Collingwood isn’t a place I visit often, especially in the evening – traffic is a pain, it’s hard to find parking and it’s just a little too far from home. However, I love Indian food, and coming from Manchester where we have a whole mile of Curry restaurants, I’ve struggled to find a really great curry since moving to Melbourne, so when Punjabi Curry Cafe invited us in to sample some dishes from the menu, I thought I’d make that extra effort – and I was pretty glad I did. (Note: I should probably add here that M.B. finally has his Aussie L’s so he actually did the driving, while I dealt with the complex navigation of driving down one straight road).
The first thing I feel I should emphasise about Punjabi Curry Cafe, is it doesn’t do itself justice by describing itself as a cafe. There’s a specialised greeting area, the venue is beautifully decorated, with candles on every table and gorgeous artwork on the wall, there’s also a chef at the back hand- making naan breads in a traditional tandoori oven. It’s a restaurant, and a really great one at that. The service is wonderful, and the staff took real pride in offering us an enjoyable evening. They were highly attentive and so friendly, smiley and helpful – I almost wanted to take them home so I’d have someone be that super nice to me every day!
Now I always over-order at Indian restaurants so I was careful not to select too many dishes and fill up on starters so we spent quite a long time browsing the menu. The Chicken Momos (dumplings) really peaked my interest, as I’d only ever enjoyed dumplings as part of an Asian cuisine (in the Eastern Asia sense of the word). They were also listed as a Chef’s Special which I’m always keen to try. We also picked the butter chicken, Chicken Tikka Masala and sides of saffron rice and plain naan bread.
The dumplings were the highlight of what was an all round great meal. The chicken was well seasoned with fresh Indian spices and the dumpling wrapper itself was thin and light. They came with a sesame hinted tomato chutney, which helped to highlight their delicious flavour.
We have a saying in Manchester that if you visit the Curry Mile, you always order a milder Curry than you usually would, and this extra spiciness is seen as the hallmark of traditional Indian food. Punjabi Curry Cafe was no exception to this rule. My butter chicken tasted like a curry, unlike the more bland, spice-lacking dish you find in many places. It had a flavoursome tomato based sauce and a delicious gentle heat. It was a rich dish, filled with perfectly cooked marinated chicken that just fell apart in your mouth. M.B.s Chicken Tikka Masala was full of similar soft and beautifully flavoured chicken. His dish had a real level of spice to it and also contained fresh capsicum, onion and was topped with spring onion. Accompanied by saffron rice and expertly cooked, soft, fresh naan bread, it made for a fab Indian Feast. If you love traditionally cooked Indian food, and you’re not scared of a little spice I’d definitely recommend trying this wonderful restaurant.