Tiwari Tea House, 1/578 Barkly Street, West Footscray. Phone: 8529 5960
According to a recent story in one of the papers, the growth of skycscraper canyons in central Melbourne has been a thoroughly unplanned, haphazard process.
I figure much the same can be said for the flowering of Indian food in West Footscray and, to some extent, the surrounding areas.
I doubt that, 10 years or so ago, a bunch of ambitious Indian business people sat down and said: “Righto, we’re going to take over Barkly Street in West Footscray!”
Cities and their neighbourhoods often move in mysterious ways and, equally often, it’s only in hindsight that patterns can be perceived.
Count us among those who see what has developed in West Footscray as quite fabulous – something worth celebrating.
We have our favourite food there and favourite places, depending on our whim of the moment.
One thing we do look for is a point of difference.
Tiwari Tea House has that in spades.
While other Barkly Street eateries feature chaat – savoury Indian snack-type dishes – this place does nothing but.
The food is all vegetarian.
Four of us get into the menu (see below) and come away happy, and perhaps even feeling refreshed from eating snacky things so devoid of the heavy spicing and meatiness we often enjoy hereabouts.
As the name makes clear, this place is also much about tea – so we go with that flow, Bennie and I having the masala chai ($9.95 for two), while our pals Julian and Christine have black ginger tea.
This seems rather pricey for a couple of cups of chai.
We find it enjoyable, but wish we had ordered after our food started arriving – or even at the end of our meal – as we are pretty much done with it even before we start eating.
Maybe we’re missing something in terms of Indian chaat-eating and tea-drinking rituals and protocols?
No matter – we enjoy all our food, and love some of it a lot.
Big hits are our vada pavs ($6.95 each, top photograph).
Looking like tall, chubby burgers, these are bread buns stuffed with wonderful potato patties.
The potato is heavily infused with turmeric, but otherwise mildly seasoned.
That’s a lot carbs, right?
Yet the overall effect is much lighter than we may have been expecting and the flavours hit the spot.
We have two sets of crispy cutlets ($8.95 for two), served with dipping sauces of the tamarind and green chilli variety.
Leastwise, I think that’s what the sauces are – and I could certainly be missing some of the specifics.
The spinach-cheese cutlets are on the dull side.
No such problem with the mixed vegetable varieties – they’re both stuffed with a mix that is colourful and tasty.
These cute guys are dahi puri ($7.95 for six) – a close relative of the more familiar pani puri.
So closely related, I suspect, that I struggle to tell the difference, apart from the inclusion of yogurt – though there’s no doubt these sev-topped flavour bombs are delicious!
Aloo tiki chat ($8.95) is another big hit with all of us – we should’ve double ordered!
Yes, more potato.
Here, the spud rissoles appear to be even less seasoned, yet – nice surprise! – have a semblance of chargrill flavour.
They’re topped with a sticky jam/chutney, tomato, raw onion and more sev.
These are very, very nice.
I can see myself dropping into Tiwari Tea House with some regularity – when I feel like Indian flavours, but am not up to confronting a full-on biryani or some such.