Zara’s, Crookes, Sheffield (71%)

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Friday 6th May 2016.

If it aint the condom machine it’s the soap dispenser… I’m afraid they’ve called time on prophylactics at The Closed Shop – so you can put that pound coin away now, Dave. Certainly a lot smarter in those bogs these days but soapless wash basins? Man alive, all those dirty gents slavering in their beery rib juices unwashed, then pawing the Mrs in the snug with their germy mits. What does the bartender care; too busy for matters of public hygiene, he tells me.

So much for The Closed Shop. Next it’s Crookes Club and “Caberet Boom Boom” – the venue, the concept, the crowd, all a sort of genteel throw-back to the Working Men’s Club sixties heyday. Vampish fatales dressed to kill; jaunty eccentrics doffing their titfers. The respectable face of cultish subversion. It’s the kind of place you can witness a man in lederhosen thrash leeks against his thighs then play Vivaldi’s Four Seasons on a set of horns from a 7 foot unicycle. As for Billy Buttons… Or is it Goat Holes?

Moody is a warm host. He came bolting out like a long lost uncle, “Let me, let me.” The result is the pic you see above. Uncle Moody (squashing lime pickle rotis into my satchel, magicking a mint penny from behind my ear, slapping my bottom in avuncular rapture as I’m bustled out an enchanted kitchen…), beautifully composed, groomed and dapper. A faint whiff of sandalwood and lemongrass – something by Givenchy. “Good evening, we’ve been expecting you.”

Moody actually sat himself down. Nonchalant and surprisingly noncommittal he vaguely recommended the kashmiri puree – meatballs served in a puffed puree ball, reminiscent of Ashoka’s chicken liver version. Talked old times with Jase. The waitress remembered us from another distinguished Sheffield Indian. Torrid tales of wage abuses and mismanagement. It was her second day of liberation.

Nothing in the way of draught lagers. Bottled Kingfisher and Cobra instead. Bare wooden table – paper napkins. It took the record-breaking eight dish pickle tray, including lime pickle, to restore the faith. Toothsome nosebag all round, but watch out for the naga lamb and the arakan ghost – my lively April trumpeting in the jingle-jangle morning-after with gusto.

Sumptuous carpeting, cosy as a warm ventricle. The music a melodious tapestry of trancy ragas. Welcome to your curry coma, it seemed to say… It was gone midnight, the restaurant thinning out, leaving the odd unoccupied waiter lurking in the recesses. Dimly aware of an unblinking, glassy eyed scrutiny, I promptly curtailed my soaring rendition of “Steamy Windows” from under my ‘hot towel’. (Another warm wadded wet wipe sadly.)

Finally, that chewy chocolate mint penny of my dreams encased in golden foil, washed down with sweet calypso nectar. Come on in, my curry brethren, the cream is fine…


Judge ‘Gonzo’ Pickles
Fred ‘Skippy’ Pickles
Jason Paine



  1. Fred 'Skippy' Pickles · · Reply

    An interesting first visit to Cabaret Boom Boom. The good, the bad, the ugly and the downright awful…

    A late night visit to Zara’s – only two other occupied tables gave us a more relaxed atmosphere than you’d perhaps get in the suppertime rush.

    We got the hint, as 1am approached, that it may be time for us to leave; instead of the bill our waiter brings out a vacuum cleaner – a sort of novel ‘time please, ladies and gentlemen’. Quarter of an hour later he strikes it up, chasing our feet out of the door…

    All in all a very enjoyable visit coming in just short of £25 each for pickle tray, starter, main and drinks.


  2. Jason Paine · · Reply

    So it was up to my neck of woods for an evening of such contrasts that I am still trying to work out what was good, bad and ugly.

    First up was a trip to my local, The Closed Shop. A decent drop of ale but no soap available in the broken dispenser. Pickles laid it on the line to the head barman to sort it out. I think he’s still shaking now… I best check in to see if they’ve made the necessary repairs and top up !

    Next up was Cabaret Boom Boom, a mixed bag of entertainment which included a talented singer who was a dab hand at musical humour and fire tricks, a guy in lederhosen who after a bad start got better, the highlight being the aforementioned unicycle handiwork and a terrible guy called Billy Buttons. Seriously Billy I can’t describe how unfunny you were, I think I’m going to have nightmares about your routine.

    Unfortunately we had to miss the last act, it could have been epic but we’ll never know unless Buttons was involved then it would have been tragic.

    Our final stop was to an old favourite of mine, Zara’s which personally I thought did a good job. Ok not a great job, they did let themselves down on the onion bhaji but the Arakan Ghost was as good as ever although a bit hotter than I remember.

    I had a brief moment with Moody and recollected the old guy who used to run the show, he’d have never stood for those bhajis I can tell you.

    So overall it was a good night finished off with a good curry. Special mention to the pickle tray, that was a pleasant surprise although not up to Butler’s standards (we will have to wait and see how they do).


  3. Andy · · Reply

    A very good score, but would a larger group have caused a lower score?

    Still confident in the Vine!


  4. […] in some cases there’s equality at the top. So a dutiful and deserved mention should go to both Zara’s and (dare I mention) Shalimar for their excellent pickle trays. Likewise, Jamaira for its […]


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