Hyderabad Inn, 551 Barkly St, West Footscray. Phone: 9689 0998
But while food, friendliness and pricing are always going to count more in our world than decor, we have not been alone in finding that the Hyderabad Inn dining room had pretty much the same charm as hospital canteen.
So I’m keen to check out the place’s new look and happy to report they’ve done a fine job.
With new chairs, banquettes, artwork and tables set with crisp white cloth and paper, now the wooden flooring becomes an asset rather than adding to a cold feel.
In the agreeably unlit gloom of a lunch session, with only one other table occupied but heaps of reservation cards on other tables, the space is nice. I can easily imagine that on a bubbly, busy Friday or Saturday night it would be even better.
The a la carte prices seem to have crept up somewhat – average curry price seems to be about $15.
But that’s never been our go here. The South Indian menu, thalis and biryanis are.
It’s while I’m mulling over these options that I remark to a staff member that the thalis no longer appear in the menu.
She quickly provides me the separate lunch card that has them front and centre.
Vegetarian thali with dal, two other vego curries, raita, naan, rice and a can of drink for $15.50?
Two complementary and spectacularly crisp and unoily papadams are served with a superbly creamy mint chutney that has a nice surprise – a just-right chilli hit.
My thali is a fine thing.
The dal is plain and just OK, studded with some fresh ginger pieces.
The vegetable curry has beans, peas, potato, capsicum, carrot and – even at a kick below medium hot – is the spiciest thing in front of me.
I’m no big fan of paneer or creamy sauces, but the paneer butter masala is so decadently silky I happily mop up every last drop of it with my very nice ghee-drizzled plain naan.
The raita is creamier than is often the case, though could have done with a dash of salt.
It’s only ater I have finished my meal that I tumble into a lovely conversation with the only other early lunchtime diners – Anand and Vidya and their kids Aishwaiya and Anand.
The couple are originally from Bangalore, call East Keilor home and are happily imbuing their children with the same foodie passion they themselves possess.
Our happy talk starts with our respective Hyderabad Inn meals – theirs including, among other things, puris and biryani – and heads on to other Indian eateries around Melbourne, the family’s recent visit to Paris (where they discovered French for “dosa” is “dosa”) and Vidya’s own cooking adventures.
Such wonderfully friendly folks!
Hyderabad Inn has being doing good things for a number of years and it now has a setting befitting the lovely food it turns out.
So it remains a mystery to me why it seems to be overlooked by many people in favour of other nearby, and more widely discussed, eateries – when it could easily be regarded as the best of the bunch.