REVIEW: Zinedine Shezan

Shezan, Cathcart Road

The Time: June 28, 8.30pm

The Pub Aforehand: Clockwork Beer Co., Cathcart Road

In Attendance: Trampy, The Tramp, Bobo Balti, Rogan Josh Homme, Ravi Peshwari and Rumpole Of The Balti.

Decor: Heavily mosaic-ed on the outside, a little more modern on the inside. Characterful, to say the least.

Expectations: Having passed it many a time on the way to Hampden, Shezan looked a fairly unassuming place, presumably catering to non-discerning fitba fans. In other words, expectations were not high. 

The Experience:

It might seem like some sort of fever dream, but just one week ago, our fair nation was utterly in thrall to the siren chant of Euro 2012. Football, football, football ... everything was football. And since the Tramps are so alive to the faintest ripple in the zeitgeist, football must have been at the forefront of their minds when planning June’s official TATTGOC outing. This evidenced itself in two ways. Firstly, they selected a curryhouse a mere pakora’s throw from Scotland’s national stadium (soon to the venue for some highly-anticipated Olympics 2012 action): Hampden! And secondly, they scheduled it to clash directly with the second semi-final, something which, in hindsight, may not have been the tipper-toppermost of ideas.

(Click here to read on ...)

The unfortunate clash with this key Euro 2012 fixture – plus an unexpectedly thrilling Wimbledon match – meant that there was a team of just six currynauts in the Clockwork Beer Co, supping on fine IPA and watching the first half of the German-Italy tie. The Tramp had arrived just in time to get a round in for Rumpole Of The Balti, Trampy and Bobo Balti, who had already had a pre-mixed cocktail on the train over. But if TATTGOC’s co-founder minded, he didn’t show it. Perhaps he was in a holiday mood, imminently headed for the sun. (It also meant The Tramp was unable to perform his usual photographic duties, but luckily Peter Parker-esque snapper Rogan Josh Homme stepped in, bringing with him a fine Canon camera and an endlessly flattering black-and-white sensibility.)

Just a short jaunt up Cathcart Road brought the team to the Shezan Tandoori – not to be confused with The Shenaz in the west end, a fine former Curry Club destination. Ever since their fateful trip to see AC/DC at Hampden, the Tramps have had a notion of visiting the Shezan, and with the football spheres in alignment, the omens seemed good. Inside, there was even a (mute) flatscreen TV, so once the Club had positioned themselves around a pleasingly Arthurian round table, those that wanted to see the Germans get a damn good thrashing from the Italians could dip into the match at their leisure. Perhaps because of this buffet of sport, there was only one other occupied table in the establishment but thanks to the universal language of soccer, there remained a convivial atmosphere.

While tucking into poppadoms and notably superior spiced onions, the team scanned the extensive menu. An older gentleman with the self-assured air of management about him directed them toward the desi house specials, suggesting they would find what they were looking for. “Authentic,” he said. “The best.” Happy to take him at his word, the crew hungrily scanned that particular page to pick their preferred. Meanwhile, a tentative drinks order was placed – although with nothing on draught (despite the presence of taps), six bottles of Cobra were pressed into service.

As for the starter order, the Tramps conferred and silently agreed to order more portions of lamb chops than portions of mixed pakora, tempted as ever to push the boat out when TATTGOC turns out in such relatively manageable numbers. They also switched up the naan/rice equation by utterly dismissing the idea of a boring old plain naan, instead requesting breads of the garlic and peshwari variety, plus an onion kulcha to shake things up and hopefully instill some jealousy in those that had chosen to remain at home to watch the fitba rather than join the curry communion. But after diverting so much from their usual path, they stuck with two portions of pilau rice to keep some sense of familiarity.

The combined starter order is "thrashed out"
The full order placed, the usual banter/debate kicked off, assisted by the round table, which turned multiple small conversations into one big boisterous one. Inevitably, there was football chat, and the ongoing match allowed Trampy to deploy one of his favoured shock-jokes, the one that goes “I hate Italians, with their slanty eyes ... [PAUSE FOR SHOCKED SILENCE] No, wait ... that’s italics! Haha!” But there things to ponder beyond soccer, and a fly-on-the-wall might have been perplexed but ultimately intrigued by the amount of chat about minivans, augmented by a fairly serious appraisal of the Peugeot Partner.

In time, the starters arrived, with an abundance of lamb chops and some impressively piled heaps of mixed pakora, complete with a trifecta of dips in a Habitat-esque dipping bowl. The chops were heavily spiced and tasty, while the pakora was perfectly serviceable (the various dips got a resounding thumbs-up). Nothing mindblowing so far, the team seemed to agree, but enjoyable enough in terms of taste and atmosphere. The Germans had pulled back a goal, but it looked as if the Italians would hang on.

The mains were heralded by the arrival of three marvelously colourful naans at the table; if a passer-by on Cathcart Road had squinted in the window, they may have mistook the landing of the bright red, yellow and green breads as a smoke-trailing Red Arrow flypast. The almost pulsating colours increased anticipation, so by the time the curry karahis containing the main dishes arrived, the TATTGOC membership could barely contain themselves.

The Tramp – a man on a keema tip for what seems like months – had gone for keema muttar piyaz, a fragrant mix of mince, peas and onion. Fancying something a bit hotter, Trampy had opted for a chicken bhuna achari murgh, cooked in spicy mixed pickle. The rest of the team had gone for an equal split of palak gosht (lamb and spinach) and murgh handi (chicken in black pepper and spring onion sauce). The dishes looked authentic, and smelled great. So at the end of the day, Brian, how did they get on?

"Y'see, the thing about the Peugeot Partner is ..."
 There was no need for any extra time in this case, as the squad put in a very professional performance, rapidly breaking down the delicious naan breads, sweeping up any wayward rice and delivering an impressive passing game, with the various pungent karahis moving smoothly round the area. Possession was key, and while there were a few scuffles and elbows, the boys knew what was expected of them and ensured they got the right result. Even neutrals agreed that the Shezan had played a blinder. In fact, Ravi Peshwari went as far as to declare that it was one of the best curries he’d had at TATTGOC. High praise indeed! 

Range Of Drinks: Nowt on draught; bottles of Cobra tho.

Highlights: Good chops, fantastically flavoursome curries, memorably colourful naans.

Lowlights: No draught beer, despite two taps; fairly boilerplate pakora.

The Verdict: An over-the-moon experience!

The Damage:

Charcoals, City Centre
Cafe Darna, St George's Road
Kama Sutra, Sauchiehall Street
The Khyber, nr Shields Road
Punjabi, Paisley Road West