REVIEW: There’s A Nak To It

Nakodar, Annfield Place

The Time: October 13, 8pm

Booking Name: Hervé Villechaize

The Place Aforehand: The Saracen's Head, theoretically.

In Attendance: Trampy, The Tramp, The Bulldosa, Makhni Knife, Bobo Balti, Ravi Peshari and brand-new Curry Club inductee Dhal M For Murder. 

Decor: Some high-end interior design, with exposed brickwork offset by luxurious seats.

Expectations: Nakodar had been on the TATTGOC radar for ages, but its impressive media profile seemed to come more from news nuggets than reviews ...

The Experience:

When you’ve just exploded the traditional podcast paradigm, there’s really one way to celebrate: have a curry. That was the situation Trampy and The Tramp found themselves in after a mind-expanding day recording the blazin’ first episode of Keep Calm And Curry On, TATTGOC’s irreverent and most likely irregular podcast about curry culture. So after a hard afternoon elbowing each other off the Snowball, sourcing the most melodious sitar sweep and trying to keep the tell-tale psst of opening cans of Tennent’s “off-mic”, the Tramps were undoubtedly ready for their tea at the Nakodar, the prospect of which twinkled tantalizingly in the east end of Glasgow. Pushing the TATTGOC boat out a bit seemed an appropriate way to mark National Curry Week 2011. Surely a legendary night was in the offing ... right?

The sound of young Caledonia
(Click here to read on ...)

The Keep Calm And Curry On sessions had rolled into the early evening, precluding a formal meet-up for drinks before the curry for the Tramps themselves. But that didn’t stop the ever-resourceful Ravi Peshwari suggesting a leaderless drinks meet in one of the east end’s most legendary drinking dens: the Saracen's Head. What better way to welcome back a brace of Curry Clubbers absent for way too long? Bobo Balti was checking in after a furlough of paternity leave, while travel-worn Foreign Curryspondent Makhni Knife had finally returned to Glasgow like a fragile homing pigeon.

The best-laid plans of spice and men can oft dismay, and things went sideways pretty sharpish when it turned out that the Saracen's Head was shut. So by the time the Tramps caught up with the advance party – having forgotten their usual camera equipment in the rush – the squad was settled into Gallowgate’s eccentrically-spelled and disappointingly non-clairvoyant Chrystal Bell. The crew was just six-strong, with many stalwart Curry Clubbers otherwise engaged, or aff in Big London. But the prospect of returning east caused some around the table to cast back to their April 2009 voyage to Café Spice, a curryhouse sadly no longer with us. The returning Bobo Balti wondered what had made the Tramps select the Nakodar, and while there were many factors, the fact that Bobo was wearing a natty Chemikal Underground T-shirt seemed eerily prescient, for it was in fact a recent curry-related tweet by former Delgado Lord Cut-Glass that had sealed the deal.

Unfortunately, the distance between the Chrystal Bell and the Nakodar was considerable, so the squad began their trek, falling in rather conspicuously with a steady stream of punky young punters heading to the Barras for an Enter Shikari gig. By the time they arrived at the Nakodar, tucked away on well-heeled Annfield Place, there was another surprise in store: TATTGOC-affiliated footballer Dhal M For Murder had extricated himself from work concerns and was eagerly reporting for his first tour of duty. So it was a squad of seven that took their comfortable seats in the attractively furnished, well-appointed dining room. This, indeed, was a classy joint, so the assembled went for a round of Cobra instead of the usual Tennent’s.

After conferring with the waiter, the Tramps logged a spread of starters that ensured everyone got at least one lamb chop, and that the mixed pakora including some of the haggis variety. The Nakodar a la carte menu automatically includes rice with all its main courses, but with a bit of negotiation it was possible to swap in some naans, and what naans they were. After such a smooth and relatively painless ordering process, the Tramps felt increasingly confident they’d made the right choice. The Nakodar had been on their radar for over a year, after they read a heart-warming newspaper story in a downmarket tabloid: a woman had given birth soon after having a vegetable bhuna at the restaurant, and was so pleased she named her son “Nakodar”. (Even better, the Nakodar management said the wee man could have free curry for life.)

After reading that initial splash, the Tramps did a bit more clippings research, and it turns out the Nakodar is in the papers pretty regularly (if it’s not creating chocolate curries to spice up your love life, it’s discovering a Banksy original spraypainted on the outside wall). Of course, as Edinburgh's Kismot has discovered to its cost, media exposure can be a double-edged sword, and could all be for naught if the food isn’t up to snuff. So there was a table-wide, tangible sense of anticipation when the starters arrived ...

The chops arrived in a rich sauce, which made the eating of them potentially messier than usual, but did little to slow down the hungry squad. Initially wary of the accompaniment, perhaps suspecting it of being an attempt to disguise a lower quality of meat, the Tramp rapidly switcheroo-ed to give his chop an enthusiastic thumbs-up. The Bulldosa had also been bewitched by the succulence of the offerings, declaring it among the best he’d sampled as part of the ongoing TATTGOC research project. The tastiness of the chops led to a further kerfuffle as there were a spare two kicking about the table. Employing the wisdom of Solomon and the build quality of Grundig, the Tramps beatifically bestowed the extra morsels upon two particularly worthy Clubbers. (The chops generally overshadowed the pakora, which was a shame since the various pieces were both delicate and delicious.)

After such a promising start, hopes were assuredly high for the main courses. For his part, Trampy was also excited by the unusual sundries, which included a mozzarella and green chilli naan, a honey ginger naan and a vanilla garlic naan. (That’s vanilla as in “commonplace” rather than an actual vanilla garlic naan. Although that does sound like an interesting prospect ...) The naans arrived pre-sliced, a point of serious contention between some Curry Clubbers, and were politely received, if more for novelty value than actual mindblowing tastiness.

At one end of the table, Ravi Peshwari and Dhal M For Murder were bonding over their brace of tandoori chicken tikkas, which looked sizzlingly delicious to the Tramp but also remained mostly out of reach. At the other end, Bobo Balti and Trampy sampled the restaurant’s signature dish, Nakodari lamb, while former train-hopping hobo Makhni Knife felt compelled, understandably, to have Chicken Makhni Masala. All of these dishes were roundly praised, although The Tramp expressed a little disappointment at his lamb karahi. His reasoned explanation was lost amid a late-meal scuffle as Clubbers dived into the remains of The Bulldosa’s incredibly rich and tasty Murgh Malaidar sauce.

The idea had been to head somewhere a little bit special for National Curry Week, and the Nakodar had satisfyingly delivered, flying a convincing flag for classy curry in the east end. The squad crunched thoughtfully on sugar-coated fennel as they settled the bill, and lined up for the traditional mugshot outside the restaurant. It seemed fitting that on the day the Tramps had established their pathbreaking online gabfest, they'd also discovered a curryhouse worth talking about ... 

Range Of Drinks: Tennent’s, Cobra, and a comprehensive bar. 

Highlights: Fantastic chops, flavourful curries, intriguing naans.

Lowlights: The music: how much Lighthouse Family is too much? (Answer: not much.) Also, the pre-cut naans made some Curry Clubbers tetchy.

The Verdict: A horizon-broadening experience! 

The Damage: £151.00 (tip £17)

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Bobo Balti said...

ooh those chops. Great night.