In a dimly lit, terracotta-clad basement deep under George Street, there’s a (small) revolution happening. The refreshed approach to Indian food, from Sam Prince (Mejico and Zambrero) and head chef Bimal Kumar, focuses on the rural flavours and cookery elements of southern-Indian and Sri Lankan villages.
“When I went to these countries and did aid work, the people in these villages couldn’t pay us. Instead they very graciously welcomed us into their homes and put on huge spreads,” says Prince. “This was the food that I thought was beautiful and authentic, and something the West needed to experience."
A central dosa kitchen produces flat, lentil dosas (flame-seared, turmeric-cured salmon with cardamom aioli is a stand-out). A mirrored archway separates two main dining sections, and shelves of spirits reach the ceiling. The menu, light and fragrant, went through an extensive “beauty pageant” and taste-testing process before any dishes made the final cut.
“We cooked an entire list of traditional dishes and then we selected the beautiful elements from each,” Kumar says. “None of the dishes are traditional in their own regard. The track has been laid by tradition, but we’ve changed parts.”
Highlights include a ceviche-esque sea-bass dish served with coconut vinegar on a bed of crisped string hopper noodles; soft, dense beetroot croquettes complemented by a green-chilli and garlic raita made with house-made hung yogurt; and a lamb curry served with buttery marrow still in the bone.
The caramelised pineapple dessert, with cardamom dulce de leche, gingery granita and yogurt jelly, is equal parts experimental and eloquent. The cocktail offerings are reflective of the traditional elements of Indian food. They include ingredients such as mango chutney, masala-spiced gin and curry leaves.
The space, a collaborative design by Matt Woods, Project Z and muralist Ash Keating, is earthy; bells hang from the ceiling, above spice-filled terracotta barrels and exposed bricks. It’s the kind of space that falls somewhere between the past and the future and, with the team at INDU channeling both, fittingly so.
Mon to Fri 12pm–late