Indian fine dining is not a new concept globally. And while Melbourne has experienced a fine-dining approach to Indian food through places such as Helly Raichura’s Enter Via Laundry, chef and restaurateur Jessi Singh (Don’t Tell Aunty, Daughter in Law) thinks just before Covid was when Melbourne was really ready for a big Indian fine-dining wave to hit. And while the global pandemic was a big interruption, he believes the timing is now finally right to open a restaurant like Aanya.

Aanya is an Indian-inspired fine-dining restaurant that is due to open in Collingwood this April. It will be led by Nishant Arora and János Román, two chefs with Michelin star credentials, with Singh involved in a business and operations capacity.

“The name Aanya finds its roots in the Sanskrit word meaning ‘limitless’,” Arora tells Broadsheet. “This concept serves as the guiding principle for us.” The multi-course menu is set, in Arora’s words, to “redefine Indian-inspired cuisine by infusing it with a creative flair that knows no bounds.”

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Aanya will seat around 20 diners and all seats will have a view of the chefs. “You’ll basically be sitting in the kitchen,” says Singh. The chefs will serve and explain each course rather than have front-of-house staff translate the dishes. The experience will be a casual, white tablecloth-free, affair – what the team describes as “fun dining” rather than fine dining – that is less The Menu and more The Bear season two.

There won’t be any wines on offer (though diners will be encouraged to BYO), but Arora and Román have developed a drinks menu of what Singh describes as “new-wave” cocktails and mocktails. “They’re not just a simple syrup, they’re actually proper thoroughly processed and use ultra-refined ingredients,” he explains.

Arora began his career in India before moving to New Zealand where he worked as head chef at Auckland restaurants Sidart and Cassia. He followed this with a stint at three-Michelin-starred Stockholm restaurant Frantzen before he moved to Melbourne where he worked at Society and as a sous-chef at Cutler & Co.

Román cut his teeth at fine-dining restaurants in Hungary, worked at Taubenkobel in Austria (which had two Michelin stars until the guide stopped reviewing Austrian restaurants outside Vienna and Salzburg), did time at Nobu in London and joined Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck Group in 2010. When Dinner by Heston opened in Melbourne in 2015, Román moved to Australia and worked as a sous-chef at the restaurant.

The chefs met while both were working at Chris Lucas’s Society, and bonded over a shared goal to own their own place. They joined forces and started hosting Aanya pop-ups around town at venues including The Hotel Windsor and Wonder Pies. It was through these pop-ups that they met Singh, an influential figure in the global dining scene.

Aanya will open at the base of an apartment building on the corner of Smith Street and Johnston Street in Collingwood, where Singh is also preparing to open a casual Indian pub called You My Boy that will specialise in Indian pizzas. Singh is also due to open Bibi Ji on Lygon Street once the venue’s liquor licence is approved.

Aanya is due to open at 368 Smith Street, Collingwood this April.