Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Dundee, the legend of The Gunga Din, and chicken livers at The Malabar
To Dundee, home of some of the greatest pubs in the universe - this time, The Speedwell, universally known as Mennie's, and The Phoenix, universally known as Bannerman's. And to the magnificent Malabar on Perth Road, home of Goanese and Keralan cooking.
For those of a certain age, Jacob, who owns the Malabar, will be remembered as proprietor of the legendary Gunga Din, also in Perth Road. In the late 60s and 70s, this was lauded by the cognoscenti as the best place to eat 'Indian' food in Scotland. A favourite of rock stars (and especially Billy Connolly), at a time when Pakistani and Bangladeshi restaurateurs were setting the tone for 'the Scottish curry', the Gunga Din was always different. And the Malabar still is.
It's unpretentious. Formica tables, basic decor. It's not dear. (Bottle of Montepulciano, very good, £10.99). And the food is astonishing. I had chicken livers in chili sauce to start, followed by marinated trout fillets served with daal, boiled rice, salad and a nan bread unlike any other. Everything here is different. The Saag Gosht is intense in a way it never is in the 'common pot' school of Asian cookery; even the spiced onions are dark and much more like a real chutney than chilli-powdered red-raw slices.
The trout (can't remember its Goan name)is similar to the salmon dish served at Balbir's in Glasgow, and there are similarities to some of the Mother India and experimental Wee Curry Shop recipes to be found on he menu.
But the Malabar truly is the motherlode.