REVIEW: Ladies And The Tramps

Kama Sutra, Sauchiehall Street

The Time: February 9, 8.30pm

Booking Name: Mr Q. Pidd 

The Pub Aforehand: The State Bar, Holland Street 

In Attendance: Trampy, The Tramp, Makhni Knife, Ravi Peshwari, Rumple Of The Balti, Sir Spicy Lover, Rabbie Shankar ... plus Mumbai Me A Pony, Vag Mahal, Naanbread Mouskouri, Tina Turmeric, Chaka Naan, Birhiani and, of course, Baby Bhuna.

Decor: A long-standing Sauchiehall Street curryhouse, Kama Sutra strives to live up to its name with comfy couches, heavy drapes and exotic prints on the walls ... with some even racier artwork in the bathrooms. 

Expectations: While many Clubbers had experimented with Kama Sutra while it was a flagship restaurant of the Harlequin chain, no-one had been along since it became part of the smaller, leaner Kama Sutra Group (now with additional outlets in Edinburgh and Stirling).

(Click here to read ... hang on, what's the deal with those pandas?)

The Experience:

When Trampy and The Tramp’s Glasgow of Curry was inaugurated in November 2008, there was – quite specifically – nary a mention as to whether this sophisticated gastronomic society had any gender bias. As was countlessly repeated in reports of the nascent TATTGOC charter, there was also no actual written rule saying ladies were not invited ... it was merely strongly implied. But feckless half-shrugs directed at your better half and knowing looks at your accomplices will apparently only get you so far. After over three years of enjoying a certain sausage-party status quo, even those Neanderthal throwbacks Trampy and The Tramp had to admit that in the year of our lord 2012, it was time to get with the programme and allow some Mother Earth sensuality into the Mumbai mix.

And if ever there was a month to drag up the muskily masculine TATTGOC portcullis, surely February, when everyone’s thoughts are of hearts and romance, would be the perfect showcase? And after the Kama Sutra was swapsied from the Harlequin group to a smaller conglomerate – neatly sidestepping those self-same, often unwritten TATTGOC rules about Glasgow institutions and chain restaurants – could there be any other destination for the first ever co-ed Curry Club? It would, at the very least, allow Trampy to roll out his perennial joke about a chance meeting with the manager of the Kama Sutra, who when pressed would admit it was an interesting position.

But after agreeing that this would be a historic TATTGOC outing for both girls and boys, the Tramps then needed to decide whether to stick to the normal model or attempt to make it more lady-friendly. Cocktails beforehand, or pints of Tennent’s in a local dive? With Kama Sutra pretty much guaranteeing a decent level of food and service, they opted to keep it real for the pub aforehand, instructing everyone to assemble in the ever-busy State Bar. Rabbie Shankar had a baby in tow, so was unable to make the pub, but everyone else who had signed up for the crazy experiment arrived in force: five powerful ladies – namely Mumbai Me A Pony, Vag Mahal, Naanbread Mouskouri, Tina Turmeric and Chaka Naan – ready to show their men how it was done.

Perhaps it’s testament to the affable vibe of TATTGOC across the board, but any perceived tension at the introduction of attractive women seemed to immediately vanish once a suitably large table had been commandeered in the pub, and the invigorating sense of novelty – “I can’t believe this is happening!” – apparently defused any initial clash of ideologies. Too soon, the ten currynauts were being herded up the road to Kama Sutra (no point in sugarcoating TATTGOC’s fearsome focus on itinerary accuracy) and taking their places at a long table, large enough to accommodate 13 diners and a wee baby. The usual blanket round of lagers was interspersed by the odd glass of wine and “soft” but otherwise, this could be a Curry Club meeting of old. Rabbie Shanker, his partner Birhiani and the too-gorgeous Baby Bhuna arrived soon after, and while there have been a few “curry cubs” born in TATTGOC’s lifetime, it seemed almost appropriate that the first one to make it to an actual outing was a three-month old girl. Rocking it, Mulan-style!

With the assembled diners chattered about making history, it fell to the Tramps to parse the extensive Kama Sutra menu, the cover of which appeared to highlight a game of naked pattycake, a million miles away from the usual Curry Club pursuit of Pink Pancakes. After a brief chat with the waiter, and a furlough of soul-searching that delayed ordering by a significant period of time, the burly founders eventually tore up the rulebook and declared that everyone could order their own starter. Partly, it was because the more intriguing-sounding entries in the Kama Sutra menu didn’t lend themselves to easy sharing. Also, it was because each portion of lamb adriki only contained two chops. But mostly, it was to try and disguise the usual despotic yoke the Tramps applied to starter ordering. They were shamed. Shamed by the ladies.

While everyone ordered their personal selection of main course, the Tramps wrested back a sense of perceived control by commandeering the rice/naan equation, albeit in close consultation with the entire table. To that end, it emerged thus: two boiled rice, three fried rice, two plain naan, two garlic naan and a peshwari for luck. Surely that would sate this wolfish crowd? Not too long after, the individual starters began arriving, and while the Tramps would never be comfortable transitioning to an everyone-order-your-own-starter model for TATTGOC going forward, it seemed to work out remarkably well in that at least five folk ordered the chops, and everyone else could barter with them for a tasty morsel. The chef’s speciality fish lahori seemed particularly tasty, like oversized pakora in a spicy batter, but Rumple Of The Balti did his bit for pushing the boundaries by ordering an achari bathak tikka, most likely the first time that marinated duck has been enjoyed as a part of a Curry Club.

For months, it has almost become a standing joke that Sir Spicy Lover has quietly suggested that a side dish might be nice alongside all the mains, only for his tarka daal request to be lost among the turbine whine of self-involved ordering. But not this time! Alongside the varied main courses, the Tramps ensured some side dishes were requested as well, including a cheesy Khadai paneer and that ever-elusive tarka daal. Trampy also discreetly chalked up a portion of ajwaini bhindi (in other words, ladyfingers) because ... well, mostly because Trampy likes the word “ladyfingers”. In the traditional lull between starters and main courses, the chat didn’t seem too dissimilar from a usual TATTGOC outing, covering the issues of the day, music, movies and whatnot. Baby Bhuna, nestled at the far end of the table, was so well behaved that fellow diners were unlikely to even realise a kiddo was in attendance, were it not for the habitual chorus of “oohs” and “aaahs” directed towards TATTGOC’s newest, and arguably cutest, member.

And so the main dishes began to descend: a Himalayan hotpot for Ravi Peshwari; some delicious scallops for Birhiani; a lamb-on-the-bone nalli wali gosht for The Tramp; a spinachy lamb malaidar for Trampy. Along with the side dishes and the many bowls of rice, the table became a proper, heaving banquet, and as naans were torn and passed up the table, it became as close to the true spirit of TATTGOC as any outing in the Curry Club's history. Even the side dishes seemed to go down well, although no-one seemed that interested in the ladyfingers. But dishes and tastes were exchanged, as well as opinions on the food, and for a while it seemed as if there was no great distinction between "man" and "wo-man" ... there were merely enthusiastic diners keen to experience and share curry. How much better could it get?

Once the general consuming hubbub had subsided, the Tramp rose to make a short, yet impassioned, speech. In response, Vag Mahal delivered a stirring, slightly remixed acapella version of When I'm 64. It's testament to the strangeness of the night that none of this seemed out of the ordinary. With the (very reasonable) bill settled, the flirty dozen-or-so gathered up their wits and headed outside for the inevitable group portrait pictures. Before them was a very different vision of girls-and-boys experience, and a not entirely pleasant one. Such is Sauchiehall Street at 11pm on a Thursday night. And yet, just as the shutter was about to click, two goddamn pandas sidled into view, immediately ingratiating themselves with the newly expanded Curry Club. Was it a sign? A signal that co-ed currying was the way forward? It's obviously way too early to tell ...


Range Of Drinks: A fully-stocked bar, but Cobra was the pint of choice.

Highlights: Fantastic starters, great side dishes ...

Lowlights: While the food was terrific, some of the dishes could have been hotter (in temperature). 

The Verdict: A paradigm-smashing experience!

The Damage: £301.47 (tip £37.53)

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The Bulldosa said...

My worst fears have come true. I turn my back for 5 minutes and the rules, which have been 'strongly implied' for over 3 years, are completely ignored quicker than you can say 'You're barred'.

In protest, I might have to form a Curry Cabal in London with Jalfrezi and The Gheezer...

waheetha said...

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