The spice-rich food of the Indian subcontinent (from Pakistan to Sri Lanka) has long been a takeaway mainstay. While repetitive menus of samosas, butter chicken and beef vindaloo haven’t done this rich cuisine any favours, authentic ‘cheap & cheerful’ restaurants in suburbs with large Indian populations (such as Harris Park) set the record straight, as do those on the ‘little India’ strip of Cleveland Street. There are also a number of long-term players, and some recent arrivals, that present the diverse food of this fascinating region in more comfortable surrounds with service and wine lists to match. Here are five of my favourites.
The ever-smiling Ajoy Joshi serves great vegetarian dishes, including beetroot samosas, tandoor-smoked broccoli and crisp puris with mashed eggplant … then there’s sweet-sour-hot tandoor Aussie prawns, tender lamb backstrap with mint & sesame chutney and butter chicken worth eating!
Don’t Tell Aunty Surry Hills
I love tradition but also enjoy a skilful rethink of the classics, and Jesse Singh walks that line beautifully. From crisp one-bite, chutney-filled ‘balls of happiness’ and tangy, spicy fried cauliflower, to a delicious array of curries and good naan, great value tasting menu and fab natural wine list.
Lankan Filling Station East Sydney
Although this bustling, casual eatery is all about crisp-doughy lacy hoppers, the excellent potato or beef pan rolls are not to be missed. Then curry, raita (you’ll need cooling yoghurt), fried whey-soaked white chillies for crumbling, and ‘rip and dip those hoppers’, as the waitstaff advises.
Abhi’s North Strathfield
Abhi’s is one of Sydney’s oldest Indian restaurants, and still one of the best! Kumar Mahadevan and his team offer classics with a light touch, starting with the crisp colourful chaat (spinach in lentil batter with yoghurt, chilli & mint sauce, and date & tamarind chutney) which is a must!
Malabar Darlinghurst & Crows Nest
Mohammed Sali has been sharing his love of southern Indian food with Sydneysiders for over 20 years. I love his spicy, sour rasam soup and struggle to choose from the selection of dosa (giant crisp rice and lentil crepes). Thankfully banquet menus and lunch thalis solve the dilemma.