REVIEW: Veg Of Darkness

[The next Authentic(?) Curryhouse is scheduled to take place Saturday October 6 so if you fancy it – three veggie courses, £15, BYOB – best book through their website pronto, Tonto. It's also happening November 3 for late adopters.]

Authentic(?) Curryhouse, Partick

The Time: September 1, 8pm

The Pub Aforehand: The Dowanhill, Dowanhill Road

In Attendance: Trampy, The Trampy, Mumbai Me A Pony, Naanbread Mouskouri, Aldo Gobi, Daddy Ghee and Rumpole Of The Balti

Decor: Materialising at a secret location in Partick, the Authentic(?) Curryhouse team had gone to some effort to turn a large classroom-esque space into a homely dining area, with attractive mismatched crockery, nice tableclothes, Scrabble tiles on the tables and very dim lighting. The effect was pleasingly higgledy-piggledy.

Expectations: Although the Authentic(?) Curryhouse had been on the TATTGOC radar for yonks, as a Brigadoon-esque pop-up restaurant it wasn't clear what to expect. The website hinted "think Tchai-Ovna – but over a curry", suggesting things would be laidback, and possibly imminently closed down by a construction cabal.

The Experience:

No wonder hardly anyone can successfully sustain a dictatorship anymore. Once you start relaxing rules and regulations, soon the whole things spins off its axis. So after their paradigm-smashing relocation to former arch-rival Edinburgh for the entire month of August (see posts passim), perhaps it shouldn't be too surprising to learn that when the Tramps returned to their regular stomping ground of Glasgow, they felt compelled to tear up the phonebook-sized TATTGOC rulebook. Not that they were running out of curryhouses to cover in Glasvegas – no sirree, the list of targets is as long as ever. It's just, once you've had a taste of curry without rules, such as the now legendary August outing, you want to try and keep that summer spirit alive, y'know? As TATTGOC's Canadian totem guide once said: Oh when I look back now, that summer seemed to last forever. And if I had the choice ... yeah, I'd always want to be there. Those were the best days of my life ...

So on returning to the bosom of Glasgow, the Tramps decided to go for a long-held target. The Authentic(?) Curryhouse – question mark model's own – first popped up on their radar through guerilla advertising: a chained-up bike with the name of the curryhouse painted on it, with the web address. (And this was a full year before the new Vietnamese canteen The Hanoi Bike Shop cannily did something similar.) After checking out the website, the Tramps discovered it was essentially a monthly pop-up restaurant based in the Glasgow Harbour community, with a flat fee for three veggie-friendly courses.  The Tramps vowed to head there at the earliest possible opportunity. And hey, it only took, like, a year!

And so, a year later, that earliest opportunity had arrived. But since the Authentic(?) Curryhouse only operated on a Saturday evening – and it seemed unfair on various spouses and favourite ladies to steal their manfolk that night – TATTGOC's usually cast-iron Magic Mike-inspired all-male rule was relaxed for this September outing. Unfortunately, this particular Saturday also seemed to be a popular choice for weddings, with many Curry Clubbers unable to attend due to nuptials. A magnificent seven volunteered, and the manageable number might have been a blessing. Having never laid eyes on this pop-up restaurant, the Tramps were a little anxious that turning up mob-handed might spoil the atmosphere or mood or whatever. Trampy booked a table for seven by email ten days or so in advance. In the days approaching the weekend, an email reminder seemed to suggest the booking had been accepted. Good to go!

The A(?)C is BYOB, but there's also lassi, chai and water

Of course, the first ever TATTGOC outing took place in Partick, so there were a lot of spicy memories triggered upon returning to the Dowanhill pub for a quick pint beforehand. The Authentic(?) Curryhouse was BYOB which – along with the flat fee of £15 a head – made it an extremely attractive Saturday night option, especially when the Tramps are used to handing out tenners hand-over-fist for Blue Dog cocktails before being refused entry into The Tunnel. The vibe at the pop-up was very different – with everyone booking in advance, the room was laid out to accommodate everyone on long tables. TATTGOC's magnificent seven ended up sat beside a "two" and a "three" who had already sampled the shop-bought poppadoms and homemade dips. The atmosphere was cosy, convivial, and very, very dark. But here, take a look at the room:

By the Tramps' guesstimate there were about 40 or so diners, and it was hard to tell whether they'd turned up in groups of two or ten, since everyone seemed to be chatting away. At the table nearest the serving area, the Tramps spotted one of Glasgow's foremost curry godfathers, perhaps coming to check out the pop-up competition? But in truth it was sometimes hard to spy anything, such was the atmospheric lighting, although Trampy had his own lightbulb moment when he realised this entire post could be a tribute to the astonishingly brilliant 1980s TV drama Edge Of Darkness.

After tanning all the poppadoms and dips, and making friends with surrounding punters, the Tramps felt a great weight lift from their shoulders. For since it was essentially a set menu, there would be no need to conjure a starter plan or work out the rice/naan equation on the blackboard. The set-up was more like serving in a boho canteen, with large pans of delicious-smelling veggie curry bubbling away. Eager customers were called up a half-table at a time, and managed to form a relatively orderly queue. The four different veggie curries on offer were listed on a blackboard, and everyone was encouraged to start with a dod of each (with the option of returning for more of a particular favourite anytime). The dishes were essentially a heady daal, a chickpea curry, a sweet and creamy pumpkin curry and a smoky aubergine curry. After accepting a spoonful of each, and as much rice as you liked, there was also a chance to scoop up a naan.

This turned out to be quite a lot of curry, by any measure, and it was testament to the resilience of the assembled Curry Clubbers that a couple of them volunteered to go back for seconds. Of the four different curries, overall the pumpkin got the biggest thumbs-up for being so deliciously decadent – it also had a certain colour distinction advantage – while the aubergine was remarkably flavourful too.  It's important to note that these were obviously painstakingly pre-made curries that were simply reheated on site, but the tastiness, abundance and opportunity to nod over to a stranger and say "so whatya think of this one, then?" while wielding a forkful definitely made it an enjoyable, memorable experience. All the assembled Curry Clubbers agreed that it the slightly Masonic secrecy made it a thrill, although this pic perhaps does not capture them in their full giddy excitement (as noted, the light levels were not ideal).

For those fools who had feasted mightily on the curry, there was a sting in the tail: two of the courses were yet to come, in the form of a halva, and also hot chai. If anything, the atmosphere had become even more convivial, with chairs being skidded around, folk shuffling up tables and the general volume rising to a noticeable degree. As with any Scottish gathering, it felt a hair away from the tables being roughly shoved up against the wall the better to accommodate a mass slosh, but thankfully the almost criminally sweet halva seemed to tweak people's pleasure centres as effectively as the prospect of choreography to the insistent backbeat of Tina Turner's Steamy Windows.

This was insanely tasty

The chai – poured by the affable, attentive but never intrusive team – was also pretty good, and one of the advantages of sitting down to a pop-up meal is that everyone in the room is always at the same stage, and so with a warm mug in their hand, people were reflective and flirtatious. The downside to everyone eating at the same time is that chucking-out time is also fairly universal (not that there was anything to begrudge, a lot of the team were running blimmin' half-marathons in the morning). So that was that. A curry bubble on Saturday night, that happened to be in Partick. An enviably relaxed atmosphere and decidedly above-average food. And all for an astonishing £15 a head, and while the notoriously Scrooge-esque Trampy didn't spy a tip jar, it feels like a washing-up jar would be fair game – someone's gotta scrub that quirky crockery, and they deserve some extra reward.

But it was left to Mumbai Me A Pony to deliver the final verdict of this atypical Curry Club outing:

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