The (Glasgow) Herald alerted Hector to the existence of The Khyber (221 St. Andrews Road, Glasgow, G41 1PD) with a very enthusiastic account of the writers visit. Marg and Hector rolled up at 3pm this afternoon, a couple of chaps were deep in conversation, no food was being consumed, the waiter appeared – they are open. Technically The Khyber does not open until 4pm each day but as I was to establish later, when the staff get there, they are open.
The laminated menu on the table was not extensive. Kebabs and Grills form the majority of what is available but Peshawari Karahi does appear, hence our presence.
We sat on the far side of the room from the chaps and adjacent to two heaters. The place was cold, but to be fair, we were early. The Boti Kebab (Lamb marinated in medium spices roasted in the clay oven and served with mint sauce and salad.) we were led to believe had to be sampled. The Lamb version of the Peshawari Karahi (Finest Lamb meat cooked with the finest tomatoes, green chillies, black pepper, garlic and fresh ginger) was being served by the full or half kilo. This suited me but Marg at this point decided that she would have another starter, Tandoori Chicken, whilst I would be having my main.
Mein Host took the order then returned minutes later to say that the Lamb would take some time. This was not a problem. He then advised that the Lamb would be on-the-bone, even better!
We sat and took in the atmosphere. Did I mention it was cold? The décor was quite spartan, a rug or two on the walls. We did admire the floor tiles.. Marg prefers traditional restaurants with table cloths and hot and cold running waiters, I celebrate the fact the Glasgow has more such cafe style outlets appearing. Marg likes ‘to go out’, I go out for food.
The two portions of Boti Kebab did not take too long to appear, here we go. The Lamb was succulent, soft and much better than the Tikka style Lamb served in most restaurants. The barbecue taste combined with the spices made this a definite treat. To visit the Khyber and not have this would be a travesty. Marg did find it too spicy for her palate, puzzling as she can eat hotter food than this. We took our time, we knew there would be a wait. This was a perfect situation, there would be time to digest this.
The main event arrived. A large platter of freshly cooked gleaming white Basmati Rice was the accompaniment. The only other Rice on offer was a full Rice meal, the Kabli Pilau, so I was a bit worried about the lack of vegetable content.
The Karahi looked immense, a half kilo is the perfect portion. The colour was very pale, no colourings had been used, turmeric et al. There was a lack of oil, the meal resembled an Irish Stew, I was becoming less optimistic.
The first taste: ‘It’s Curry, Jim, but not as we know it…’
Was this really a Curry was my initial reaction. No cinnamon, no turmeric, only Black pepper evident, this was different. The Masala was thick and gravy-like. But it definitely had something. I was a very confused Hector.
Marg was worried about her Tandoori Chicken, it might have been a bit pink, better this than cooked to death, I thought.
The Turning Point
By the time I had finished my first helping I was warming to the dish. The Lamb on the bone was excellent. There were tastes slowly emerging from the Karahi. The meal was becoming more and more interesting. The Fresh Green Chillies gave the dish the required Vegetable content. There was a herbal element coming into play to. This was no ordinary Stew but a very impressive creation.
Marg mooted the need for a doggy-bag, ‘I will be eating all of this’.
Time will tell how long it will take The Friends of Hector to descend en mass.
At £11.95 for the half kilo this was good value. On paying the bill Mein Host engaged me in conversation. The Calling Card does its job. He is clearly very proud of what his restaurant serves. He assured me that everything is cooked fresh and from scratch. ‘There is no pot of sauce in our kitchen,’ Mein Host was very critical of the normal Glasgow outlets with the pots of Masala cooking away all day and the quantity of Oil used in cooking.
The Khyber has set itself a high standard it appears. They have a great belief in what they present. The food is certainly impressive, Hector will be back.