The phrase ‘Babu Ji,’ in Hindi is a term of respect like ‘sir.’ But, it’s also a cheeky term for an old dude with steez (style with ease) – which is where married couple Jennifer and Jessi Singh took their inspiration for their new Indian restaurant.
After finding success in Kyneton with Dhaba at the Mill, the pair brought their pan-Indian fare closer to town with Horn Please in Fitzroy North. And now they’ve gone south side with Babu Ji, taking on a spot in the George building in St Kilda. “When we first arrived in Australia, we moved to St Kilda, and we loved it,” says Singh. “We actually lived right across the street from The George. We are really excited to spend a lot more time there again.”
Decorated like a classic Indian coffee house with hand-painted murals and high ceilings, the Babu Ji team will serve what they hope will be a style of sub-continental cuisine that many Australians will be unfamiliar with. “We pick up dishes from all around the country, we don’t focus on one area,” she says. “We want to tell a story, and share a little bit about the Indian culture that people haven’t seen before.”
Singh singles out Babu Ji’s bhelpuri as a stand-out dish that diners are unlikely to find anywhere else. “It can be tangy-sweet and spicy at the same time,” she says. “And it’s interesting in its texture as well; it’s crisp and it’s soft, with chutney, chickpea and potato.”
Entrees consist of street-food fare. Curries will also be on the menu, but in a more focused selection than might be expected. “It’s not your typical Indian joint with hundreds of options,” says Singh. “But they’re really flavourful and made with great intention.”
Indophiles will be happy to find Kingfisher on the menu, but there is also Mountain Goat, Haywards, Bridge Road and Sierra Nevada joining whatever craft beers happen to take Jessi’s fancy.