Tandoori Flames

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1/76 Yarra St, Geelong. Phone: 5298 2147

Not more than 24 hours after writing a snotty putdown of a yahoo email that imagined I’m the kind of food blog bloke who hustles free meals, there I was – accepting a free meal.

My Geelong lunches had long been reduced to routine and even tedium, the same takeaways eaten at my desk and, more and more often, packed lunches making the train trip with me.

So the previous week, I’d been delighted to find a new Indian joint just around the corner.

Tandoori Flames operates, particularly at night, as a more formal a la carte restaurant with all the usuals and mains ranging from $10 to $15.

But taking advantage of central location in Geelong’s CBD, they’re also wooing the lunchtime crowd with a shorter and cheaper menu, towards which I was drawn by my natural instincts .

On it are such items as pakoras, samosas, onion bhaji, tandoori chook, as well as a variety of salads and wraps.

The previous week I’d tried the chicken biryani, taken away and eaten at my desk. Not bad, either.

And the previous day, conscious of a tiny lunch-time window yet weary of the desk routine, I’d phoned ahead using one of the mobile numbers given me for just that purpose, wishing to ensure my meal as ready when I arrived.

About 20 minutes later I bowled up and … there was no one home. Literally.

Disappointed, I was forced to utilise the less attractive option of the Viet-Sino place next door.

Turns out that after taking my order, Jimmy had onpassed it – again by phone – to their chef, who in the meantime had had some sort of misadventure on the highway. No appearance, you worship!

Later in the afternoon, Jimmy phoned me in the office, gushing with apologies and promising me my next lunch “on the house”.

So there you go – a freebie meal, yes, but offered to and accepted by a regular customer, not a food blogger.

My “on the house” lunch order was the dish that had escaped me the previous day – chooley pathuray, Tandoori Flames’ version of the Kitchen Samrat dish earlier praised hereabouts.

And gosh it was good, the chick peas dancing with a deep red, tomatoey gravy of only mild spiciness, some raw chopped onion adding crunch.

The breads, two of them, were heavenly.

Deep fried and studded with black cardamom seeds that offer exquisite little grenades of flavour, they were so moreish as to put most routine flat breads, Indian or otherwise, in the shade.

The perfect lunch!

Another staff member, Jas, explained to me the difference between puris and pathuray – the former a lighter bread made with refined flour and commonly eaten as part of breakfast, the latter quite a bit heftier and made using plain flour.

Or as she put it: “With puris, I’ll eat four; with pathuray only two.”

It’s surprising it took me so long to work out that there’s a western suburbs angle to all this – the Geelong eatery is a branch of the familiar Tandoori Flames is South Kngsville and on the same street as Food By Motorino that made a good impression of Ms Baklover at Footcray Food Blog.

We’ve driven by heaps of times, but never stopped – maybe because they don’t do lunch.

Given the exceptional and caring service I’ve received at their new Geelong enterprise, the Kingsville Flames is on our hit list for a soon-come dinner.

The Melbourne branch of Tandoori Flames is at 15 Vernon St, South Kingsville (phone 9078 2726) and their website is here.

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