Stepping it up a tad, Indian style

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Nawab Sahab, 2/102-104 Watton Street, Werribee. Phone: 9749 8852

Luckily for us, the Indian food we most like is frequently produced by eateries at the lower end of the price spectrum.

But for once, we decide to try one of the spiffier places on Watton Street.

Not that Nawab Sahab, once you’re inside, is overwhelmingly grand or anything like that.

And the prices are very reasonable.

Very unusually for a western suburbs Indian eating house these days, there is no inclusion here of South Indian fare such a dosas, idlis, vadas and the like, and only a minimal Indo-Chinese component.

But there are handy points of difference choices under headings such Mumbai Special and Delhi Corner.

 

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Nawab Sahab also has a feature I have never before seen in an Indian restaurant – or a restaurant of any kind: A “selfie station” at which guests are invited to “dress up like a Hyderabdai prince”.

 

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We love it that a serve of papadums – unoily, crisp and with minty and tamarind dipping sauces on the side – is brought to our table without charge, as is a second serve.

For the first of two visits, Bennie and I both enjoy the “gold” thali (top photo) – at $21.50, a little more expensive than most of their kind, but still good.

Nice rice, a tangy chicken curry, a mushy one of the veg kind, rather crunchy chick peas, a way better-than-average raita, onion/pickle and a somewhat doughy gulab jamun – we are happy with what we eat.

 

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One of our thalis is served with a fine naan on the side …

 

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… the other with pooris.

 

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Our second visit, a week later, is uneven.

Bennie’s order of chicken noodles is a mistake.

Much as we like Indo-Chinese food, this dish reinforces for us the folly of ordering noodles in Indian eateries – though we have come across a few exceptions.

At $17.50, this over-priced for a very average noodle outing – though the serve is bigger, and deeper, that it first appears.

Really, either of the cheapie noodle houses a block away would do better for a quick, wok noodle fry-up.

Unfortunately, Bennie completes his dinner before mine arrives – and by now I’m wishing we’d gone elsewhere.

 

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My Amritsari kulcha ($16.50) does, however, redeem our night handily – especially when the second, advertised naan arrives.

The naan have only the very faintest paneer quotient, but are hot, lovely and slathered with ghee.

The chick peas are the same dark and overtly al dente specimens served with our earlier thalis and the raita is, again superb.

Check out the Nawab Sahab website – including menu – here.

 

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More dosa room in Tarneit

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Dosa Hut, Wyndham Village Shopping Centre, 380 Sayers Road, Tarneit. Phone: 8742 4263

We’re in Tarneit for the opening of Dosa Hut.

Well, not quite – we’ve been here before and this Dosa Hut branch has been open for a while.

But Dosa Hut Tarneit IS having something of an event to celebrate the unveiling of its extended premises.

There’s a buzz about the place, there’s VIPs and music and some speechifying.

Dosas – or, more accurately, dosas and the range of other Indian food that such places offer – are big business in the west these days.

So much so that even those Indian places that have generally long focussed on more regular curry fare have been forced to extend their menus to encompass dosas … and idlis and vadas and Indo-Chinese goodies.

 

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Competition is fierce – there’s four Dosa Hut joints across the city now.

And here in Tarneit, Dosa Hut is going head to head with Dosa Corner – just as they do in West Footscray.

But it’s worth remembering that it was Dosa Hut West Footscray that first brought dosas to the west – and it’s on that basis that we’re happy to drop into the Tarneit office on this auspicious evening.

The menu appears to be the same, longish affair – and with quite a number of dishes struck out.

But nevertheless, we have a ball ordering a couple of dishes that offer points of difference and find everything delicious.

 

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Beaut idlis are brought to our table soon after we have ordered – and on the house.

They make a nice light start – though at this point we fear way too much food may be coming our way.

 

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Pav bhaji ($9.95) is a Mumbai-style snack dish – and utterly simple and wonderful.

The potato-based, mild vegetable curry is tremendous while the buttered rolls belie, I suspect, a lingering influence of English colonial days.

 

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After experiencing some overly damp and flaccid Indo-Chinese food in recent times, it’s a joy to lay eyes on and devour this crispy goat ($12.95).

It’s dry, chewy, boneless and fragrant, the jumble of diced veg resembling the sort of trimmings that come with salt-and-pepper dishes in Malaysian and Chinese places.

 

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Regular chicken biryani ($11.95) is really fine, as expected, all the bits and pieces in good order.

We depart full and very happy, only to discover a red carpet has been laid out since our arrival.

We give it a strutting, opening-night whirl anyway.

 

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Got the Punjab covered

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Sada Bahaar, 308 Ballarat Road, Braybrook.

When Sadia – that’s her on the left – arrived in Australia from Pakistani Punjab about four years ago, she quickly realised she was going to need a driver’s licence for her new life.

In the course of obtaining one, her driving instructor was Ravinder – that’s her on the right – who hails from Indian Punjab.

Out of that experience grew a friendship and now a restaurant.

And along the way, Sadia, too, has become a driving instructor.

Sada Bahaar (it means ever-green) is situated on a stretch of Ballarat Road that is never, ever going to win any beauty contests.

But it is showing signs of increasing foodiness, what with the presence of a long-time Sri Lankan place we have yet to cover, a much newer, cheap ‘n’ cheerful Sri Lankan place, as well as a burger joint. Also nearby, just around the corner really, is the wonderful West of Kin.

 

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The origins in friendship of Sada Bahaar imbue this comfy eatery with a vibe that is almost unRestaurant – the same person who takes your order is also going to be among those knocking your food together in the kitchen.

We like that.

We like, too, the chance to explore some different and Pakistani dishes from the usual Indian stuff we devour on a weekly (at least) basis.

To that end, our very good buddy Nat Stockley has already made inquiries along those lines even before Bennie and I rock up.

We enjoy a very tasty meal that blends Indian and Pakistani tucker in fine home-cooked style.

 

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Dahi bhalay ($7.50) are deep-fried urad dal dumplings served with spiced yogurt, chick peas and onion bits.

They are also very nice – the blandness of the dumplings (they have, for all of us, a touch of the felafel about them) offset by the tangy toppings.

 

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Haleem is not so much a Pakistani dish but more a staple – made of grains, pulses, meat – across the Muslim world that is often associated with Ramadam.

This chicken version ($10) is very soup-like, the chook so finely minced that it all becomes one with the ingredients.

With its cool fried-onion topping, it reminds me of our favourite Iraqi soup.

 

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From the tight barbecue section of the menu we get lamb seekh kebab ($10) – two long, skinless snags of minced lamb that is quite crumbly but nevertheless delicious.

 

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All too often, the chick peas we get in Indian restaurants seem to be getting a bit tired on it.

By contrast, the Sada Bahaar Lahori cholay ($10) smacks of freshly cooked – but with the gravy and intact pulses nicely integrated.

And as you can see by the many flecks of chilli, this is quite highly spiced food – as are most of our dishes.

 

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Sada Bahaar special kahari ($14) is the triumph of the night and our meal.

A rich (and, yes, rather oily) chook curry, it has high-impact flavours that are boosted to another, higher level by the dish being festooned with many ginger strands and discs of fresh, green chilli.

The chicken pieces are quite bony, and some of our party get more meat than others, but this is a beauty.

 

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We get one each of the regular and garlic naans ($1 each, both pictured above) – they’re OK but unusual in that they’re more like flat bread than most naan we eat.

I prefer the chapati ($1, not pictured) we also order.

 

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On earlier, reconnaissance visit by myself, I enjoyed the very affordable ($9.95) chicken biryani – it’s a rather dry version, but the flavours are all there, the raita joined in this case by a plate of salad veg instead of the more usual gravy.

Sadia tells us that much praise for her cooking was often attended by suggestions she should start a restaurant.

We’re glad she’s spreading some of that love around.

Especially given the low prices and welcoming, low-key ambience.

Thanks to Nat Stockley for help with the pics.

 

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Indian surprise

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Ethnic India, 4/2-6 Kilmur Road, Hoppers Crossing. Phone: 9369 4133

Ethnic India is located on the Golden Mile in Hoppers Crossing, on one of the light industrial/commercial precincts that are offshoots of it.

When I Bennie and I arrive for our Sunday lunch, I get a surprise.

I’d visited on my own several months previously for a quick look and lunch.

At that time, I reckoned Ethnic India must have been easily the biggest Indian restaurant in Melbourne, taking up a whole warehouse.

Through the use of screens and such like, efforts had been made to create a separate restaurant space from the bar, functions rooms, kitchen and so on.

But, basically, it was a huge space.

What Bennie and I find is quite different.

The proprietors have pretty much created a building within a building – all the same facilities remain but they are much more strictly defined.

 

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They include a restaurant space that is the typical flash of some Indian places – including tall-backed chairs so lavishly cushioned that, upon sitting, you feel like you are sinking almost until your chin rests on the table.

On this day, there are a heaps of guests arriving for a catered birthday party out back, but we are the only restaurant guests.

The very long menu (see below) is presented on both sides of two wooden paddles.

We proceed to enjoy a fine light lunch.

Onion bhaji ($8.50, top photograph) are less like the Indian-style onion rings we are expecting and more like pakoras.

They’re good, though, and nicely moist. We take two of them home for Bennie’s next-day school lunch.

 

 

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Cholle bhature is also very good, if a bit pricey at $15 for a snack-style offering.

The chick peas are excellent – they seem fresher than is often the case with this dish and are mildly spiced.

The breads are a tad oily but hot and fine.

 

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The price is ameliorated somewhat by the $15 deal also including this salted “Punjabi style” lassie.

 

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I was fascinated to read this story about biryanis – I had no idea there are so many varieties!

I wish more of them were available in Melbourne!

I think the mostly uniform biryanis we eat in and around West Footscray are of the Hyderabad kind.

The Ethnic India lamb biryani ($15) is a significant contrast.

All is different from what we are familiar with – the seasoning (mild chilli levels); the colour; the inclusion of many currants, cashes and green capsicum pieces; lamb chunks not on the bone but instead of the kind you’d find in a regular curry – most welcome!

There’s a hefty serve of raita on the side to complete a solid offering.

Ethnic India is well worth a try – and parking is a breeze.

 

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Meal of the week No.29: Bollywood Sweet Bazaar

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Bollywood Sweet Bazaar has been open a couple of months at shop 2/49 Synnot Street, Werribee, specialising in “pure ghee sweets” and a colourful Bollywood theme.

But they do savory snacks and the like, too.

Top of the list is this puri aloo sabzi for $9.

How good is it for $9?

Three rather doughy but very nice puris, a runny but good chick pea curry, yogurt adorned with puffed rice, pickle and a super potato/onion curry seasoned with mustard seeds, curry leaves and fresh coriander.

It’s a righteous, bargain-priced flavour blast.

I’m betting the two pieces of chocolate barfi I depart with are the good, too!

 

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Nice Indian mix, great prices

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Chutneys, 8/1 Elgar Road, Derrimut. Phone: 8361 7588

There’s Indian food in the Derrimut area, but this new place Chutneys is worthy of celebration because it’s the first of its kind there.

No butter chicken at this place.

But there is Indo-Chinese, biryanis, dosas, chaat dishes, uttapams and thalis – all at very cheap prices and served up in friendly cafe-style premises (see menu below).

 

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Vegetarian thali hits the spot with its recipient, CTS pal Marnie, who works her way through the lot …

Sambar (as served with dosas), dal, a suitably mushy vegetable curry with good knobs of cauliflower and a very good dry carrot curry.

There’s raita and a papadum joining the rice and the deal is sealed with some good, sweet halva.

Nice job for $10.95.

My vegetable uttapam ($10.95, top photograph) is just as good.

The “pizza” is fresh, hot and moist in its centre, and goes just right with the same accoutrements served with dosas and idlys.

 

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On an earlier visit with the Nat Stockley crew, our choices run to the Indo-Chinese portion of the menu.

The prawn noodles ($14.95) are a highlight – fresh, light and expertly cooked with as little oil as the kitchen could get away with.

 

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The pepper chicken ($11.95) is another good ‘un and very tasty.

 

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For our other choices we select from the “wet” Indo-Chinese options with somewhat mixed results.

The chilli fish ($13.95) is lovely, but …

 

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… the chilli chicken ($11.95) and …

 

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… gobi Manchurian ($11.95), while also enjoyable, have a certain sameness about them in terms of seasoning, texture and flavour.

Still, these are small quibbles given the prices and location.

Chutneys will doubtless become very popular.

Memo to self: When ordering Indo-Chinese, stick with the dry option!

 

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OMG Indian sweets

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Kumar’s Sweets, Shop 3, 85 Mount Derrimut Road, Deer Park. Phone: 8361 7303

After my story about Kumar’s Sweets was published in The Age in October, I thought that was that … next!

However, in the subsequent months, Kumar’s Sweets has become a firm favourite of CTS – meaning it’s high time it had a highly justified post of its own right here!

 

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Look, at Kumar’s you can get typically rich staples of Indian sweetdom, such as barfi or gulab jamun.

You can get, too, a line-up of savoury snacks – often, salty and spicy; always delicious.

 

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But we what REALLY like is a tight line-up of gorgeous and jewel-like Indian sweets largely based on little more than nuts and dried fruit.

That’s right – they could even be loosely labelled as “healthy”; but these are about a gazillion light years in every way from your dreary “health food bars”.

Ugh.

 

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Nope, these – including the wonderful cassata in the top photograph – are something else.

Very highly recommended by CTS.

 

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Footscray’s new spicy place

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Spicy Chef, 359 Barkly Street, Footscray. Phone: 9687 7224

This was something of an impromptu CTS gathering that came together very easily.

A spare Sunday night, a new Indian place to try, who’s in?

So it was that six of us gathered with just one aim in mind – to take for a spin the Spicy Chef opening special of biryani, starter, salad and drink for $11.95.

We had good meals but I suspect there’s plenty more to explore at Spicy Chef in the coming weeks and months – certainly the pricing (compared with other Footscray Indian places) is very reasonable on the menu proper across the usual range of curries and dosas.

 

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The best thing about our meal deals was that they were served on thali trays and that constituted excellent all-round meals for one.

Like many people, perhaps even most, I usually struggle to go even close to finishing a regular, inevitably huge serve of biryani.

So having a smaller portion mixing it with a starter and salad (even if it is just some slices of carrot and cucumber) and a drink thrown in is a fine thing.

Perhaps other restaurateurs could take this idea and run with it!

Our biryanis were uniformly fine, with good raita and spicy gravy on the side and enough fried onion strands to make the rice dishes sing.

We mostly chose goat biryani and it was good, with quite a lot of meat that came from the bones quite easily.

The starters didn’t quite reach the same standard but were OK, ranging from onion bhaji (top photograph) to …

 

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… egg bhaji to …

 

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… eggplant fritters to …

 

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… chicken 65.

This latter was Bennie’s choice and he probably did the best of us.

 

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Nice place for Indian

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Dosa Plaza, 20 Adelphi Bvd, Point Cook. Phone: 8334 4100

Dosa Plaza is situated in Soho Village, a small, crammed-in commercial/apartment development just off Sneydes Road.

It’s a lovely place – there’s plenty of light and part of the restaurant looks out on to a small park.

There are Dosa Plaza joints also in Camberwell, Preston and Dandenong, while the company website has a section for those interested in checking out franchise opportunities.

The restaurant’s big strength is that it is entirely vegetarian.

On the other hand, the menu (see below) is so very long that a Sunday lunch for a CTS trio is little more than a snapshot of what is available.

 

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Pani puri ($8) are presented to us as separate components and we have a ball combining them.

The rotund puri are crisp-as yet we easily and without mishap crack holes into each into which the stuff the rice puffs, a superb potato mash and the tamarind sauce.

The result is all-round excellence.

 

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Bennie’s mum orders palak paneer $12), a dish on which she’s a self-professed expert.

She likes this one but it is more creamy than she prefers and lacks a bit of zing.

Her naan is fine though it is soft and pliable rather than crisp.

 

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From the Indo-Chinese selections, Bennie picks “paneer schewzan noodles” ($11.50).

He describes them as being OK and falling somewhere between what one may find in a food court or in one of our fave West Footscray spicy haunts.

 

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My Punjabi thali ($13.50) looks a treat but ultimately disappoints.

The best of it are a lovely raita, the rice with peas and a fabulously moreish carrot halva studded with sultanas.

The three curry dishes – the above mentioned palak paneer, a tomato-based vegetable stew and an aduki bean dal – are dull.

 

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We enjoy our time at Dosa Plaza even if our food selections mostly fail to wow us.

We can’t help but wonder if there’s greater wonders in that huge menu.

If we lived around here we’d be in this place at least a couple of times a week finding out!

 

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What’s up in Willy?

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Raga Indian Cuisine, 223 Nelson Place, Williamstown. Phone: 9397 6982

A couple of years ago, Consider The Sauce was very excited to try – for the first time – the funky South African workingman’s soul food that is bunny chow.

Sadly, before I got around to a return visit to Sanctuary Lakes shopping centre for a return encounter, the humble cafe concerned closed down.

(See here for that story and some background on bunny chows!)

So I was delighted, as we ambled away from enjoying Nelson Place’s new Italian joint, that Bennie noticed the above notice in the window of a nearby Indian eatery.

At the first available, opportunity I’m there.

After I order my lamb bunny, the staff/management soon work out I’m “that guy with that camera” – and I am unsurprised to learn Raga has ties to the now defunct Point Cook cafe at which I first tried a bunny chow!

 

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So I am brought a complementary dish courtesy of the chef.

Quail 65 is a knockout – and probably the best Indo-Chinese dish I’ve ever tried.

The rotund fritters are wonderfully crisp and nicely salty on the outside, while the shredded quail meat inside is fabulous.

All is attended by lovely, spiced cucumber noodles.

They are so good!

But I am mindful of leaving room for my bunny so donate the remaining two fritters to the grateful inhabitants of the adjacent table.

 

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Now take it as given that my experience with bunny chows is limited … but that said, I reckon my Raga lamb bunny is a killer delight.

The accompanying salad, served in a giant prawn cracker, is just right.

The lamb curry is plentiful, very spicy and studded with tender spud chunks.

This time around, knowing a little of bunny lore, I make only small use of cutlery, mostly use my hands and love every mouthful of curry and bread.

But it’s a big meal and I call a halt to my feasting after consuming all the curry and about half the bread.

The price?

I suspect experienced Durban bunny hounds will snort with derision at paying $17.50 for what is ostensibly blue-collar street food.

But I don’t have any problem with the price tag – it’s a good investment, IMO, for a fine meal.

And especially given this is probably the only place in Melbourne, and even within Australia, that serves bunny chows.

After all the cafe-style Indian places we frequent, it’s been real nice to spend some time in a proper, well-appointed Indian restaurant.

And the thalis ordered by a happy a neighbouring table seem like a great deal. The thalis, like the bunnies, are served on Mondays and Tuesdays.

The mint/tamarind sauce that came with my papadums was adorned with latte art!

 

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Westie eats goss 13/3/16

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Down on sleepy Woods Street, Laverton, Seven Star Chinese Restaurant has been open a few months, inhabiting a property formerly occupied by an Indian grocery.

 

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Strolling inside, I am delighted to find a rather lovely and swish dining room.

At Seven Star, dishes such as beef with black bean sauce and satay beef with vegetables are relegated to the “Oz style Chinese dish” section of the menu.

Under the “Authentic Chinese dish” section are to be found such overtly interesting fare as garlic pig tripe, fish flavour eggplant with pork mince, crispy pig trotters and boiled fish with pickled cabbage and chilli.

There’s also a cold list that includes fried peanut salad, oily chicken, wined chicken, pig ear in chilli oil and braised chicken giblets.

CTS will be checking this place out for sure, so stay tuned for a review!

 

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Taste Of The Middle East is on Synnot Street in Werribee, right next to Coles.

Following up on a reader tip – thanks, Clint! – I am surprised to find that it’s no longer in the “coming soon” category but is up and running for Sunday lunch.

However, I soon discover a menu that’s dedicated to eggs, steak sangers, parmas and the like.

Turns out the regular cafe menu will continue to run in the mornings and I’m a day early for the Middle Eastern goodies, which will kick in later in the day – beginning the day after my brief visit.

We’ll be checking this one out, too.

 

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Coming soon is Dosa Palace in Altona.

Brought to us by Nagesh of Hyderabad Inn fame, it’s located on Millers Road, Brooklyn, between the West Gate Freeway and Geelong Road.

This is undoubtedly a novel place to open a restaurant, with solid commercial/industrial on one side of Millers Road and a rather lovely residential neighbourhood tucked away on the other.

Will be interesting to see how it goes.

Despite the name, expect pretty much a full-service Indian line-up of food.

Flash, big Indian for Footscray

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By Erika Jonsson

There’s no doubt Barkly Street in Footscray has been experiencing something of a renaissance.

Littlefoot Bar and Restaurant and African favourites such as Dinknesh Lucy and Kokeb have been drawing increasing numbers of people beyond the traditional Hopkins strip.

Now the long-empty, very big premises at 250 Barkly St – which was a Sichuan hotpot joint in its last incarnation – is being fitted out as a classy new Indian place.

Sankranti already has half a dozen up-market branches in Singapore and another two in Chennai. This will be its first Australian venture and operators are hopeful of a March opening.

The menu will feature classic north Indian and Indo-Chinese food as well as seasonal specials.

It’s good news for this site right next door to Nando’s, which has been gathering dust for some years. Locals are licking their lips in anticipation.

Fine Indian in Hoppers with a late-night option

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Delhi Nights, 13 Old Geelong Road, Hoppers Crossing. Phone: 8087 0295

As with so many unassuming shopping strips, it’s easy to miss the row of shops and eateries across the road from Hoppers Crossing train station.

It has a cool cafe in the form of Corinthians and I’ve heard that the pies at Pauls Traditional Bakery & Cafe are well worth a try.

But Indian on this strip?

We’ve never before noticed it.

Even Bennie is surprised, as this is all familiar territory to him on account of this tangle of rail lines and roads being part of his daily school routine.

Turns out we haven’t really been inattentive as Delhi Nights has been open only a couple of months.

 

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It has all the hallmarks of being a good, cheap neighbourhood Indian eatery – plain but nice decor, a big display of sweets and savoury snacks, Bollywood on a big screen in the corner, a long menu and several tables of happy locals in for an early dinner.

Actually, perhaps the most notable thing about Delhi Nights is that it is open from 10pm through to 2am on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

At those times, a “Night Menu” (see below) of chaats and a half-dozen or so curries is in play.

 

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Wow.

How about that?

A late-night western suburbs curry joint in Hoppers Crossing.

I’m told the response to this innovation has been good.

The Delhi Nights menu covers all the expected bases, though the dosa and Indo-Chinese lineup is not as lengthy as those in most such places.

Best of all, from my biased point of view, the chaat menu extends to some sexy stuffed breads and the like – including aloo puri, pav bhaji, Amritsrai kulcha thali and aloo prantha thali.

 

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My gobhi prantha thali ($11.99) is the goods, with an impressive pile of breads stuffed with a crumbly cauliflower mix.

These, though, are very spicy to my way of thinking and tasting, so I make no use of the pickle on hand but make very happy with the raita.

 

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Bennie is very happy with his “dine-in” thali spcial ($11.99).

With this he gets his choice of a meat curry (lamb Madras is this case), a “chef’s choice” veg curry, a plain naan and raita.

The menu says he should also get saffron rice, as other customers are, but he worries not as what is in front of him is just right and he happily scoops up the lot.

All too often these sorts of thali deals seem to involve whatever tired curries happen to be lying around in the kitchen.

That’s certainly not the case here, with the chick peas in particular having a lovely freesh-cooked appeal.

The service has been fine and the papadums free.

 

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Diwali with Suneeti

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Consider The Sauce never takes for granted the heart-and-soul situations that open up for us because we do what we do.

 

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A year or so ago, for instance, I spent an entire day with our wonderful friend and fellow blogger the Urban Ma and her family, preparing and then eating a fabulous Pinoy feast.

 

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This one is a bit like that …

 

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I met Suneeti when she and some pals were guests at the CTS Feast held at Curry Leaves, the fabbo Sri Lankan eatery in Sunshine.

 

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We sat at the same table, got talking and soon discovered that when it comes to sub-conintental eats – and what’s hot and what’s not so much in the western suburbs – we are very much on the same page.

 

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All of which led to the question: Would Bennie and I like to be guests at her family’s regular Diwali bash in their Sunshine home?

 

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Yes!

 

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And what a fine time we had!

 

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We enjoyed meeting a varied bunch of lovely folks.

 

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This was not you hardcore devout Hindu Diwali party – the assembled guests and family were from all over; there was meat and alcohol, though not a lot of either.

 

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The food?

 

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OMG – sensational!

 

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Mildly spiced, as befits a gathering at which there are numerous young children, but still just so very fine.

 

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Thanks, Suneeti!

 

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And, yep, we’d really like to return next year!

This story and these photos are published with Suneeti’s happy approval – she was too busy to take pics so is looking forward to this post as a memento!

 

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Veg Indian home delivered

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Krishna Pait Pooja,578 Barkly Street, West Footscray. Phone: 9687 5531

Long before there were double-figure Indian eateries in West Footscray, there was Krishna.

As far as I know and can recall, it was the first.

Certainly, it’s been there as long as we’ve been in the west – a duration I can readily ascertain by referring to Bennie’s age (14)!

As the influx of other Indian eateries into West Footscray gathered momentum, Krishna seemed to be neglected – but it kept on keeping on.

Then, about a year ago now I think, it went all-in vegetarian.

This we applaud – any point of difference beyond those surrounding is a Good Thing.

Though a good few of those newcomers – perhaps even all of them – have South Indian options on their menus so the vegetarian thing perhaps is not so starkly different after all.

As well, the non-meat Krishna menu features such things as soy nuggets and tofu, which we are not much interested in eating in an Indian context.

Or, in the case of the soy nuggets, in any context at all!

 

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Still, we have been to wanting to try meat-free Krishna for a while and the opportunity arises with a rare home delivery on a lazy Saturday night.

What we get, promptly delivered and very reasonably priced, is a good and solid Indian feed with a few bemusing quirks.

The mushroom soup ($5) is not unpleasant but it is quite salty and quite odd tasting – and not particularly of mushrooms.

The raita ($3.50) is a tad too sweet for our tastes but otherwise OK.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, our single naan ($1.50) has steamed in its foil wrapping so is floppy and moist.

The mixed pickles ($1.50) are so pungent with mustard oil we don’t even try them.

Mustard oil is one of those things we haven’t found a way to love, despite the amount of Indian food we eat.

But …

 

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… the dal tadka ($9.95) is fine.

We’ll always order this or an equivalent instead of the creamy richness that is restaurant dal makhani.

 

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One of the joys of Bennie being a co-blogger for five years is the openness he has developed to trying new things.

Quite often, he’s happily prepared to go where his dad demures.

One of things he has grown to like is eggplant – so we’re happy to give baingan bhaji ($9.50) a go.

As it turns out, this as much capsicum, onion and peas as it is eggplant.

And quite oily, too, though not unforgivably so.

But it IS an enjoyable curry of the dry style nevertheless.

Dandenong road trip

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MKS Spices’n Things, 23 Pultney Street, Dandenong. Phone: 9701 3165

Living in the west means, by definition, living away from Melbourne’s centre.

Yet by other measures the west, or the inner west at least, is very much inner city.

The greater western suburbs may be growing at a prodigious rate but they still have some way to go to match the imposing sprawl of of Melbourne’s east and south.

In fact, such a big spread is Melbourne that getting to those far flung-areas for food adventures requires planning and some significant driving.

The Maroondah Highway is our least favourite!

 

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Dandenong, I know, is packed with many sorts of foodie wonders and I wish we could explore there with more ease.

But with nothing pressing in the west, I’m more than happy to indulge in an overdue catch-up with Nat and a quickie lunch trip to Dandy.

It’s a bleak day and we don’t really explore, for instance, the Indian and Afghan precincts but it’s all good fun.

 

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For lunch we hit MKS Spices’n Things.

Says Nat: “It’s got the best ever bain marie!”

He’s not wrong!

 

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The live food aspects is just part of what is a very big supermarket operation but the area around the bain marie displays is crazy busy this Saturday.

We take our numbers and wait to put in our orders.

The range on hand for this first-time visitor is bamboozling and in the end I feel like I could’ve done better.

 

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Two parathas with goat and okra curries plus chutney costs a fine $8.45.

But all is just adequate and some of it is distinctly not hot or even warm.

The vegetable curry also has onion and capsicum but the okra pieces themselves are splendid and the highlight of my lunch.

 

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A fried chicken maryland is sticky, cold but actually quite good.

 

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Nat, for whom this not a first visit, appears to do way better with his plate of biryani, goat curry, greens and a fab-looking dal.

He cleans his plate.

Yes, all the plastic here is a drag.

But observing the place in operation, I’m pretty sure management figures it’s the only viable way for them to go with their current set-up.

 

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On the way home, we stop at the fabulous establishment known as Oasis Bakery in Murrumbeena so I can happily spend almost $100 stocking up on Lebanese pies for the freezer and much more.

 

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As Nat says, it ain’t the cheapest but for me the quality is terrific.

Sadly, it also is nutty busy, preventing us from stopping awhile for coffee and sweets.

But I do like how one of the Oasis folks at the cash register refers to me as “young man”.

 

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Dosas go (further) west

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Dosa Hut, Wyndham Village Shopping Centre, 380 Sayers Road, Tarneit. Phone: 8742 4263

Dosa Hut in West Footscray has become an institution.

So much so that even the recent appearance of an upstart imitator right across the road has caused not a blip in Dosa Hut’s business.

But it should always be gratefully remembered that it was Dosa Hut that brought dosas – and related foods such as idlis and vadas – to Melbourne’s west.

Those introductions have wrought a revolution.

These days, it’s very rare to find an Indian restaurant on West Footscray’s Barkly Street Indian precinct – or Werribee’s equally busy Watton Street – that doesn’t sell dosas and the like.

As well, most who do so are these days also selling biryanis, Indo-Chinese dishes and even breakfast/snack dishes such as bhel puri and cholle bhature.

And they are often doing so without having on their menus once-were-staples such as beef vindaloo or butter chicken.

All this has been great for us punters – we’ve got more variety of Indian food in the west at lower prices than is normally the case in more formal a la carte joints.

It can even be argued that much of this new wave of Indian food is healthier!

 

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But as we’ve been chowing down on our inner-west dosas, the western suburbs themselves have been expanding at a frenetic pace.

And in the new housing wilds of Tarneit and Truganina, there has been little or no Indian food to be had – until now.

I suspect the opening of a Dosa Hut branch at Wyndham Village Shopping Centre is a masterstroke – one that is soon to followed by another branch at Roxburgh Park.

The new Tarneit establishment has more obvious similarities to a fast-food place than its West Footscray sibling – the young and efficient staff are even decked out in uniform black, including caps, and the ordering process is conducted via tablets.

But as far as we can tell, the long menu is the same.

There’s enough that’s recognisable about our surroundings that we relax but we nevertheless stick to a couple of old stagers to share – just to make sure the food here is of the same high standard as closer to home.

As we fully expect it to be …

 

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Masala dosa ($9.50) – with the crisp, fermented rice and black lentil crepe stuffed with spuds – is the default position when it comes to dosas; not as bare or unadorned as a plain dosa, not as rich as those stuffed with lamb, chicken or cheese.

This is a fine version with all the accoutrements lined up, including a very fine sambar (a soupish, curry mix of dal and vegetables), though the potato masala is bit more dry and crumbly than we are familiar with.

 

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Chicken biryani ($11.95) looks a little on the plain, unseasoned side as it is brought to our table.

 

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But spilling the rice, profusely studded with cloves and cardamom pods, on to our metal tray reveals a much wetter and more highly flavoured mixture.

Buried among it are a chook drumstick and a meaty thigh, both good of flavour.

The peanutty gravy and runny raita are the usual, expected and enjoyable accessories.

Just one, final word of warning – not all the food at the likes of a Dosa Hut is highly spiced and hot.

But most of it is – if you’re not used to very hot food, or who have children who are likewise, ask the staff for safe tips.

Meal of the week No.11: Saudagar

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Saudagar has been a Footscray fixture for years.

I’ve had their cholle bhatura and tried some of their sweets.

But it’s never appealed as an obvious or attractive place in which to obtain a nice, cheap feed of Indian tucker.

 

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So I am delighted – thrilled even! – to discover the place has been spruced up a bit with some new furniture and a much more welcoming look that says, “Come and eat here!”

Aside from the sweets, the prices – AFAIK – are the cheapest in the inner west: Vegetarian main courses all about $8, meat mains about $10, chicken biryanai $9.

 

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I enjoy a vegetarian thali priced at $8.

Unbuttered naan – and that’s fine by me.

Excellent, uncreamy daal that has a nice hit of ginger and appears to be made of aduki beans.

Malai kofta – wonderfully delicate and toothsome potato and cheese balls in a creamy cashew nut sauce.

Fluffy rice, pickles, onion slices.

I love my Saudagar lunch but I’m not about to tell you that it’s exceptional in any way – and that’s a profound testament to just how rich we are in the west of terrific Indian food.

 

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Back at Pandu’s

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Pandu’s, 351 Barkly Street, Footscray. Phone: 8307 0789

We haven’t eaten at Pandu’s for a good long while and we’re excited to be back.

Even more so because among our group of six are two people who have pretty much eaten the inner west dry but have yet to dine at this Footscray Indo-Chinese institution.

And there’s two others have never tried Indo-Chinese at all!

After we enter and a get a table, I realise there have been changes at Pandu’s.

There’s more people in the kitchen.

The prices have crept up – but not too much.

And there’s a new menu that considerably broadens Pandu’s previously hardcore Indo-Chinese line-up.

There’s biryanis, dosas and – oh yes! – cholle bhatrua and pooris with potato maslala.

Most of those will have to wait for another day, however, as we stick – with one exception – to Indo-Chinese.

 

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One member of our group is quite taken with idea of nachos salad as spied on the online menu – as am I.

So we order two.

What we get is, well, weird.

Doritos drizzled with some yogurt and sprinkled with not a lot of cheese, onion and greenery.

It’s OK to nibble on before our more fully cooked goodies arrive.

But Doritos?

Ugh!

In quick time, arriving at our table are …

 

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… vegetable manchurian …

 

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… cauliflower 65 and …

 

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… pepper fish.

By unanimous acclaim, the fish is our meal’s big winner.

Encased in a delicious but not particularly peppery coating are gorgeously tender and tasty chunks of white fish.

As Josh says: “I could eat these all night!”

The gobi and vegetable ball dishes – standard orders for Bennie and I at Pandu’s – are good, too, though a little wetter than we’ve had on previous occasions.

We bulk up our meal by ordering another standard for us …

 

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… veggie hakka noodles as well as …

 

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… veggie Singapore fried rice.

Both are simple but very good in that trans-national way that we usually expect more of the food from Malaysia or Singapore but which is right at home with Indo-Chinese.

Finally, we also enjoy a fine chicken biryani – which I forget to photograph!

 

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Bennie and I reckon the portion sizes of non-carb Indo-Chinese selections may have been a bit smaller than on previous visits – but that could be because there’s so many pals with us tonight and the food disappears quickly.

As well, we note that the shredded cabbage is of a rougher cut that makes it less appealing to incorporate into our meal, and that the gobi, fish and vegetable balls are not adorned with the usual jumble of chillis, curry leaves, onion and capsicum.

But still, these are minor quibbles – Pandu’s remains our go-to place for Indo-Chinese.

I have not kept track of prices as I expect to just call up the Pandu’s website when I get home.

But now I discover the prices there are not up to date!

But here’s the biz – for all of the above food, and a fine meal, the six of us pay a few bucks over $90.

That is, about $15 each!

Fantastic!

 

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Indian street food in Laverton

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A-One Sweets, 52 Bladin Street, Laverton. Phone: 8360 7989

Consider The Sauce enjoyed its visit with the Urban Ma to new CBD joint Delhi Streets – the food we had was good.

But I have been bemused, but not surprised, by some subsequent reviews of the place.

More precisely, I’m bemused that the place’s publicity is being bought into to such an extent that it is being put about that Delhi Streets is doing something edgy and adventurous in “bringing Indian street food to Melbourne”.

I feel this is misleading as just about everything Delhi Streets serves has long been available across Melbourne, including West Footscray, Werribee and elsewhere.

The places that do Indian street food can sometimes be businesses of the more regulation Indian variety that have dosas, chaat and the like on their menus – but they’re also often humble shops that do little more than serve snacky Indian treats and have overwhelmingly Indian customers.

A-One Sweets is one such place.

 

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Like so many of its kind, it’s a bare-bones Indian cafe – with lots of sweets of course!

But they do a nice, simple and very cheap line of snacks such as aloo tikki and pani puri.

There’s also a vegetarian thali and paranthas stuffed with gobi, aloo or paneer and served with butter, yogurt and pickle.

I’m actually in Laverton to do some volunteer duty on the West Welcome Wagon sausage sizzle at the market at the Woods Street Arts Space.

But I know that if I turn up for tong duty on an empty stomach, I’ll end up eating about a dozen of those $2.50 suckers.

And while I’m partial to a sausage sizzle snag in white bread, I most certainly do not want to make a meal of them, so to speak.

So I venture to the Bladin Street shops a few blocks away and into A-One Sweets, which has been on my to-do list for a while.

I tell the nice man behind the counter, as I peruse the menu, that I feel like something other than chole bhature – that, indeed, I’ve had that fabulous Indian dish at many places festooned across the west.

“Ah,” he says with a big smile. “But have you had our chole bhature?”

He’s persuasive, I say “Yes!” and I’m ever so glad I do.

 

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My $9 meal is a doozy.

The breads are puffed up like footballs and ungreasy.

There’s plenty of yogurt to join the regulation raw onion slices and commercial, tangy pickle.

Best of all, the chick pea curry is very nice indeed.

I love it and pretty much leave my thali tray clean.

 

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From there it’s back to Woods Street to join my fellow WWW sausage sizzle volunteers.

It’s great to meet and swap notes with some fellow westies.

We sell a heap of snags and make some good cash money for West Welcome Wagon.

Everything I am wearing, though, will be going straight into the laundry basket!

A-One Sweets is one of those gems of places away from the main drags and shopping centres that are an outright pleasure and thrill to stumble upon.

 

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