Marg and Hector came across this place by chance some months ago when trying to find a parking space close to Mother India’s Café. The Banana Leaf (76B, Old Dumbarton Rd, Glasgow, G3 8RE) lies parallel to the road featuring Mother India Café, The Art Galleries, The Kelvin Hall and this splendid view of the alma mater, Glasgow University.
There were three sizeable tables between the door and the serving counter. It would appear that the Banana Leaf specialises in takeaways and even outdoor catering. We sat at the middle table, two chaps behind took delivery of a rather impressive Dosa shortly after we had taken our seats. This would be different. So why we then set about ordering as close as we could find to our ‘normal’ choices is somewhat pathetic on our part.
The menu was decidedly different from the norm, Indian names and not the Pakistani versions are a novel experience in Glasgow. The south Indian – Tamil Nadu sourcing of the recipes was eagerly anticipated. No Chicken Tikka Masala here.
Hector asked the waiter what the difference was between the Lamb Chettinadu (Lamb Curry with Chettinadu Spices) and the Aattu Erachi Kozhambu (Lamb Curry made of special ground Chettinadu spices with a touch of pepper). I was told that the latter was a ‘stew’. The Lamb Chettinadu was chosen. This term was first experienced on the Specials Board at the Indian Mango in München. As is Blogged previously this München Curry turned out to be one of the best I have ever tasted. Cue a culinary drum roll.
The Vegetable Pakora was finer in texture than the norm. Freshly cooked and a sufficiently large number of pieces for two to share. At £2 a bargain.
Sparkling water was not available so a jug of tap water was requested. Marg ordered a Mango Lassi, at £2 for a 250ml plastic cup this was not a bargain.
Marg selected the Chicken Chettinadu, well she was in München that day too. The waiter told us that the all the Chicken dishes were ‘on the bone’. This was off putting so Marg chose the Fish Kozhambu (Tamilnadu special Curry made of tamarind juice and special spices).
We also ordered the Pulihora (Tamarind Rice finished with Lentils) despite being told that our dishes came with either Rice or two Chapatis. This special rice was £3.00 a portion, why so much?
Somehow we became sure that we would end up with an abundance of rice but remained unsure as to whether the teatime special deal of ‘any Curry and two chapattis/rice for £4.99’ would limit the size of the portions.
The dishes were served on steel trays, no plates. One concludes this was a representation of the traditional eating from a ‘Banana Leaf’ as is customary throughout Africa and Asia. The Rice was indeed abundant and had to be piled on top of the Curries.
The Lamb Chettinadu was decidedly hot. The sauce was thin and excessive perhaps. The rice did soak this up in the end. The taste was instantly recognisable. This took Hector back to Sri Lanka when I ‘visited the Chef’ at the Lighthouse Hotel in Galle. Here the ingredients were the norm it was the preparation that was dramatic. The spices were not simply roasted before adding them to the onions, they were burned! This creates a very distinct and peppery taste. (Indeed the thinness of the sauce here makes me question the onion content of this sauce.)
I suspect this was a bit too much for Marg. The Fish Kozhambu was also fiery hot but the Fish did dominate the overall taste. Marg ate about half her meal which gave Hector the opportunity to finish this. This did not come anywhere the splendour of the Indian Mango in München.
It is my intention to support the Café restaurants in the region who attempt to produce something different. The List (Glasgow’s ‘what’s on ‘magazine) has clearly been a major player in the survival of this outlet. They have been ‘nearly’ winners. This was very much ‘a nearly’ experience.
The surprise? On leaving a chap came out of the adjacent doorway. There is an overspill which must sit another dozen or so people.
A challenge : Jonathan and I shall take this place by storm some Saturday and order an array of (vegetable?!) dishes and discover what the Banana Leaf is really about.
Once again the nearby University Café (Byres Rd) was visited for ‘dessert’. I asked for a ‘large’ wafer: this is what I was given. Imagine walking along the street trying to eat this in a dignified manner.