Those who work in the city and walk along George Street on your daily commute may have seen the empty looking basement with windows at street level, just near the Ivy. I’ve always thought the prime location would make for an interesting restaurant or bar, but for the longest time it seemed to be a forgotten space…until now – it has been transformed by the team behind Mejico into a sleek, subterranean restaurant called Indu, serving up contemporary Indian cuisine.
It took us a couple of attempts to find the elusive entrance to Indu (try the alley that leads to Angel Place rather than George Street…) but that only adds to the sense of wonderment you feel as you step (or tumble down) into a rabbithole underneath George Street to enter Indu’s bustling space.
The first thing that hits you when you arrive is the bright, open kitchen where some of the chefs are hard at work behind a row of decorative spice sacks, and then the well stocked bar (with a great variety of premium gins), before you pass the private dining room and head into the restaurant proper, with its mix of cosy booth seats and standalone tables. There’s also an even flashier kitchen where the rest of the chefs are busy with their dishes, with the delicious aromas wafting out towards the restaurant.
Tonight we decide to sample their Indu Feast menu which means the chef “takes you on a journey around the subcontinent” for $65 a head – a.k.a. you get to pick something from their Dosa Bar menu, while the selections “from the coast” and “from the village” menus are chosen by the chef, as well as the 5 Spice crusted barramundi for mains, table-side coconut sambol as a palate cleanser in between dishes and the watermelon & fresh mint popsicle for dessert.
We started off with the Cured Salmon & Prawns served on a wafer-like papdi base which was the selection “from the coast”, which was wonderfully zesty and tasted a lot like a ceviche, with the fresh seafood melding together beautifully with the chilli, coriander, tamarind and mint chutney. A very appetising start to the meal that fired up our tastebuds.
Cured Salmon and Prawns
Next up, we were treated to the freshly made Table Side Coconut Sambol, which was created at our table by the waiter with a mortar and pestle – just like the guacamole over at Mejico, for some extra theatrical flair. The coconut sambol is an intriguing dish which is described as a palate cleanser to be eaten between the other dishes in the feast – it is seriously one of the tastiest “palate cleansers” I’ve ever had as it is packed full of flavour (dessicated coconut mixed with red chill, red onion and devilled cashew nuts) and served with an interesting Indian milk bun which is like a chewier brioche. My dining companion declared that he could eat a whole bowl of the coconut sambol on its own – it is that good.
The next dish “from the village” seemed to pale a little in comparison to the impressive palate cleanser – although that may be because I’m not a huge fan of okra due to its slimy texture. To Indu’s credit though, their Sesame Crusted Okra is pretty decent, with the sesame providing some much needed crunch to balance out the natural texture of the okra and the banana and tamarind chutney doing its job to distract too.
Sesame Crusted Okra
The last of the starters was the intriguing Smoked Goat’s Leg Dosa, which features a crispy, wafer thin crepe topped off with shredded smoked goat’s leg, a tasty chilli and bacon jam, zucchini ribbon raita and pomegranate seeds for extra colour. The smokiness of the goat meat meant that it didn’t taste as gamey as I thought it might, but the dosa itself was a bit harder to cut than I expected – it’s made out of rice batter and black lentils and takes a bit more force than usual to cut through!
Smoked Goat’s Leg with Chilli & Bacon Jam Dosa
Onto the mains – while the set Feast menu includes the 5 Spice crusted barramundi, on a recommendation from the staff we swapped our barramundi for their Pan Flashed Clams and Mussels from the “from the coast” menu. The shellfish smelled heavenly as they were being cooked in the fragrant Kerala coconut broth and tasted divine too, with some crunch coming from the disc of fried brown string hoppers which were good when dunked in the amazing broth, along with buttery roti. This dish was definitely the highlight of the meal.
Pan Flashed Clams and Mussels
While at first, there doesn’t seem to be that much food in the Feast menu, don’t be fooled by the relatively dainty portions – these dishes will fill you up somehow (may be the carbs). By the time we got around to dessert, we were pretty full and the Watermelon and Fresh Mint Popsicle was a fun and refreshing way to help us digest so that we could make some room for the star dessert – the sweet, golden Gulab Jamun dumplings which are rolled in coconut sand and served with a saffron anglaise and Kashmiri honeycomb shards. These plump little morsels were delectable, with a chewy texture and the caramel notes of the honeycomb were a lovely complement to the golden dumplings.
Watermelon and Fresh Mint Popsicles
Gulab Jamun, $16
We washed all these delicious dishes down with a couple of their excellent cocktails – my friend went for the Gin Mare with mango peel and black peppercorn and enjoyed the exotic additions to the gin & tonic, which brought out the delicate flavours of the premium gin with its smooth finish and aftertaste. I chose the Liquid Yoga, which was a very pretty and refreshing concoction featuring gin (again), with fresh strawberry, lemon juice and honey. Gin lovers will have a ball with their cocktail menu, to say the least.
Gin Mare with mango peel and black peppercorn, $16 and Liquid Yoga, $19
I haven’t been excited about a new restaurant in Sydney’s CBD for a while and Indu has really nailed it in terms of the decor, ambience, modern Indian menu and the calibre of their dishes, which put contemporary twists on Indian cuisine to create a new kind of east meets west fusion. Indu is shaping up to be the new hotspot for business lunches and dinners, with its convenient location, brilliant service and bustling vibe.
Excuse Me Waiter dined as guests of Indu