It's been a busy time for TATTGOC birthdays. First Rabbie Shankar met a milestone, which was presumably worth it, if only so he could legitimately lay claim to the famed "extra chop" at Curry Club's recent outing to Cafe Darna. Second, on this very day of blog publication, TATTGOC's most prolific foreign curryspondent Tikka MaBaws takes another teetering step into adulthood. And last week, TATTGOC co-founder and resident kitchen wizard The Tramp blew out the candles on a reasonably large metaphorical cake. But what do you get the award-winning curry lover who has everything? If you're Mumbai Me A Pony, you track down a set of amazing vintage curry cookbooks from the 1950s. And if you're Trampy, you book him into an event that involves curry and beer so that you can also attend ...
And so it was the Tramps found themselves at Cafe India in the Merchant City for a very special evening: an introduction to the resurgent restaurant's new range of curry tapas, with each sample dish matched to a different ale from the Black Isle Brewing Company. Understandably, the promise of spicy morsels and organic brews appealed to our burly heroes. So how did the Tramps get on? Read on to relive the evening, in their own words.
(Click here to tap that tapas ...)
Kathe Mithe King Prawn with Heather Honey Ale
Trampy: So when we arrived at Cafe India, we were treated to introductory poppadoms with a remarkable range of dips, all of which were pretty amazing. There was also a refreshing glass of beer to enjoy while everyone got settled in. What did you think to those dips?
The Tramp: The dips were great, it was especially nice to get a few more options than the usual mango chutney/raita/spicy tomato sauce options that are the norm. Having a bit more choice was good and definitely got me intrigued about what was to come. The spicy pickled veg in the middle of the sauce platter was a winner too. As for the beer, this was my first ever taste of the Black Isle brews on offer and I have to say that the Yellowhammer ale was a great intro.
Trampy: But the first dish proper was Kathe Mithe King Prawn, which consisted of big fat prawns in a soupy, lightly spiced sauce. I was impressed at how fat they were, and the sauce was certainly eye-catching.
The Tramp: It sure was. This dish took me by surprise, actually. I can't quite remember what I was expecting, but from the look of it I thought it was going to be cold, when it turned out to be hot (temperature wise, not in the other sense). It tasted a bit like a patia – a bit sweet and sour but with a good bit of coconut involved. I liked it a lot. The beer it came with was Heather Honey Ale, which I thought complemented the prawns well. Nice and light, but full of taste.
Chapati Wrap with Goldeneye
Trampy: It's not too much of a leap to see how chapatis could be deployed as wraps ... and these ones, cooked in the tandoor, were pretty satisfying, especially with tasty chicken tikka. But I think my favourite part of this "course" was probably the Goldeneye ale, partly because it feels like I'm increasingly gay for IPA, and partly because it meant The Tramp and I discussed James Bond for about 20 minutes.
The Tramp: We did indeed – both the film and the game. The Goldeneye was my favourite part of this course too, the chapati wrap was good but nothing special. I recently tried an Indian street food called Kati Rolls which is along the same lines but the wrap is a paratha and the filling has more of a kick about it. I think if I was making an Indian wrap I'd maybe be a bit more adventurous than plain old chicken tikka. Still, it was tasty. And as for the chapati being cooked in the tandoor – I honestly couldn't tell the difference (maybe the beers were starting to kick in?) Oh, and Trampy: you've always been gay for IPA.
Bhindi Bhaji and naan with Blonde
Trampy: Now you're talking. My love of ladyfingers is well-documented, and whether through accident or design, I've ended up having a bhindi dish for the last two Curry Clubs. This bhaji was the spiciest dish of the night, and tasted great crammed onto the piping hot fresh naan. If I was ordering a round of tapas dishes to share, this is one I'd definitely ensure remained within grabbing distance on the table.
The Tramp: Yup. BAM! Back on track with this dish. For some reason I can't think of ladyfingers without thinking of the Silver Apples track Lovefingers (definitely one to check out for all fans of mindbending music). Anyway, yeah, this ticked a lot of boxes – great spicy kick and perfect for shovelling onto that small but perfectly formed naan. The beer that came with it was Black Isle Blonde, which is actually a lager and, as was explained to us later, is basically the same recipe as the Heather Honey Ale before the honey is added. Chris from Black Isle came over for a chat while we were tucking in and explained that he was looking for something to cut through the spiciness of the bhaji and thought that this refreshing, crisp lager would do the job perfectly. I have to agree with him.
Trampy: Chris from Black Isle had some good chat: "Happy the man who's paid for his hobby."
The Tramp: I particularly enjoyed his tales from the launch they had the night before but it's probably best not to go into that here – let's just say that he's made of stronger stuff than me when it comes to dealing with the day after.
Lamb Chops with Porter
Trampy: Uh ... so we were actually so desperate to eat the chops that we neglected to take a picture of them before stuffing our faces. So here's a picture of those amazing poppadom dips from earlier. Tramp, as our resident Chopmaster, how did you rate these specimens?
The Tramp: I rated them highly but the Shish Mahal's position at the top of the chops remains secure for now. These were pretty close though – spicy and meaty, and I'd definitely order them again the next time I'm in Cafe India.
Trampy: The chops were paired up with Black Isle's dark Porter and I think this was probably my favourite beer of the night. It was substantial but not too treacle-y and complemented the chops. Well, for the few seconds that it took me to scarf my one.
The Tramp: The eternal problem – there are never enough chops! I liked the Porter too, I don't go down the stout route all that often (although I am partial to the occasional Guinness) but it did go rather well with the chops.
Trampy: Hey, someone should make a notably dark porter and call it Coal Porter!
The Tramp: Someone already has, goofus.
Indian Ice Cream made using Hibernator Ale
Trampy: I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream! The last time I was tempted to cap a curry with a scoop was that Halloween Curry Club at the Madras Palace. And that was really just because they had a self-service ice-cream machine. This dish was sweet and delicious, with some nice chewy bits. I could just about detect the outmeal-y stout influence of the Hibernator.
The Tramp: That machine at the Madras Palace was an Electro-Freeze. Happy memories. I used to be quite partial to a kulfi but I'm usually full up by the end of a curry these days. This was a nice way to round off the dishes, very creamy and sweet but I couldn't really place the Hibernator in there. They'd been calling the dessert an Indian ice-cream float so I was actually a bit disappointed when we weren't served a glass of Hibernator with a dollop of kulfi chucked in – I used to love floats when I was a kid.
Trampy: So birthday boy, some closing thoughts? My idea of curry tapas has always been tied up with Mother India's Cafe, although we had a good experience at the Green Chilli Cafe last year. But it's good to see someone else trying it. I'd be interested to see the full menu to try and imagine what combinations I'd put together.
The Tramp: Yeah, I'd love to see what the full tapas menu is like in there, what we sampled was certainly a good attempt at trying something a bit different in the market place. At first I thought the matching of the beers to the dishes might be a bit gimmicky but it really worked, and Chris from Black Isle and the Cafe India team had obviously put a good bit of thought into it. Maybe some drink-matching suggestions on the menu would be good? All in all a top night out – great food and an interesting concept. Thanks Trampy!
Trampy: No bother. Hey, what are we doing for my birthday?
The Tramp: Since you love Chas and Dave so much, we're going dahn to Margate ...
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