EnterViaLaundry isn’t like most restaurants. To access it, unsurprisingly, you walk through a residential laundry into the home of co-owner and cook Helly Raichura. Beyond a heavy red door, in a candle-lit dining room, you’ll find up to five faces you’ll likely never have encountered before, sitting around a grand grey wooden table. These are the people you’ll be sharing tonight’s inventive, 10-course degustation with.
Raichura works in human resources Monday to Friday for clients including BP and Boeing, but come Saturday night she transforms her Box Hill home into an intimate vegetarian (or vegan) dining experience for six guests. To land a seat, you book through the restaurant’s website. You can lock in up to five chairs (the meal costs $85 per person, and it’s BYO), but Raichura recommends going it alone.
“You would come back for the food,” she says. “But also come back with the expectation of meeting new people and having different conversations.”
Throughout the evening Raichura dashes between the dining room and open-plan kitchen, putting finishing touches on her immaculately tidy plates while sharing the origins of her Indian-inspired menu.
Some of the dishes hark back to Gujarat, in north-west India. Raichura version of khandvi is a delicate arrangement of pasta-like chickpea flour ribbons dotted with garlic flowers picked from her backyard. They’re dressed with dots of lemongrass and chilli oil and coriander and basil oil in a bed of warm, spiced coconut milk. Raichura calls it “pasta-not-pasta”, and says the ribbons can easily break in the pan – the goal is instead to have them gently collapse in your mouth. Raichura’s grandmother used to make a more traditional version – tightly rolled strips made from flour and buttermilk – for her as a child.
Khaman is another chickpea-imbued recipe, traditionally steamed savoury squares made from rice and split chickpeas. Raichura’s take is a sphere of pink, yellow, purple and green savoury sponge segments served with raw mango vinaigrette on a bed of coconut milk kefir and chilli. It’s sweet and spicy and riles up the tongue for dishes that lean into more Australian flavours.
Next, a single slice of eucalyptus-soaked bread with cultured butter (or macadamia, for vegans), onion seeds and coriander seeds.
For dessert, a hot pumpkin doughnut with yuzu-pumpkin sorbet, followed by a dish of chocolate-coconut ganache, passionfruit gel and praline made using passionfruit seeds.
As well as to share lesser-known dishes from India, Raichura says she cooks because she has the innate need to – HR isn’t enough.
“To be really fair and honest about this, EnterViaLaundry came second,” she says. “The need to keep cooking came first.”
As a child, Raichura would cook foraged chestnuts and berries in makeshift pots, and has loved cooking ever since. More recently, she dined at Shaun Quade’s fine diner Lûmé. Wanting to learn to make food like his, she asked him if she could spend some time in his kitchen. “He said … come in and learn,” she says. At the time, Raichura admits she didn’t even own a chef’s knife.
Last year she attended a World’s 50 Best Restaurants event in Melbourne, where in front of an audience she asked Gaggan Anand, chef-owner of two Michelin-star progressive Indian restaurant Gaggan in Bangkok, to let her join him in the kitchen. He agreed, and Raichura trained under him for two months.
Now she owns a whole block of chef's knives, and is looking forward to her next professional kitchen stint, a few weeks training in January with Dan Hunter at Brae.