CURRYBOND #21 Kabul Darbar + Casino Royale

The Bond Leg

We arrive at another weekend CURRYBOND. Perhaps our last before the conclusion of the odyssey. Like the weekend CURRYBONDs long since past, we begin with the Bond Leg.

The lure of a new Bond and perhaps the joy of watching it before it gets dark led to a serious swell in CURRYBOND numbers. Something I didn’t take into account when choosing my flat, things soon turn into the personification of "how many CURRYBONDers can you fit into a one bedroom flat in London…?" Turns out, at least twelve...uncomfortably.

Clearly Casino Royale has some serious pulling power. Strong enough to lure two CURRBOND newbies all the way from the sunny south west after tales of masala and gadgets wafted their way down the M3. Perhaps it was rumours of a reboot, a much needed deep clean after wading through the grimy waters of the end of the Brosnan era. Enter Daniel Craig, big, beefy, blonde and somewhat beedie eyed, he's come to save the franchise. To spit out those one liners, smack you in the face with your laser watch and chuck you through the window of your invisible car. This is the Bond for the noughties, but he's still JB...no not Jason Bourne...well...you know.

We kick things off in black and white...not a union jack parachute in sight! This is serious. Turns out Bond isn't even a double O agent yet. That's right, proper re-boot. So forget those last 20 films and 2518 minutes of your life you just committed, we're starting over! We get introduced to DC Bond with him smashing a guys face into a bathroom, yep, pretty much the whole bathroom. It's brutal, then he shoots a guy in the face, BOSH! Titles!

The theme is provided by Soundgarden/Audioslave's Chris Cornell in slightly less shouty grunge mode, which is nice enough but it certainly lacks a bit of bombastic Bassey in the theme tune. The background antics isfilled with excellent poker themed fare with swirling clubs, diamonds, guns, girls etc, good stuff.

Our next introduction is to our Bond villain, played by Mads Mikkelsen who seems destined to be cast as a Bond villain. He even comes with a scar across his eye and cries blood! He is amazing, definitely one of the creepiest villains to date. Just to cement his evil status he's a banker. In fact he's busy touring Africa collecting cash from all your favourite warlords. Let's hope he has enough room in his ISA, you don’t want to invest their dosh in something risky...

Cut to Bond, and he's nearby in Madagascar apparently on his first mission chasing down a bomber with fellow agent Carter. Whilst they may have done away with the underwater cars, space lasers and midgets it seems Bond is forever going to be paired with the most incompetent of MI6 agents. Soon enough said bomber is alerted to the "spying" and legs it. Fortunately for us, we then get perhaps the greatest action chase sequence of any Bond film, maybe any film full stop. The running bomber is played by Sebastien Foucan, one of the creators of Parkour or free running. Fortunately his role in Casino Royale isn't delivering a 5 minute monologue, he has to run. Run for what seems like half an hour through endless obstacles. At one point he runs up a girder...a vertical girder! He leaps ridiculous distances around a building site all the while being pegged back by Danny Bond, who often takes the more direct route illustrated when he runs Juggernaut style, straight through a wall! It’s a fantastic sequence which ultimately ends up with Daniel Craigson shooting him in the face...this is getting samey already…

Back to base and M is pissed off...hang on. So we rebooted Bond back to his first mission but M is still Judi Dench...hmmm. Anyway, James Craigid is sent on holiday to the Bahamas, lovely. What better place to show off Dan's giant man boobs aka the hulk in trunks.

Alas, no rest for the wicked, that'sa license to kill not snorkel James. So soon enough he's back on the job playing poker and dropping bodies including the unfortunate hot girl he picked up and "probed" for information.

James ends up in Miami airport tracking down bad guy bomber number 2, fortunately this one isn't a free runner…I mean, never run in an airport, don’t be that guy. He takes the traditional approach and opts for disguise as security guard. Shit gets real when Richard Branson turns up...no wait...that was just weird. Things kick off as bad guy tries to blow up new shiny plane until Bond gets in the way and does the old take-your-tiny-explosive-keyring-and-strap-it-to-your-belt switcheroo, classic. Needless to say, bad guy goes pop, plane explosion averted...mostly, he stillmakes quite a mess.

Turns out this is all bad news for chief villain/banker Le Chiffre who just bet on the airline stocks tanking…

Time to set up our confrontation, "but it's only half way through the film I hear you say?" Ahh I see you’ve never played poker before…

That's right it's time for some poker. Now I like poker, I sometimes play poker, I've even watched poker on TV, but I understand if you've never done any of those things the next 45 minutes might drag a little…

We get set up by M who's sending Bond to play poker with Le Chiffre in Montenegro's Casino Royale. But first he needs some cash. Who holds the purse strings? Her Majesty's Treasury. So obviously Bond emails the appropriate Grade 6 and copies in the relevant DGs...nah, they just send this hot chick with a quirky accent and a dry wit. Yes, our Bond girl works at the treasury, and I can say with some experience, they don’t typically look like Eva Green. Vesper Lynd (I mean it's no Octopussy…) is our Bond girl, and soon enough is flirting away with Danny Bond.

We're then treated to some excellent poker action, a straight here, a full house there, big blind, all in, it's great stuff. Until it's rudely interrupted by some fierce action sequences when our African warlord turns up unhappy about his rate of return and then some bastard gets Bond's Martini order wrong and puts 3 parts gin 2 parts vodka 1 part deadly poison! Thankfully, one of our new CURRYBOND recruits is a practicing surgeon who confirms a self inflicted defibrillation is not a great idea…

Bond gets back in the game after changing his suit for the eighth time and starts pokering his arse off. Soon enough everyone's all in. Biggie Smalls, Rayden from Mortal Kombat, Le Chiffre and James "snake eyes" Bond. Biggie Smalls gets a flush….Rayden, the lightning god, gets a full house...Le Chiffre gets a better full house...But J Bizzle busts out the straight flush! A hand so good you basically wet your pants when you get it and everyone folds immediately as your joyful urine stench fills the air. So Bond wins the cash. Which is great...congrats Jimmy B. But left me thinking if they hadn't so mercilessly condemned Q branch, Desmond Llewellyn could have whipped him up some x-ray specs or some kind of ace fabricating device in no time. This new era seems like much harder work.

Unfortunately we've got through three quarters of the film and Bond hasn’t been captured. Bond get's captured. Along with Treasury employee Vesper...I just hope she included this in her Risk Assessment form or there'll be some serious paperwork when she gets back.

To go along with our new gritty Bond, we get new gritty torture scenes as Le Chiffre practices his very specific version of swingball...with more than one ball...ouch. Mr villain however meets an unusual end, rather than being minced by a giant drill or falling from a satellite dish he's simply shot in the head...by mysterious bad guy number 2, Mr White…disappointing.

Queue passage of time and Bond is still feeling somewhat...delicate. This doesn’t stop him falling for his first Bond girl, Vesper. We get a lovely montage of them cruising around the Med having fun, they turn up in Venice it's all going rosy. So good in fact Bond decides he's going to ditch this spying lark and bum around with the Treasury's finest. One thing however we've learnt from our Bond education, Bond + love = dead people. Yes, it turns out Vesper was conning poor old mega-pecks out of his hard earned poker winnings to buy off some blokes who kidnapped her boyfriend what a bitch! I knew she was far too attractive to work at the Treasury... But maybe she loved James really? It’s a bit hazy, but as per usual Bond's greatest love meets her timely demise in a rather dramatic drowning in a lift sequence under Venice which is all very traumatic and even rivals the only good thing about On Her Majesty's Secret Service, the bit when his wife gets shot in the face…

So all in all this is certainly the best debut Bond film so far, and may even be the best Bond film overall...The plot is great and makes sense with enough interesting ambiguity at the end to leave you wondering. The action is amazing and there is genuine, threat, tension and drama...which is perhaps a little lacking in the majority of the Bond films. The question remains however, without the one-liners, the gadgets, Q, the comedy henchman this may be a great film, but is it a great Bond film?

It seems our CURRYBONDers think so and award Casino Royale with:

Girls n Gadgets - 5.8/10

Cheese - 3.6/10

Action - 9.1/10

Overall - 8.5/10

Meaning Casino Royale takes its place at the top of the leaderboard pipping Roger Moore's somewhat differentapproach in Spy Who Loved Me by 0.1.

 

The Curry Leg

After a pretty thrill packed ride through the first Daniel Craig Bond we're in need of a stiff drink to settle our nerves and steel ourselves for the curry to come. We make the short hop to the Trafalgar Arms for a pitstop and pick up a couple more CURRYBONDers, another debutant who clearly takes the prize for tallest CURRYBONDer and a previous weekend CURRYBONDer back for more Tooting delights.

Although the film was on the long side we had plenty of time left to make the leisurely stroll up Tooting High Street to our curry venue, Kabul Darbar. Located on the corner of Letchworth St, a corner we know very well as three CURRYBONDers began their Tooting experiences buying chicken breasts the size of double D cup implants from the halal butcher that used to inhabit this venue. It then turned into an ill fated Chinese takeaway, the remnants of which can still be spotted on the signage outside until it has recently been established as a new curry restaurant offering as the signage informs us, "Traditional Afghan Cuisine".

We stake our seats at 7pm, table booked, restaurant is fairly quiet but soon starts to fill up. The décor is modern (for a curry place), comfortable and clean. All the signs were positive so far.

We peruse the options available, it certainly seems like authentic Afghan fare on offer which we've come across once before at Namak Mandi. The curries are offered by the kilo in big sharing karahi dishes, and there's no pandering to the curry staples we've come accustomed to. So no Chicken Tikka Masala or Onion Bhaji in sight, the reference is abandoned.

We line up starters of Mantoo, Bandenjan Buranie, and Samosas. We also order our mains at the same time which is now probably around 7.30pm.

The starters arrive in good time and we're generally impressed with the quality. The aubergine was soft and spicy in a sour yoghurt sauce, it also looked impressive, not just dumped on the side of a mountain of shredded iceberg lettuce. The parcels of Mantoo were also delicious smothered in a spiced chickpea sauce and littered with coriander. I heard slightly less enthusiastic murmerings about the samosas but overall a strong start on the starters.

Starters done, it's now about 7.45pm, and now we wait. And wait. At first it's fine, it's CURRYBOND, we've plenty to talk about, like all the curry we've eaten and all the Bond films we've fallen asleep during, but the conversation begins to wane...and people start to look at their watches. We notice tables around us aren't the same people we came in with. Entire tables had been served, eaten their food, paid and left and new people arrived in the time between our starters and mains. It's easily 9pm before the first sign of a main course begin to emerge. It’s a somewhat adhoc smattering of dishes, and then they stop. We’ve received about 7 of 11 main courses. There's obviously some confusion. The staff don’t seem overly bothered and are more on the confused spectrum. It goes on and those people with food eat said food, and to be honest it's all pretty tasty and accompanied by typically giant Afghan naans.

Food Score - 7.2/10.

The quality however doesn’t compensate for the delays and lack of food. It's another good 30-40 minutes before we get all our dishes, including a Sea Bass which appears to have been roasting in the bottom of a tandoor for the entire time…

Needless to say as we get the bill at about 10pm we're not best pleased and with the merest of apologies from the waiting staff and the male waiter keen to blame it on the girl serving us who had apparently been on the job for one day. We're not offered any kind of compensation so I have a frank discussion and explain that we aren't planning to pay for the main courses that turned up two hours late.

Venue Score - 1.1/10.

The bill would have been £165 which is £15/CURRYBONDer, so a middling priced curry place. No alcohol is provided or allowed so bear this in mind.

Value Score - 5.8/10.

We're left with a sour taste,  feeling that this could have a been strong contender with very good food and giant naan but these factors couldn’t counter the poor service.

Alas, Kabul Darbar received an

Overall Score - 3.1/10.

So CURRYBOND #21 sees the highest highs in the Bond leg and the lowest lows for the curry and all in all receives an overall score of 5.8/10.

 

CURRYBOND will return in Shahana + Quantum of Solace.