You might think you’ve lost your way as you arrive at Indu; the staircase leading to its entrance – in a nod to its heritage – is plain. Almost bleak. But the unmistakable whiff of cooked curry leaves will leave no doubt in your mind that you’re at the right address.
Located on the corner of George Street and Angel Place in Sydney’s CBD, this Indian restaurant is housed in the basement of a heritage-listed building, where there was once a Dymocks bookstore.
Indu has a moody, den-like interior – a curved green wall on one side; a semi-private room made of exposed terracotta bricks on the other. Large circular steel frames hang off the ceiling, pots of spices sit in front of the dosa bar (yes, an entire counter is dedicated to this south Indian staple), while seating options range from tables for two and booths that seat up to six to the semi-private room that can host up to 14.
The atmosphere is raucous, thanks to loud music and an even louder crowd, so don’t even think about this place if you’re after a romantic, intimate dinner for two. But make a beeline if you want to grab a bite with colleagues after work, or taste subcontinental flavours at their best. Because, at the end of the day, it’s all about chef Bimal Kumar’s authentic food here.
There are about a dozen dishes on the menu’s left-hand-side page, which – the informative and courteous staff will tell you – comprises smaller, shared plates, ideal as entrées. Order a bunch of dishes – it is the best part of the menu and one where Kumar is at his most creative, with robust ingredients, dynamic presentation and unexpected flavours.
A salad of watermelon, for instance, is spiked with pomegranate molasses, while a dosa of smoked and shredded goat’s leg gets a feisty kick from a chilli-bacon jam. Both are downright delicious, but leave room for more. Spiced with cumin and burnt chilli salt, the fried sesame-crusted okra is crunchy to the core, while coconut sambol – prepared at the table by the waiter – is all about the theatrics.
The main course
Raan – lamb shoulder, marinated and slow-roasted for 48 hours – is Indu’s signature dish. But our pick is the Goan pork belly curry – with coconut milk, poppy seeds, cashews, cardamom and cinnamon – which melts in the mouth before you know it.
Make sure to order a side of the surprisingly moreish raita, with apple cubes and a luscious swirl of puréed beetroot.
It might be the sweetest section, but it’s not the restaurant’s strongest suit. Kumar has created a number of Indian-inspired contemporary desserts, but stick with the old favourite, gulab jamun. Or better still, give dessert a miss and order another entrée.
PS: There are wines from as close as the Hunter Valley and as far as the Loire, but if you can only have one drink, make sure it’s the Yellow Submarine – a cocktail of bourbon, fresh lemon and apple juice, tinged with house-made mango chutney. A bizarre blend of ingredients on paper, but surprisingly delicious on the palate.