“EXPERIENCE VDeep – Scotland’s first craft beer & curry bar – before anyone else! Expect contemporary Indian food, craft beer, welcome speech from Hardeep Singh Kohli and more.”
Dinner for two, excluding drinks, £48.50
So said last month’s invite to the opening of this new communal craft beer and curry bar, which is owned by presenter and comedian Singh Kohli and head chef Ruairiadh Skinner of this place’s former incarnation, The Vintage.
“Sorry, can’t make it, I’ve got a sore leg that night,” I replied, because I don’t usually go to these things if I plan to review them.
I’m too susceptible to the potential schmooze. You see, if someone is nice to me, I’m like a loyal little chihuahua. I just can’t bite them, but want to lick their hand and drag their slippers over instead.
Anyway, the day after, there was a lot of #vdeep action on Twitter, with snaps of people freeloading as if it were an Olympic sport.
I did have some regrets, but I guess the party has rolled on to March, as this place generally has a fun, celebratory vibe. On our visit, it was randomly starry, with Ian Rankin and the funky looking dudes from Scottish band The Bluebells at one of the longer tables. Sadly, Singh Kohli was on an errand down south, so wasn’t in attendance (though, apparently, he’s usually in the open kitchen with Skinner).
There’s neon graffiti on the walls – a portrait of the celebrity patron, and, in writing, No Mango Chutney and Thums Up (the Indian version of Coke). Our table was made from a Perspex-covered door, with sunken panels filled with rice and spices.
Dishes come in around the £6 mark, and size-wise are somewhere in-between your average tapas or starter and a main course. Our waitress recommended we go for two each, or three each if we were in the mood for feasting. Five to share it is.
From the Deep Dishes section, we went for mutton achari (£6.50) and the mixed pakora (£8.50). The latter balls came on a pool of tamarind sauce, with two each of their three varieties – haggis and apple, confit coconut pork and cheesy peas. All had suitably crispy batter jackets, but were a little dry overall, especially the pork versions.
We preferred the sheepy curry dish, with meat so fleecily soft it was almost a paste, with a salty and garlicky flavour, and a piquant kick from the billed pickling spices. There was also a blob of minty chutney on the top, to take the edge off the substantial whack of chilli.
From the Reincarnations section, we went for Keralan trout (£6.50). It consisted of half a fillet of fish that was elegantly presented on a coconut, ginger and mustard sauce, with the TCP-ish tang of saffron. Lovely.
The pork cheek vindaloo (£7) was tomatoey and smoky, with ingredients including masala vinegar and raspberry beer, to give it a sweetness and hoppy depth beyond the heat. We also went for bubble and Sikh (£5) from the East vs West section. It was nice enough – with buttery crushed potato, ribbons of chopped spring green, and a dollop of raita on the top.
To flannel up the various sauces, we accompanied this stuff with a single portion of rice (£2) and the best peshwari naan (£3) I’ve ever had. In fact, there were two – each the length of a blouse sleeve, steamy and hot, with fleshy bread that was filled with almond-y paste.
Puddings didn’t blow our turbans off. The spiced rhubarb crumble (£5) was a bit acidic and watery, but its accompanying yoghurt ice-cream was fresh and silky. While, rasmali (£5) – three coconut-dusted black cardamom and butterscotch paneer balls – tasted way too sweet, even for someone like me, who could imbibe tablet with an Irn-Bru chaser. I’m not sure if the chocolate and ginger soil added much, apart from additional texture.
Still, we had a lovely time in this laid-back hang-out, and the beer list is good too, with offerings on tap from new Glasgow brewery Drygate.
And what did Ian Rankin and his young at heart pals eat? I don’t know, I was too busy feeding my own face to spy on anybody else. Whatever they ordered, they obviously know where the party’s at, and now I do too.
60 Henderson Street
(0131 563 5293, www.vdeep.co.uk)