REVIEW: The Chronicles Of Darna

Cafe Darna, St George's Road

The Time: March 22, 8.30pm 

The Pub Aforehand: Canarvan, St George’s Road

In Attendance: Trampy, The Tramp, Rogan Josh Homme, Ravi Peshwari, Bob Balti, Rabbie Shankar, The Duke, Chasni Hawkes. 

Decor: Sumptuous red on the walls, big couches in the waiting area, a large open kitchen and many, many mirrors.

Expectations: Café Darna was an entirely unknown quantity but since the previous restaurant on the site failed, no-one imagined it would be a belter.

The Experience:

February’s paradigm-smashing, women-friendly TATTGOC meet-up succeeded in all sorts of ways. Perhaps most effectively, it compressed the entire philosophy, art and literature of Curry Club into one intense night, creating an evening so mindblowing that the ladies in attendance intuitively grasped the past, present and possible future of TATTGOC, without actually feeling the tug to attend another meet-up anytime soon, or perhaps ever. That, in essence, is the TATTGOC effect. Perhaps those burdened with XY chromosomes will never achieve such a complete understanding, or maybe they just glean some enjoyment from the simplest tasks of repetition: drinking Tennent’s, chomping pakora and patiently waiting for someone else to work out the rice/naan equation. In any case, Curry Club’s March appointment was of a very different stripe.


(Click here to read on ...)

With a few key members of the brotherhood heading to Hamburg the very next day, it was important to keep the location central and, ideally, to keep things cheap. Café Darna, a recent addition to St George’s Road and a mere Malaysian pancake toss from the veteran Asiastyle, had recently caught The Tramp’s eye – and was featured on the most recent episode of Keep Calm And Curry On, the planet’s only curry podcast – and after little more than a cursory glance at the incredibly cheap menu, it was locked in as March’s destination. In honest truth, it perhaps had as much to do with the chance to gather in favoured boozer The Canarvan.


The process of wedging eight of the Curry Club into one of The Canarvan’s cosy nooks was a little time-consuming, and once backsides were thus arranged, no-one seemed in a mad rush to leave. Café Darna is non-licensed, so most of the crew were keen to enjoy a quick pint or two of Tennent’s, or a remarkably chilled bottle of Deuchar’s IPA. With the booked time approaching, the Tramps hustled their grumbling squad out the sidedoor with the harried-yet-hawkeyed expression common among schoolteachers taking their primary class on a school trip.

Vroom with a view
Despite a large glass frontage, it’s actually quite hard to see what’s going on in inside Café Darna, due to a Tetris-block-shaped wall splitting the big room into a main dining area and a takeaway ordering/receiving interzone. Nothing looks crammed or crushed, and the airiness and openness extends to the kitchen, which takes up much of the back wall. Warmly welcomed, the Curry Club were seated at a central table for eight, an excellent position to size up the room. Poppadoms and notably tasty dips were already there. And visible above the kitchen on the very back wall were the windows of a deluxe car dealership, complete with engraved Porsche and Ferrari marques. Intentionally or not, this planted the expectation of a high performance meal.


Café Darna is unlicensed, so a round of mango lassis was ordered, the Tramps confident by now that Curry Club veterans knew their limits when it came to the sweet-yet-filling drink. As has become tradition, the combined starter order leaned heavily on lamb chops, of which there three per portion, necessitating three platefuls. Mindful of the lassi, Trampy erred on the side of caution with only an additional order each of vegetable and chicken pakora. While waiting for the starters to arrive, there was much discussion of soapy school drama Waterloo Road moving production to Greenock, which inevitably descended into animated discussions about the famous “sausage on a fork” chucked during Grange Hill’s animated opening credits. Ravi Peshwari was also able to provide the definitive answer, once and for all, for what DSN stands for when discussing internet protocols, but sadly that answer was never chronicled in the official notes. (It’s definitely not a sofa warehouse, though.) Then: the starters!


When Rabbie Shankar bit into his assigned chop, the expression of joy and serenity on his face was a glorious sight to behold. “I think that might be the best chop I’ve ever tasted,” he said (although further investation by The Tramp indicated that he had never sampled the Shish Mahal’s signature starter). Shankar’s assessment was met with murmurs of agreement. After bone-gnawing was complete, the crew hoovered up the pakora, which was notably more petite than the asteroid-sized offerings in many takeaways. Both got the thumbs up. But there was still the matter of that extra ninth chop. Who had earned the right to double-dip? After a brief vote, it fell to Rabbie Shankar as he had recently celebrated a landmark birthday. Charitably, he split the tender meat with Trampy.


After such a great round of starters, anticipation for the main courses was high. At one end of the table, three Clubbers had ordered variations of chilli garlic chicken, with chicken, chicken tikka and lamb. For Ravi Peshwari and Rogan Josh Homme, the thrill of the grill was too much to resist, as they plumped for a chicken and lamb tikka respectively. The Duke went traditional with lamb rogan josh, while The Tramp continued his adventures with a keema karahi. And as a self-confessed lover of ladyfingers, Trampy for a lamb bhindi gosht. The potential Vorderman-busting rice-naan equation had been slightly simplified by the fact that all these dishes already came with either rice or naan (although for tikka dishes, it was merely rice). After a little bit of mental agility, the Tramps split the difference, with three rice and three naan, with the waiter happy to bump up the usual plain to garlic and peshwari.


By this time, most had finished their mango lassi, but while some were tempted to have another glass, The Tramp put his foot own and ordered water, which would turn out to be a canny move. The main dishes arrived soon after, bountiful servings presented in beautiful karahis. At the chilli garlic chicken end of the table, the general consensus was that this one of the spicier variations they had been tried in a long time. Trampy, a chilli garlic chicken freak while working in close proximity to the Wee Curry Shop, dipped some naan in Chasni Hawkes's sauce and corroborated that it was indeed a mighty fierce dish.

Pre-cut naans, but no-one threw a wobbly
The tikka boys got an additional gravy boat of curry sauce for their chargrilled meat, and while the sauce was delicious, it perhaps wasn't the hottest temperature-wise. The lamb rogan josh and keema karahi got the thumbs-up from the other end of the table, and Trampy was more than satisfied with his fragrant bhindi gosht although, to his horror, he was incapable of finishing it. The sweet yet formidable power of lassi had struck again. Surveying the entire table, it became clear the rice/naan equation had leaned a little heavily toward the former, but while there weren't exactly clean plates all round, everyone agreed that it was one of the finer Curry Club experiences in recent memory, where both the starters and mains had impressed.


No-one had been to the restaurant in its former incarnation, an African – or perhaps Egyptian? – restaurant that had promised the thrill of exploring some possibly uncharted gastronomical delights of the mysterious continent, but ruined it slightly by having you enter through an incongruous, Barratt-home-esque front door that made it look like you were going to visit your nan. Perhaps the Curry Club had come with low expectations, but everything from the decor to the service to, in particular, the food had been an absolute triumph. There was even a half-joking suggestion that everyone just come back to the same place next month.

Preparing to leave, the Tramps discovered that the waiter had knocked a percentage off what was already a bill less than £100 – extremely good value for eight hungry guys. After such a fine feast, our burly heroes resolved to calculate the percentage based on the original amount ... but when they couldn't work it out, they just went for a decent tip, which everyone was happy to contribute to. Well done, Cafe Darna. TATTGOC salutes you ... and may even be back next month!*

*Probably not, though, as that would defeat the purpose of the blog.

Range Of Drinks: Unlicensed but with delicious mango lassis and the usual softs.

Highlights: Highly-praised chops, bountiful main courses, amazing value.

Lowlights: No option to be served your meal while lounging on leather couches.

The Verdict: A surprising experience!

The Damage: £90 (tip £26.50)



SOME OTHER RECENT TATTGOC OUTINGS
Kama Sutra, Sauchiehall Street
The Khyber, nr Shields Road
Agra, Anniesland

12 comments:

Rogan Josh Homme said...

I like how you managed to compose the end-of-night photo with bearded curry clubbers flanked by the clean-shaven ones. Nice symmetry.

Can't believe you missed an opportunity to make a "Canarvan of Courage" pun, though!

I don't like Wicket ... I love it said...

Canarvan of Courage. Very good!

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jonathan ware said...

Just had lunch there. Excellent food and really friendly staff. Korma, Chicken Tikka and Jalfrezi all great. Highly recommended.

Jw

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