4/203 Ballarat Rd (cnr Gordon St), Footscray. Phone: 9317 3811
It was something of a surprise to discover this establishment had been open since 2003, given the hundreds of time we must have driven past it none the wiser.
Doing a blog, it seems, is somewhat akin to getting a new pair of spectacles – you see things differently, better, in more detail.
Anyway, my food-attuned senses went on high alert with the emphasis on “southern” – I had visions dancing in my head of chowing down on exotic specialties from the likes of Madras and Kerala.
Alas, the reality was more prosaic – “southern”, in this case means mostly the familiar lineup of dosa, upma, wada (vada) and idly.
But let us not become too ho-hum.
After all, it was only a few years ago that dosas and the like were a no-show on the western suburbs cheap eats radar. That we have become somewhat spoilt for choice is a cause for celebration rather complacency.
Despite its given address, Southern Spice actually sits on Gordon St, in a strip of shops buffeted by buses and cars. It’s a crisp and clean, with the obligatory Bollywood dance routines bursting forth from a telly up in one corner. The staff and service are friendly.
In order to get across as much of their food as quickly as possible, I fronted for the South Indian buffet ($12) that is featured every Saturday and Sunday for lunch.
It was a thing of advanced yumminess.
Laid out buffet style are dal, cauliflower curry, potato curry, sambar, upma, vada, idly and two kinds of rice. On an adjacent tables sits a big bowl of peanut chutney studded with evil-looking dark red dried chillies.
Dosas and – much to my giddy joy – puris are cooked to order. Oh, bliss!
I managed to resist the buffet tradition of letting my eyes get ahead of my appetite, modestly loading up a stainless steel plate as I waited for my four puris.
It was all bloody delicious. The potato and cauliflower curries looked very similar, but tasted quite different, with the cauliflower having an extra tang. The dal was beaut, too, while the peanut chutney belied its fiery appearance by being a smooth, mildy-spiced, coconutty concoction – sort of like a runny South Indian peanut butter. The upma, white and cakey and studded with curry leaves and mustard seeds, was a little bland, but fine dipped in the sambar.
The made-for-me puris were superb – and about a grease-free as puris can be.
Southern Spice also has a feature called Biryani Fridays, for $13 and from 6pm, with a lineup that includes chicken, mutton and egg biryanis, chcken fry, raita and so on.
The day before I roadtested the wonderful South Indian buffet, I had a simple thali of goat madras (on the bone), “bhendi” fry (a very dry jumble of peanuts, crispy onion and chewy okra), raita, rice and a single papadam. It was OK, but the spice levels were in Johnny Cash territory – not my thing these days.
A can of that Coca Cola stuff costs a very excellent $1.
Southern Spice is nestled amid a rather drab cluster of shops and eats places, only about half of which are currently operating as businesses of varying kinds. But the area is changing – there’s a Korean BBQ joint across the road that looks just about ready to roll, while a few doors up what was once a fish and chip shop is being gutted. Stay tuned...
Southern Spice is also something of a rarity – a western suburbs cheap eat that has its very own website, a simple but detailed job that can be found here.