Saturday 7th January 2017.
The next morning, 8am, I’m slumped in the bath tub. I had a hangover and I was reading Bukowski’s “Pulp”. He was saying, “Sometimes I thought about my liver, but my liver never spoke up, it never said, ‘Stop it, you’re killing me and I’m going to kill you!’ If we had talking livers we wouldn’t need A.A.” My liver is just the same, it never stands up for itself.
It got me thinking about last night’s whisky – Nikka Pure Malt Black. Dwelling on its key features like a lingerie junkie ogling a Debenham’s mannequin.
NOSE: Earthy and chocolatey with herbaceous notes and peat smoke. Fig, anise, soy sauce; salty, Scandinavian sea breeze. Olorosso sherry. Either leeks or asparagus water. There’s glamour too. Liz Taylor before her second marriage to Richard Burton. Whiff of Ann Summers nightie and Madhur Jaffrey underarm. It’s a big nose.
PALATE: Dark chocolate and berry, cinder toffee, toffee apple fished from a puddle, vanilla peat. Chewy coffee grounds and light oak. And it’s a thinker: distinct flavour of Joan Bakewell’s colouring pencils. Liquorice jam in a cardamon smokehouse.
FINISH: Heather, sweet spices, coalminers underpants wrung through a mangle. Chlorophyll amidst forest fire pine ash. But it’s unsustained. Fly by night wham bam. Left lonesome in the twisted, honied sheets of the morning after, I’m already sniffing out my next kick.
We dropped by the Iranian barbers on Infirmary Road on the way. In the mirror I looked creased and dry like a fifty year old turnip. My face was telling me stuff my liver was afraid to. I felt thirsty for skincare product, for cucumber slices, for old teabags. I craved another bath, this time in mango lassi with a honey soaked loofah. Meanwhile Babak sorted out my eyebrows.
Kebabish is now made-over since the kitchen fire back in 2015. Nothing like its “Three Lions” cinematic debut. It’s mainly black. Big, high, dark booths, like garrisons along the restaurant walls, shut the light out. Dimly lit, wipe down leatherette niches, give it a nightclub look. The sort doing cocktail happy hours and eighties nights. With only one functioning, neatly tiled, toilet cubicle, luckily, it was dead.
The pickle tray was a mistake: poppodums nearly stale; lime pickle with that stone or bone ingredient a la Cosmo, what is that? The onion bhajis retrieved the situation – certainly the hottest on the Scoville rating to date, but Juicy and toothsome too – the flat pattie variety. The grilled spicy liver was vast, and lamb rather than chicken. That liver-leather piquancy took me back to my days in Medina of Fez, up to my elbows in cow hide and goat’s urine. In a good way.
Splendid mains, despite the portion sizes catching up with us. The shahi haleem as sumptuous and distinctive as I remembered it. Unrivalled, in fact, as I’ve never seen it anywhere else: a traditional Lahori dish combining mutton and pulses in a creamy paste – stellar baby food for grown ups. I thought the cashews in Skippy’s butter chicken a pleasingly decadent touch.
Wait though. What was the inexcusable, crushing omission from the kitchen goffer’s shopping list last week? Give me a G… Give me an H… (Er, yes, they spell it slightly differently on the dessert menu here, but I think you know where I’m going). Next visit, will the real Gulab Jamun please stand up?
Judge ‘Gonzo’ Pickles
Fred ‘Skippy’ Pickles