Indian food was one of the first exotic cuisines that many of us tried when we were younger though the history of Indian restaurants is relatively new in Sydney, which is surprising given the fact our British settlers love a curry. In fact it's just about 50 years, since the 1960s, that Indian restaurants have been cooking up traditional and innovative contemporary food in Sydney. Here's a look at some of our favourites from long standing Sydney Indian institutions to newly opened Indian doors.
1. Abhi's and Aki's
It's hard to have a favourite child so we've listed these two Indian sons together. The older and original Abhi's turned 25 last year.
"When I had my first son, Abhi, I soon after opened my first restaurant in North Strathfield which I named after him. Six years later, when I had my second son, Aki, my wife Suba was very vocal in her desire to have another restaurant named after Aki to avoid any perceived favouritism between our sons. Luckily I had my eye on a Woolloomooloo site and Aki’s opened in 1994. Needless to say, I am not in a hurry to have any more sons!
My restaurant Abhi’s in North Strathfield showcases my brand of contemporary Southern Indian cuisine, but in a casual, family friendly environment, with affordable prices. I opened Aki’s in Woolloomooloo to provide Sydney with a truly fine Indian culinary experience. From the immaculate table service, award winning local and international wine list, to the modern interpretations of traditional Indian recipes, Aki’s reflects the finer aspects of Indian cuisine." Chef Kumar Mahadevan enlightens us.
163 Concord Road, North Strathfield
+61 2 9743 3061
Number 1 Fingerwharf, 6 Cowper Wharf Roadway, Woolloomooloo *waterfront
+61 2 9332 4600
“17 years ago when my business partners and I opened our doors to Sydney diners, our mission was and still is to introduce Indian food that is not available in this country. This means no butter chicken, samosas or beef madras – these dishes did not originate from India and in fact most of the Madras population considers the cow sacred and does not eat beef” says Freddie Zulfiqar, Founding Director Zaaffran.
Since then, the tasty traditional Indian offerings of Zaaffran's spacious first floor Harbourside restaurant, with splendid views back to the city and caring service, have made this place one of our regular delish destinations.
Now Zaaffran have introduced a new Koomcha street food menu, including Firangi Frankie (Bombay’s ‘original’ multi grain taco with lamb), Chookudar Kay Gilavaat (Crisp beetroot patties with ginger and green chilli and semolina crust) and Dakhani Kebab Chicken tenderloins (Guilded gold with pepper, ginger, garlic and curry leaf).
10 Darling Drive, Harbourside Centre, Darling Harbour *waterfront
+61 2 9211 8900
3. Malabar South Indian Cuisine
Dosai, onion bhaji, samosa, rice, naan, and curries make up the extensive South Indian menus at the South Indian Malabar locations. Malabar is a great spot for vegetarians with vegetarian dosai, plenty of starters and six curries plus dal on the menu. Carnivores need not fret though as there's lots of curry options of goat, beef, lamb, chicken and seafood There aren't so many South Indian offerings in Sydney, and Malabar is not only tasty but reasonably priced, in lovely spacious settings, with lovely white clothed tables and prompt friendly service.
Recently Darlinghurst moved a few doors up from the original location and now sits magnificently perched in its larger lighter corner spot.
1/274-290 Victoria Street, Darlinghurst
+61 2 9332 1755
Malabar Crows Nest
334 Pacific Highway, Crows Nest
+61 2 9906 7343
The newest Indian offering in Sydney is also the most innovative. Describing itself as village culture, flavours and local hospitality Indu opened its doors in the CBD in the old heritage listed Dymock's bookstore basement to much fan fare. The menu inspirationally merges home cooking from the different regions of Indian into new and inspired contemporary Indian food. While all the original flavours are present, make no mistake, this is elegant food.
Smoked goat’s leg, zucchini ribbon raita, pomegranate, chilli & bacon jam dosa comes with upbeat presentation, open with the luscious filling slightly off centre. But close you eyes because even without looking this is fabulous food that tastes sensational. While the dosa bar starts the menu the menu moves on from the coast to the village, to curries and the grill. With a nod to colonial India, Indu also lists some interesting new gin and tonic combinations for those that like a drink.
The décor here is probably the most interesting and modern of the Indian restaurants in Sydney with luscious fabrics lining the cosy space and comfortable booths softening the feel of the cellar. Indu also offers an elegant private dining room space. Indu is more expensive than most Indian restaurants but a must try if you like a curry and a top pick if you are entertaining or celebrating a special occasion. Or celebrate every day you deserve it.
350 George Street, Sydney
+61 2 9223 0158
5. Manjit's @ The Wharf
Second generation Manjit's restaurants have a history that goes back even further and is related to the first Indian restaurant in Sydney. Following on from that heritage, and the continued success of its Balmain restaurant, Manjit's has added The Wharf at Lime Street as its newest venue. Here family member Varun Gujral and his kitchen team create alchemy with traditional Indian cooking such as tandoori. Manjit's banquets include Raita + Pappadums, Entrées – Banjara Tikka, Fish Amrtisari, Dilbahar Tikki, 3 main courses – Butter chicken, Bakra Roganjosh, Baigan Takatak, Naan and Rice. For the Barangaroo and office crowd Manjit's has a two curry lunch special.
10/49 Lime Street, Sydney *waterfront
+61 2 9279 3379
Manjit's also run an extensive and successful catering business that includes exclusively supplying Indian cuisine to the top hotels in Sydney, and event venues such as Doltone House and the AJC locations.
Photos courtesy of Zaaffran.