While TATTGOC is known to throw around words like "squad" and "troop" as descriptors for the Curry Club, there rarely seems to be a military vibe to the monthly outings. They're more Dad's Army than Zero Dark Thirty. But for many years, there has been an off-the-books TATTGOC-affiliated black-ops unit, a highly-trained two-man crew who specialise in off-the-books, deniable operations. On any given Friday, you can find them, poised and ready to snipe on the 5pm.co.uk offers page, looking for a good curry deal suitable for two. Any intelligence gathered is fed into TATTGOC's operational file, so when one of those special operators mentioned that they'd visited a new restaurant on Bath Street that offered scorching-hot chili pakora, it felt like time to bring him, blinking, out of the shadows and into the harsh spotlight of the Curry Club proper.
And so The KingFisher King was welcomed into the TATTGOC family properly during a pre-curry round of drinks in legendary rockin' watering hole Rufus T Firefly. Along with the Tramps, the Duke, Rumpole Of The Balti, Sir Spicy Lover, Ravi Peshwari and the lean, mean Rogan Josh Homme (enjoying a new surge in topicality due to the release of a new Queens Of The Stone Age album). It is often said that the Curry Club is a brotherhood, stretching around the world, and so The KingFisher King was immediately made welcome, while simultaneously being relentlessly pumped for information about these chili pakoras. Were they tasty? Were they super-hot? TATTGOC rarely goes in for heat-based brinkmanship but this tale had sparked a certain Man Vs Food mania. "All I'll tell you," said The KingFisher King, "is that our waiter said they were too hot for him." Sounds perfect. Let's go!
The squad trooped round the corner to their destination: Rishi's Indian Aroma, a relatively recent opening that had taken over the basement premises of a former Italian restaurant, next door to the former Flares 1970s disco (now a more aspirational nitespot). Based on the intelligence packet to hand, this was a new west coast outpost for the well-regarded Rishi's that had begun in Aberdeen, specialising in Southern Indian food. Inside the spacious, quite low-ceilinged restaurant, there were plenty of cosy boothes, and a table big enough to accommodate the eight currynauts, lit by distinctive, modern chandeliers. Even though the place was massive, canny blocking created the illusion of intimacy, something that pretty much sums up the Curry Club.
With a round of beers ordered, the discussion fell to starters. In an expansive mood, the Tramps started the bidding with a mixed grill (that included lamb chops) to share, and in case that wasn't enough meat, an additional portion or two of Chicken 65, apparently named for the number of spices used in its preparation. The chili pakora was a dead-cert, and after a cheerful discussion with staff – who agreed that, while delicious, they would probably decline eating it because of the intense heat – the Tramps elected to go all in and order a couple of portions, enough to make sure everyone's manhood was sufficiently tested. The Curry Club rarely gets "hashtag LAD" but it certainly added a frisson of excitement. An eclectic music mix burbled in the background, and when it got to Europe's deathless megahit The Final Countdown, some in attendance were heard to mutter that it actually sounded more rockin' in Rishi's than it had in the preceding rock pub.
The chili pakora, with soothing dip
If the chili pakora had become the talking point, the mixed grill grabbed everyone's attention – a sizzling, steaming plate of wondrous-looking food. Solemnly passed among the eight, everyone got a morsel and – combined with the delicately flavoured Chicken 65, which had some of the distinctive spices familiar from trips to the Banana Leaf – it appeared as if everyone's strategy when approaching the chili pakora was to cautiously line their stomach with meat first. The KingFisher King noted that these portions looked a little different from his previous experience, so he was unable to advise on strategy – perhaps these ones would be even hotter?
Trampy's "scissor grab" for more pakora; Sir Spicy tucks in
Nevertheless, everyone dug in, munching the whole chilies, hiding their alarm at the amount of seeds they contained, waiting for the heat hit. It took a little while, but it was one of those ones that prickles your lips and makes you sweat. A second round of beers were ordered. There still looked to be rather a lot left. Everyone had their share but it turned out to be mild-mannered Sir Spicy Lover who lived up to his name, popping four or five of the remaining pakora with relish. The chili pakora got the tentative thumbs-up, although the mixed grill was also delicious.
At left, living his life in the shadows, special operative The KingFisher King
The heat mania had somehow also spread to the mains ordering. Trampy, perhaps stung by Sir Spicy's dominance, ordered a lamb madras. In response, Sir Spicy ordered a lamb vindaloo. Three Clubbers opted for the lamb kadai, boneless lamb pieces spiced and cooked on a traditional kadai at a very high heat, while The Tramp continued his keema mania with a keema mutter. There was also a king prawn chettinad (cooked in the distincitve Southern Indian fashion with fennel, coconut, curry leaves and sesame seeds). So far, so TATTGOC ... but The KingFisher King blindsided everyone by flipping to the "breads" section of the menu and calmly ordering up a Chicken Kothu Paratha – a shredded paratha stir-fried with onions and chicken. Would that impact the rice/naan equation? Not really, because the Tramps didn't clock it. They went for three rice and four naan. (There was a chili naan option but they favoured the peshwari.)
The main dishes arrived in attractive, heaped serving bowls and karahis and there were so many it was almost tricky to fit them on the table – the fact the lights had dimmed romantically made it even tricker to jigsaw in all the rice and naans. But eventually, the entire feast was there, and it looked and smelled terrific. The lamb kadia created sounds of approval, although there was some debate over the vindaloo – for what should have been a daunting dish, it didn't seem that hot, although it was still tasty. The madras had some heat but remained delectable. The unusual Kothu Paratha got passed around a lot – it looked and tasted something like a biryani made with paratha instead of rice, and is definitely something to recommend seeking out on the menu. The Southern India emphasis made it distinctly different from the majority of Glasgow curryhouses and combined with the excellent service, it was easy to see how Rishi's had made waves in a relatively short time. The bill was also pretty reasonable.
A successful operation, then, although when it came to shooting the traditional group shot outside the restaurant, initially TATTGOC was a man down ... until Ravi Peshwari belatedly appeared. Sadly, Rishi's also appears to have painted their sign with the special reflective covering favoured by boy racers hoping to stymie speed cameras – rest assured, it does say Rishi's Indian Aroma on there. There may be missions there in the future but until then ... TATTGOC, fall out!