Curry Cafe Canteen, 332 Racecourse Road, Flemington. Phone: 0498 003 970
Curry Cafe Canteen is a new arrival that adds much colour and wonder to the already diverse offerings of one of our favourite food strips.
It’s an outpost of an already established Curry Cafe in Northcote, with the Flemington branch offering a bit more of an accent on Indian street food.
The place – done out in wood and stools, and very chic in a comfy way – has been open just a few days when we visit for a Sunday lunch, but has been doing Uber deliveries for a month or so on the back of the connection with the Northcote mothership.
And – as we discover to our ecstatic delight – it is raising the bar for all Indian food offerings in the western suburbs.
It’s not so much that the menu (see below) offers anything unusual, spectacular or innovative.
It’s just that everything we try has the stamp of Indian cooking expertise all over it.
Even better, there is a level of freshness and an exuberance of flavour that leaves most Indian places for dead – including many that are rather more expensive and famous.
And they do it all at prices that fit, with room to move, into the cheap eats category.
And there’s craft beer and organic wine on the way.
Take Bennie’s pav cholle ($8), for example.
All to often, when we order an Indian snack dish the involves a chick pea curry, the curry is dull and appears and tastes tired.
No such problem here – the chick pea brew is fresh and alive with vim.
The buttered brioche rolls and kachumba salad are similarly fine.
My thali ($12) comes with vibrant lamb madras that puts the meat curries served in most Indian places to shame.
On board, too, are the same salad, a pappadum and rice.
The pickles vividly illustrate, again, the freshness of the Curry Cafe Canteen food and the care put into it.
I love the sour flavour boost that pickles give to an Indian meal, and am quite happy to accept commercial pickles.
But so often those pickles involve a chunk of mango that is as tough as old boot.
Here the pickles are made in house using lemon, lime, pepper, mango, lotus stem and garlic – and they’re soft.
Another point of difference is the dal makhani.
In most Indian eateries, this dish overloaded with cream.
Not so here – it’s a way more austere and plain pulse offering, and all the better for it.
While we’re about our Sunday lunch, we get some extras from the lunch menu.
Garlic naan ($2.50) and roti ($2) are very good.
Onion bhajji ($3, top photo) are excellent Indian onion rings.
A serve of two smallish samosas ($3) again affirm the high quality of the food here.
These are a bit more delicate than we’re mostly familiar with, expertly fried, have peas on board, are wonderful and are served with more of that salad and a nice tamarind chutney.
I’m told that the pav dishes and the thali set-up is available for lunch only.
I reckon that’s shame as thalis are so very, very cool for those dining solo – as I often do.
But the place is finding its feet, so could be open to persuasion in these regards.
But even going a la carte with the evening menu will surely be a winner.
After all, all curries are in the $10 to $13 range and half a tandoori chook costs $10.