Friday, January 18, 2008

January 12, 2008: Nirankar

Cindy and I are still hunting around Melbourne for a standout Indian restaurant - we liked Bala da Dhaba, but it's too far away for regular visits, while local options like Fitz Curry Cafe and Kake di Hatti have been satisfactory without blowing our minds. On Saturday night, after a bit of internet research, we decided to give Nirankar a go.

Nirankar is on a quiet stretch of Queen Street in the CBD, and there was no danger of us being turned away despite being bookingless at 7ish on a Saturday night. The menu had abut the usual number of vegetarian options, but there were a few non-standard choices, like Khatta Meetha Bangain (eggplant and capsicum with tangy herbs). There was also a variety of kulfi on the menu, so we decided to skip the appetiser section and save room for dessert.

We ordered our usual mix: two curries, one bread and one serve of rice. The garlic naan was slightly crispy and slathered in buttery garlic, just the way I like it. Four our curries, we opted for the Shahi Matar Paneer (cottage cheese cooked with green peas and almonds in a creamy tomato sauce) and the Makkiwali Mushrooms (fresh mushrooms and baby corn tossed together in an onion-based sauce) and were not disappointed. The paneer in particular was wondeful, a well-spiced tomato-y and nutty sauce, generous chunks of paneer and a smattering of peas. The mushrooms were pretty good as well - slightly too spicy for Cindy's tastes, and maybe a little bit too oniony. Still, we polished off almost everything, which is unusual for us - normally there are leftovers to be had (Nirankar's explicit refusal to give doggy bags may have contributed to our voraciousness).

Even having knocked off all of our mains, we were game to tackle dessert and both wanted to try the pistachio kulfi. It came out in neat little circles, but was unfortunately a little on the frozen side for immediate eating, leading to much hilarity as we tried to dig into it without sending the little blocks of green icecream flying across the room. Good times. It tasted pretty good, but I've yet to sample a kulfi that measures up to Cindy's efforts - I think she's pretty heavy-handed with the cardamom.
On the whole, Nirankar was pretty impressive - a good selection of vego curries that were deliciously cooked, good service, interesting (if slightly underwhelming) desserts. On the other hand, the prices are a little high for Indian food, and they're not well placed for takeaway, so I'm not sure we'll be back there again particularly soon. If anyone out there can suggest worthwhile Indian alternatives (particularly around Fitzroy, Carlton, Brunswick etc, but anywhere will do), we're all ears.

Address: 174 Queen Street, Melbourne
Ph: 9642 1995
Prices: Vegie curries: $13.50 - $14.90


  1. My favourite place at the moment is Green Pepper at the top end of Bourke Street. It is a functional kind of place (order at the counter, go collect your food when they call your number), and service can be pretty rudimentary (ahem). But their bread is some of the best I've had in Melbourne (straight out of the tandoor), and their curries are excellent. I often go the veg options - aloo's, paneer etc., and think they rock.

    Jaipur (next door) is also pretty good, though their bread is not as good as Green Pepper. Also, their curries tend to be not as flavoursome and a little salty.

    I'm still yet to try Red Pepper on the other side of them (also Indian). When I do then I'll blog all three together :-)

  2. Try Spicy Junction, on Johnston St, next to the service station on the corner of Nicholson. Best cheap Indian in Fitzroy by a long shot.

  3. Thanks, Mellie! Michael reckons he recently read something by Matt Preston covering these three restaurants and now we're keen to try them. I'm looking forward to your triple review. :-)

    Hi J-Wow! We just noticed Spicy Junction while walking along Johnston St recently. We'll bypass the Fitz Curry cafe next time and give it a shot.

  4. Hi Cindy
    Vegetarian Nirvana Cafe in Bridge Road Richmond (close to Burnley) is quite honestly the best Indian in town. All dishes are vego or vegan. They'll decrease the oil if you ask. If you've been knocked by a winter lurgie, they'll sort you out with a curry to send the germs packing. Really popular, so worthwhile booking.
    Cheers, Rachel

  5. Thanks for the recommendation, Rachel! We visited the VNC once over a year ago but haven't got 'round to returning. Funnily enough we passed it via tram yesterday and agreed that we should go back there sometime. :-)