IT is appropriate that the Scottish Curry Awards were held in Glasgow last night as the city has four times been voted Curry Capital of Britain.

Yet the origin of Glasgow's love affair with curries owes more to archaic licensing laws than to a desire to taste the spices and cooking of the Indian sub-continent.

In the late sixties and early seventies, pubs closed at 10 o'clock. You met your mates on a Friday night at seven, leaving you three hours to consume as many pints as possible.

Six of you on a night out? Then you had to have six pints. No one would want the disgrace of not buying his round.

Thrown out onto the pavement at 10 past 10 – Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde may well have been based on a Glasgow barman as at 10 to 10 he was the smiling mine host cheerily serving pints, 10 minutes later he was a snarling glass grabber inquiring with menaces about whether you had a home to go to – the only way to continue your evening of merriment was a party or go for a curry.

Until the Indian restaurants opened in Glasgow, dining out was a more formal affair.

Businessmen ate in the La Fourchette restaurant at the Central Hotel which trendier customers called La Fork to show they were men-of-the-world who knew their French. The middle classes would go to a Stakis hotel restaurant for prawn cocktail, a steak and Black Forest gateau. The working classes only ate out at weddings or funerals until the Indian restaurants came along opening up an exciting yet strange world of red flock wallpaper – popular as it didn't show up any curry spilled on the wall – and exotic dishes. Many a muttered conversation was heard about what actually are lady's fingers.

For young men with bellies extended by often a gallon of lager from hectic round-buying, there was a fad to see who could consume the hottest of curries.

A bold chap or two would order a madras, and then someone would say they would have a vindaloo, earning respect from those around him as if he had just casually said he was going to trek to the North Pole or climb the Matterhorn.

It was daft of course as the fiery chillies ensured you couldn't taste any subtle flavours. But at least they were challenging each other to eat a hot curry rather than to a fight.

Occasionally another challenge was to "do a runner" without paying the bill. Some of the more robust restaurants took your money with your order.

Charan Gill of Ashoka fame, who built up a multi-million pound restaurant empire, tells the story of the waiters from the Maharaja in Gibson Street chasing three guys into Kelvingrove Park who had left without paying.

They had forgotten the golden rule of ensuring that at least one waiter stayed behind. They hadn't, and when they returned they found the restaurant empty as every other diner had taken advantage of their absence by exiting sharpish.

Charan himself says he tried to dissuade diners from ordering vindaloos as no Asian would ever eat a curry like that. But they never listened, so Charan says he just let them get on with it and bought shares in Andrex toilet paper instead.

So originally the curries were simply the by-product of going to a restaurant where you could order drink after 10 o'clock.

Then it dawned on the lager lovers that what they were eating was actually good.

Spicy food was the perfect antidote to wet, cold Glasgow evenings. Slowly "do you fancy going for a curry?" became as accepted as asking "do you fancy going for a pint?"

The most popular were the Shish Mahal and the Koh-I-Noor in Gibson Street, which had queues up the street.

It seems unthinkable now with the proliferation of restaurants but yes, folk would queue in Gibson Street in all weathers, mentally calculating how many tables were ahead of them and anxiously watching the door for any sign of diners leaving.

Pity the poor chap in the queue with a new date as inevitably friends walking past would stop for a chat and would quiz the couple mercilessly on his intentions.

The early chefs were from the Punjab and they would pass on their style of cooking to those that came after them so that Glasgow developed its own style of curry dishes which were replicated around the city.

It was only when Monir Mohammed opened Mother India's Cafe in Westminster Terrace that other cooking styles were tried, so it was apt that Mother India took The Best of Glasgow award last night.

Two awards went to Akbar's in Sauchiehall Street whose owner, Shabir Hussain, tells me that his peak hours are between six and 10 in the evening, and he has no interest in attracting the post-pub crowd.

"If you cater for them you're asking for trouble," he says.

"How can you provide a great service with people who have had six pints of lager?"

So Glasgow has really changed as diners are now there for the food and not the licensing law possibilities.

But perhaps the most shocking news from last night was that the overall winner last night was Mithas, an Indian restaurant, not in Glasgow, but in Leith.

It's enough to drive you to drink – provided you stop off for a curry after.