A Very Special Foreign Curryspondence ... Dateline: Brisbane!

(The TATTGOC brotherhood extends around the globe, and we welcome reports of curry expeditions beyond Glasgow – in this very special missive, The Tramp his own bad self reports from the far side of the world. But can the flamin' Aussies really do a scorching curry? Or is it all tucker's luck?)

The Ceylon Inn by The Tramp

Booking Name: The booking was made by our hosts so it was probably their surname. But I like to imagine that it was either "Michael J Dundee" ... or "S. Irwin".

The Pub Aforehand: Unbelievably we didn’t actually go to a pub aforehand (particularly strange for Australia). We were drinking in the AWESOME back garden of our hosts, which features a full-size, perpetually-stocked fridge dedicated to beer.

In Attendance: The Tramp, Mumbai Me A Pony, Crocodhal Dundee and, eventually, Cate Blanchaat.

Décor: Classic colonial chic. Atmospherically low lantern lighting, dark wooden furnishings and loose hanging ceiling drapes. Being in sub-tropical Brisbane, the restaurant is open-fronted and also has two on-street tables complete with comfy old-school sofa/bench combo units ... which is exactly where we were seated.

Expectations: This was to be the third curry I’d tried on our Aussie odyssey – the first, a quickie from a shopping mall food court, was predictably awful and didn’t inspire confidence in Australian/Indian cooking. The second, a takeaway from Bollywood Kitchen in Byron Bay, was much better (especially the prawn pakora) so things were looking up for spicy tucker. Our hosts had  taken us to great eateries throughout the whole trip and assured us that the Ceylon Inn was well-regarded. So expectations were running high ...

The Experience:



Last year, on the Glorious Twelfth to be exact, Mumbai Me A Pony and I tied the knot. And what a knot-tying it was. Family, friends and Curry Clubbers travelled from far and near to help us celebrate. But none travelled further than Cate Blanchaat and Crocodhal Dundee who, as their TATTGOC monikers suggest, journeyed all the way from the land Down Under. Y'see, Blanchaat and Mumbai Me A Pony go way back, and a ladypact had been struck between them: Blanchaat would come to Europe to make up one half of our lovely bridesmaid team and in return Mumbai Me A Pony would jet across the globe to join the bridal party for her November nuptials. And so it came to pass that I found myself on antipodean shores wondering how the Australian curryhouses compared to the mighty legends of Glasgow ...


STREWTH!

The Aussies, I quickly learned, have pretty simple tastes. They love their beer, they love their sport and they love their food – and they’re very good at all of them. Especially the food. The barbecues, the seafood and their Asian restaurants are top notch and on our travels we enjoyed some of the best South East Asian tucker I’ve encountered anywhere (bearing in mind that I’ve not really actually been to South East Asia, except for Korea). But while Japan, Thailand, Vietnam and China are all well represented in the restaurant stakes there are noticeably less Indian joints about in Oz. By the end of the holiday I’d had one terrible curry (saltier than the Dead Sea) and we’d had one good takeaway but we still hadn’t been to an actual restaurant. On our very last night our now-married hosts promised to take us to a local restaurant which would blow us away.


BOGAN!

Crocodhal Dundee had booked us in for an early sitting as they couldn’t guarantee us a good table at a later time (always a good sign) and we hopped into his ute and made the short journey from Morningside down to Bulimba’s fashionable Oxford Street where The Ceylon Inn nestles amongst other trendy restaurants. The driving had us worried – was Crocodhal laying off “the piss” tonight? Not likely mate – the ute was getting ditched and collected in the morning ... bring on the booze! The early booking meant that we had free choice of tables and, being a very warm evening, we elected to sit out on the street. Cate Blanchaat was running late after her Sydney to Brisbane flight had been delayed so while we waited we pored over the menu and ordered up some cold ones. Delighted to see sometime TATTGOC supporters Kingfisher on the menu I went for one of those, almost drawing scowls from Castlemaine employee Crocodhal Dundee. The Kingfisher knocked back, it was on to the XXXX while we eagerly awaited the arrival of Blanchaat. As the sun started to wane, and the restaurant began to fill up, we could delay the waitresses no more and ordered up some pakora to help soak up the booze, still holding out for news from Blanchaat. When the pakora arrived Mumbai Me A Pony and I were pleasantly surprised. The generously-sized portion of hefty bhajis tasted great, not at all greasy but packed with onions. The accompanying tamarind sauce was much darker, more delicately spiced and sweeter than the usual variants of the classic pakora sauce back home – definitely a winner.


FLAMIN' GALAH!

After polishing off the pakora and ordering yet another round of beers, we were beginning to fear that the waiting staff could no longer be stalled. Then, out of the blue, a taxi screeched to a halt next to our table: Cate Blanchaat had finally joined the team! Being under the influence of several rounds there was an initial concern that Blanchaat would be playing catch up but we needn’t have worried – even the Sheilas are drinking pros down under and the delayed flight had meant more business lounge bevvy time. By the time she made it to the table she was already a little tipsy – HUZZAH! Having pretended to read the menu for over an hour, and now somewhat in our cups, we decided to order up Banquet 2 (available for multiples of two) some wine and a few more beers for luck. The banquet option would see us getting assorted entrees (more pakora and some lamb samosas), a choice of any meat curry each, three vegetarian side dishes, raita and a naan.


AW MATE ...

Considering how busy the restaurant had become the food came pretty quickly. We were soon tucking into more great pakora and also getting to sample the samosas. Yet again The Ceylon Inn delivered on the quality front. The samosas were excellent, with lovely dry, flaking pastry (unlike the often oil-drenched parcels we sometimes get back home) packed with a really rich lamb keema and pea filling. Definitely two thumbs up ... but how would the main courses compare?


... MATE!

Between the four of us we’d chosen a varied selection of mains: Butter Chicken, Lamb Bistake, Chicken Ceylon (their signature dish) and, to mix things up a little, a Beef Rendang. (Although the restaurant is Indian/Sri Lankan they also had a number of curries from Thailand and Malaysia.) As the food started to appear at the table, with the sizzling hotplate of the Lamb Bistake leading the way, it appeared that we may have over-ordered – but I was able to explain that this was a common TATTGOC problem that we shouldn’t worry about until later. The main dishes were followed by a couple of four-sectioned serving dishes (one per couple) containing our vegetable side dishes and rice. So on top of our meat dishes we were served Ela Walu (a seasonal vegetable curry with coriander), Devilled Potatoes (Sri Lankan-style, although very similar to Bombay Potatoes) and a simple, though thoroughly delicious, Dhal. The final addition to this gut-busting table of spicy delights was – WHAM! – a basket of naan. Regular readers will know that the serving of naan bread pre-cut and in a basket usually means an instant (though very slight) marking down of any TATTGOC curry experience but these were mighty big wedges of dough. And besides, we weren’t in the rough-and-tumble, smash-and-grab, rip-and-tear environment of a regular TATTGOC night out, we were two newly-wed couples out for a civilised evening meal ... not that you could tell with the amount of wine and beer going down. We didn’t completely lower the tone but it was remarked that our wives looked like they might be, ahem, touting for business as they stood in the road for a crafty cig break.


RIDIKKI!

It has to be said that the standard of the curries was superb. If the Ceylon Inn was visited by the full TATTGOC team I have no doubt that it would be up there amongst the best of them. I was fully aware that Australia is home to some of the best South East Asian cooking in the world but I somehow doubted that, with a much smaller immigrant population from India/Pakistan/Sri Lanka, we’d find anything approaching the level of cooking that can now be found in many British curryhouses. Crocodhal Dundee and Cate Blanchaat had seen that as a challenge and by taking us to the Ceylon Inn proved that a cracking curry can be had on the other side of the world. Each of our main dishes was rich and deep with flavours that suggested mastery of the many spices deployed in Indian cooking. None of the curries were as hot as you might expect back home (the menu had labelled the Rendang with two fiery chillis but even it wasn’t particularly hot) but I’d always rather enjoy intense, fresh flavour instead of tongue-numbing heat. The vegetarian side dishes were excellent too but ultimately we had been right to be concerned about the sheer amount of tucker we had ordered – we were well and truly defeated by the might of the Ceylon Inn’s portions. Thankfully waiting staff were on hand with takeaway boxes so we could pack it all away for breakfast the next morning.


I LOVE LAMP ...

Fully satisfied after our epic three-hour curry evening we returned to our host’s awesome back garden deck and fridge full o' cold ones. After a chorus of praise for the Ceylon Inn, conversation turned to two hot issues: would Crocodhal Dundee’s recently invented word “ridikki” ever take off? (Sorry Lee, I think it has.) And would the newly-married couple be calling their soon-to-arrive chocolate Labrador puppy “Lamp”? (Uh, no ... he finally became Archie – though Mumbai Me A Pony and I lobbied hard for Sir Lamps-A-Lot).  Our antipodean adventure was drawing to a close and the very next day we began our journey back to Scotland safe in the knowledge that our Aussie brethren can find a good curry when required. But before that night was through, while delving deep into Crocodhal Dundee’s iTunes playlist, I found the perfect tune to round off our trip and belt out into the night ... you know the track, it’s the one that goes:

“Do you come from a land down under?
Where women glow and men plunder,
Can’t you hear, can’t you hear the thunder,
You better run, you better take cover.”



Crocodhal Dundee and Cate Blanchaat ... TATTGOC salutes you!

All that’s left to say is aw mate ... MATE!

Range of drinks: Extensive, including bottles of Kingfisher, plenty of Aussie beers and a good selection of wines.

Highlights: Classy decor, on-street eating in a nice part of Brizzy (get there early to bag a street table) and excellently flavoured dishes with generous portion sizes.

Lowlights: The staff had to be reminded about a couple of drinks orders but that’s about it.

The Damage: AU$325.90 (about £220) ... which seems pretty steep but it’s worth remembering that Australia is brutally expensive in comparison to the UK. And at least half of that bill was made up by our healthy drinks order (many beers and several bottles of wine).

SOME PREVIOUS FOREIGN CURRYSPONDENCE
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1 comments:

Bobo Balti said...

Bonzer post.

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