round tables that looked like ... well, let’s just say it looked like a lollipop. After a little kerfuffle over the dining options – the Tramps had set their sights on a fixed festive menu rather than the buffet, situated in another wing – an order for a round of Cobras was placed, and the assembled began assessing their choices while snacking on poppadoms and spiced onions. (In a rare social mis-step, Rumpole Of The Balti managed to dollop some onions on his jade “plate”, only to belatedly realise it's function was as more of a plate-holder.)

Usually, the Tramps order up a starter selection to be shared but in this merry instance, every Clubber could go ahead and order a dish all for themselves. Initally confused and a little frightened, eventually the curry younglings found their feet, ordering everything from a mixed tikka selection to a chicken puri and lots of fish pakora. Just as the ordering was about to conclude, The Bulldosa burst in like Richard Hannay, having escaped from another Christmas party. He took his rightful place at the base of the ... lollipop. With the starter finalised, talk turned to the main courses, and among the selection of classics, there was some chatter about who would order some of the more unfamiliar offerings, such as chicken lababdar and lamb koh-e-evad. As each currynaut confirmed his selection, the Tramps debated the rice-naan equation for 11, and eventually went for six naans and five portions of rice, jumping on the chance to hold Makhni Knife up for ridicule when he sheepishly requested at least one portion of boiled rice. For what is Curry Club without some (rogan) joshing?

While all this was going on, there was a constant soundtrack of contemporary pop-rock from female artists, causing some to hazard a guess at the album on the stereo. It sounded very much like a VH1 Divas affair, and was not unpleasant. While tucking into the starters – with The Tramp’s substantial chicken puri a standout, although the mixed tikka and tandoori salmon got the thumbs up as well – the playlist began to jump back in time to more classic sounds from the 1980s, prompting an unexpected and impressively prolonged table-wide conversation about the evergreen Now That’s What I Call Music! compilation franchise. Perhaps not coincidentally, it overlapped with a conversation attempting to work out the youngest and oldest members of Curry Club – with relative stripling The Bulldosa heading to Big London in the new year, there would be a new babyface crowned. A good technique to gauge the rough age of someone is to ask what was there first Now! compilation, although one bluff member with a distinctive laugh clearly misunderstood the question and began talking at length about witnessing the rambunctious Parisien premiere of Stravinsky’s The Rite Of Spring in 1913.

While most Curry Clubbers had evocative memories of Now 4 and Now 5, a passing challenge to remember the tracks on the very first edition of the franchise in 1983 turned into an extended You Bet!-style showcase for Bobo Balti who, with The Tramp acting as quizmaster, correctly identified almost every track from the seminal double-album, including tracks from Madness, Culture Club and Kajagoogoo/Limahl. Talk about a Christmas miracle! By then, the main dishes – with an accompanying flotilla of naans and rice – were arriving, and despite one wrinkle (The Tramp’s request for a lamb lababdar had got lost in the shuffle, leaving him with the chicken variety) it looked like a hearty Christmas feast, with nary a sprout in sight. 

With a decent amount of heat, the chilli garlic chicken was excellent, and dishes of koh-e-evad were passed around for those wanting to fill the gaps in their curry knowledge. Favouring naans over rice almost backfired, as towards the end of the meal rice became a precious commodity to be traded along the table, but in the end, everyone was entirely sated, and there was still some food left. It was at this point that The Bulldosa revealed that he had already had a three-course meal as part of his earlier Christmas party, but had enthusiastically taken the opportunity to have a second feast in a short time period. Such dedication!

After ordering dessert and some coffees – a rarity at Curry Club, but in keeping with the festive theme – it was time for Santa’s stocking, a TATTGOC tradition that also serves as a framing metaphor for the entire Curry Club. Rummage blind through a selection of intriguing prizes, only to pull one out and be sorely disappointed. A mix of books, DVDs, albums and comestibles, there seemed to be some overall design at work amongs the randomness. After demonstrating his superior pop knowledge, Bobo Balti pulled out a copy of the Sugababes’ debut album One Touch, a true pop classic. Rumpole Of The Balti was less fortunate, pulling out a large box only to discover it was clowns jigsaw. Rogan Josh Homme demonstrated his tactile awareness by bagsying the obligatory Toblerone. But we should all pity the Clubber who tried to better themselves by selecting a book, only to discover it was the James Rollins’s uncelebrated novelisation of Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull.

Traditionally, there’s also a prize for the Curry Clubber who managed to spill the most curry on their tie but after a rigorous check, it turned out all those in attendance had managed to avoid any accidents. The Tramps unilaterally decided to award the title to Rumpole Of The Balti, since the prize – a magazine biography of beloved steeplejack Fred Dibnah – would be of particular interest to him. Finally, belatedly, after chipping their way through rock solid mint ice-cream and somehow finding space for chocolate fudge cake, there was a toast. To the weddings and births that had blessed Curry Club members that year. To The Bulldosa, on potentially his final Curry Club. To the Killermont Polo Club, for a fantastic feast. And finally, to the brotherhood itself. Cheers!

Range Of Drinks: Tennent’s, Cobra, and a comprehensive bar.

Highlights: Fantastic starters, excellent choice among the fixed menu and a generally sophisticated atmosphere heightened – or perhaps undimmed – by the Curry Club’s presence.

Lowlights: A little menu confusion, quickly resolved.

The Verdict: A festive experience!

The Damage: £251.50 (tip £28.50)

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Alison said...

There's a lot of bouncers at the door. Is it quite rough?

Alison said...

There's a lot of bouncers at the door. Is it quite rough?

The Duke said...

Ahh the Stravinsky riot, I remember it as if it were only yesterday...