When owner Vinay invited me to come and road test Darbar’s food I was skeptical.
So I asked Vinay to tell me – what makes Darbar different and why would people choose Darbar ahead of the many other Indian restaurants in Canberra?
But, Vinay kept telling me to let the food speak for itself. And he also mentioned that I might want to call in some friends as he wanted me to taste a whole feast of Darbar’s dishes.
I’m so glad I did (and so were my lucky friends) as we were quickly transported from this unassuming Lonsdale Street eatery to a bliss of sophisticated, complex flavours wrapped around, stuffed and infused through tender, succulent meats and carried by creamy, rich and full flavoured sauces. As Glenn, a local Braddonite told me, he dines at Darbar several times a week and could happily just enjoy the sauces and breads they are so wonderful.
It’s actually very hard to pick favourites from our feast. For the first time ever, I can say, every dish is a true winner. And very happily, the menu is extensive, so trying something different each visit is definitely the way to go.
Darbar’s specialty is modern Indian fusion style so the menu features some very special unique dishes like Stuffed Zucchini Flowers, a spice marinated Tasmanian salmon fillet, Bamboo charcoal Tuna Fish , Beetroot Bonda, Prawn Vepadu and slow cooked,spiced Desi Lamb Shanks.
But Vinay also wants to do the favourites like Butter Chicken, Chicken 65 and Marsala Dosa better than anyone else – and he does!!
Then there are also the famous regional dishes that reflect Vinay’s heritage like the Gutti Vankai -baby stuffed eggplants in a dreamy cashew nut sauce and the Bezawada Railway Goat Curry (more about that later).
But let me share our amazingly delicious journey with you.
We started with the Spicy Potato Salad served complimentary to diners along with mint sauce and pappadoms.
This was my first inkling that this was no ordinary Indian restaurant. The mint sauce was thick and rich like none before and the garam marsala spicing of the potato salad had a depth and complexity that I just wasn’t expecting from this simple first course.
Then came the vegetarian entrees, first the Indo-Italian fusion Stuffed Zucchini Flowers, filled with spiced vegetables and a touch of cheese – I really did enjoy these – $13 for a serve of 4.
Followed by Darbar’s signature entree dish – Darbar Chaat, crispy spinach pakora on rice with sweet yogurt, which was the best version of Palak Papdi Chaat I’ve enjoyed and beautifully decorated with with tamarind, mint and tomato sauces – $12
Next came the Masala Dosai – a thin crisp, golden brown rice pancake rolled with spiced potato masala & served with coconut and tomato chutneys and sambar.
Now I’ve eaten many Marsala Dosas, both in Australia and India, but I can’t remember one better than this! The spicing again was careful and wonderful! I loved this too especially the fresh curry leaves $16.
Then came the non-vegetarian entrees – my favourite (and most of our table’s) was the Bamboo charcoal Tuna Fish – fresh tuna, simmered with mustard seed, pepper, garam masala, mint leaf and methi and fried with bamboo charcoal infused corn starch – just so delicious $15
Then Prawn Vepudu – King Sized prawns pan fried in spicy lentil powder, curry leaves, garam masala, cracked pepper, onions and fresh coriander – yummy – three pieces for $17
And Darbar’s Chicken 65 – (traditionally a 65 day old chicken) marinated in exotic spices, lemon juice and deep fried, tossed with curry leaf, fenugreek powder and coriander served with lemon and Spanish onion. Just as Viany promised this was the most tender, succulent and full spiced version of this dish I’ve had – $14
I loved darbar’s version of Butter Chicken – Tandoori Grilled chicken simmered in spiced butter fenugreek and kasoori methi leaves masala gravy with honey and pepper. Again this was tender, beautifully and deeply spiced and just the best! $19
The Bezawada Railway Goat Curry is named after Vinay’s home town near Hyderabad, a large railway junction and one of the many famous for serving Goat Curry. The diced goat is slowly cooked in an unusual but smooth and medium spiced garam masala flavoured with onion, cumin, fenugreek seeds and fresh curry leaves – very excellent! $21
We were wowed by the Hyderabadi Chicken Biryani – basmati rice cooked dum style with chicken, herbs and spices in a poppy seed gravy and covered in the traditional way with pastry to seal the natural flavours along with coconut milk, mint, saffron and rose water $21
Also very delicious was the secret recipe Desi Lamb Shanks – 8 hours slow cooked lamb shanks with whole spices, shallots, carrot, garlic cloves and tomatoes, served on a bed of potato mash $22
Another favourite of our table and a traditional regional dish was the Gutti Vankai – stuffed whole baby eggplant (Brinjal) in a ground paste of cashew, peanut, sesame and coconut cooked in the Hyderabadi style $18
I loved the Laccha Paratha bread – soft and flakey $4.50..
…but the Cheese Naan $5 was excellent too.
Vinay has done his research well, wanting to offer competitive prices that are great value for generous serve sizes (great for sharing) and even a better deal with the 15-20% discounts offered on the website.
BYO wine corkage is $3.50 per person but there’s also an extensive wine list with wine by the glass thoughtfully starting at $7
So there’s everything here from a ‘Just Feed Me’ gourmet banquet like we had, to a budget friendly under $20 dinner for two (share an entree, main, bread and rice, BYO your wine and use the discount), to a group menu for twelve under $20 a person including corkage….
3 x Stuffed Zucchini Flowers (12 pieces)
3 x Gutti Vankai
3 x Desi Lamb Shanks
3 x Butter Chicken
6 x Saffron Basmati rice
6 x Laccha Paratha
Do check out the amazing catering packages on the website that are excellent value, starting at $15 per person for three courses with sides.
And the Banquet menu looks good too…
And also consider the Tuesday to Friday lunch specials, equally great value.
The team are a warm and friendly bunch who have come together from various parts of the world with great pride and quiet dedication to serving Canberra these consistently gorgeous dishes.
Vinay from Bezawada, also owns the well regarded Darbar Restaurant in Glebe and more casual Swagath in Wentworthville. His favourites are the Bezawada Goat Curry, Chicken 65, Chicken Biriyani, Lamb Chops and Garlic Naan.
Hari is from Hyderabad so he loves the Chicken Biriyani, but also the Chicken 65, Goat Curry and Peshwari (fruit and nut stuffed) Naan.
Suraj from Nepal is head chef and his favourites are the Jal Pari Hariyali and Chicken Chat Pat.
Raja from Sri Lanka likes the Bamboo Charcoal Tuna Fish best.
Nina has joined the team from Germany and Vamsi (who missed the photo) is also from Bezawada enjoys the Gutti Vanaki – stuffed eggplant, best.
And Glenn’s favourite dish is the Prawn & Scallop Lababdar – King size prawns and scallops cooked to perfection in a delicate sauce based on fresh tomatoes, ginger and shallots, flavoured with coriander and fenugreek $21 (Glenn just gets all prawns, but you can also just have all scallops).
Everything Vinay told me was true! He has every reason to claim Darbar as the best Indian food in Canberra!
I arrived as a skeptic, but left a true believer!
Parking is easy after 6pm either in the lane behind the restaurant (also great for picking up takeway) or underneath.
Open 7 Days:
Dinner: 5:30PM to 10:00PM
Tuesday to Sunday
Lunch: 12:00PM to 2:30PM
Dinner: 5:30PM to 10:00PM
Friday & Saturday
Dinner served up to 11:00PM
Red Chilli Sichuan – Alinga street, City does Chinese (Sichuan) cuisine very well!
The popularity of Red Chilli Sichuan, with diners who would know, still testifies to it’s authenticity.
And the reputation is totally justified!
Suggested menu for six
91. Stir fried shredded duck in peking sauces that comes with 8 oddly shaped pancakes $26.50, makes a great starter for up to eight people per serve.
71. Stirfried pork in Peking Sauce and Shallots $22.50 (served with 5 pancakes, so you might need an extra)
Main Course (one serve can give up six a taste):
86. Kung pao chicken $19.50 one of my favourites and good value
48. Stir-fried eggplant and prawns in casserole $22
96. Stirfried green beans with pork mince $18 (good but fairly oily) but I think next time I’d get the popular 80. Chef special lamb slices with spicy cumin $25
Steamed rice is generous and only $2.50 per serve.
Corkage is expensive at $10 per bottle, but this is balanced by very generous serves of rice and lots of good value dishes that are well sized.
(I’ve also been told that wine by the glass serves are very generous here.)
Five dishes is a good amount for six mixed appetities and with four rice serves.
25% discount offered with the Canberra Entertainment Book up to $30.
Total cost for food $118.50 ($20) ($88.50 with the discount ($15 per person)
(Discount also applies to corkage.)
Open 7 Days
11:30 am to 2:30 pm
5:00 to 10:00 pm
Novotel Building Shop G1,
75-89 Alinga St , Canberra Australia 2601
P: (02) 6248 6288
Now that the warm weather is here, it was a perfect time to head to the Farrer Shops to sit out front with a lovely no corkage BYO wine and a bunch of friends to share some of the best Sri Lankan food I’ve ever had.
When we arrived Udaya was busy in the kitchen preparing that Sri Lankan signature dish Kothu Roti. The sound of chopping on the hot plate brought back many fond travel memories.
However, Udaya is the consummate host and he quickly arrived at our table with wine and water glasses and complimentary pappadoms. In fact he keep the water filled all night and returned with more pappadoms.
Based on our past enjoyment and Karen’s recommendations – we chose for our group of six, one dish each of the Green Bean Curry $11 with spices and coconut milk…
…Sri Lankan Black Pork Curry $17…..
…Devilled Chicken $15….
…one large rice $3…..
…one roti each $2 each…
And we doubled up on then Lamprias, that classic Dutch Burger Sri Lankan lunch box in a banana leaf oven-baked with a pork/chicken, a fish ball, deep fried egg, potato, eggplant, seeni sambol and spiced rice – delicious!
The real stand out stars were the Pork and Green Bean curries, roti and Lamprias. Udaya also arrived with some complimentary Coconut Sambol (usually $5) which was a perfect condiment – I will get that every time!
Nothing was too much trouble for Udaiya and to complete our meal he brought us some complimentary traditional Portuguese settler inspired Love Cakes – delicious!
We had food left (may have only needed one Lamprais) all for less than $16 per person.
Claypot Chef has won a firm spot on my top favourites in Canberra.
Do drop by over Summer and try it for yourself.
Closed Mondays and Christmas to 11 January for a break – Claypot Chef is usually open Tues to Thurs for dinner 4-8pm and Fri-Sun 10-8pm for lunch and dinner.
Take-away is also hugely popular.
Phone: 62868081 or 0404074440
Daana is well setttled and busy in their new Curtin home.
There’s plenty of room and a warm welcome for larger groups.
An easy way to order and enjoy a range of tastes is the Thali.
It’s also a good way to cater for different appetites. Refills are plentiful and the food is unlimited, in the style of true South Indian hospitality.
On the evening we visited the Thali included:
Gobi Kempu Bezule (Cauliflower), Koshambir Salad, Vegetable Saagu, Chicken Korma, Potato Khana Curry, Tomato Rasam, Sambar, Poori, Rice, Papad
It also finisihed with a lovely dessert of Phirmi ( a dish from Kashmir).
The Thali dinner costs $25 per person for just vegetarian curries and $30 if you’d like to include non-vegetarian curries.
Another way to order for a group is to design your own shared menu.
My $25 per person suggestions for a group would include:
1 Dal Vada ($12 for 4) per 4 people ($3pp)
1 Paneer Kathi Roll per 4 people (cut into 4 pieces –they are large) $12 ($3pp)
1 serve idil ($12 for 4) per 4 people ($3pp)
Choose three of the Vegetarian/Chicken/Lamb/Seafood curries per 4 people (they come with rice or bread so just get a mix of both (I think 1/2 Paratha and ½ steamed rice would be lovely) – around $16 per person.
Daana also offers BYO at $6 per bottle.
The Hungry Buddha is taking their excellent Nepalese food to North Canberra and they’ve chosen the perfect spot for group summer dining.
Up on the first floor above Taj Agra, the large windows create a light and open space.
Lachhu and the team have given the previous Phnom Penh Cambodian Restaurant a face lift with thoughtful decoration and light.
It’s a relaxed but stylish atmosphere and the service is professional yet warm and welcoming.
Even though the floor is wood, the sound absorption is good for groups as there’s plenty of space between tables.
And then there are those iconic Nepalese dishes that the Hungry Buddha is famous for in it’s original Curtin location – like the momos and goat curry! Hungry Buddha fans will find the much loved menu in the new location too.
I always enjoy the goat curry $20 but the corn kernels $8.50 sauteed in nepalese syle with onion, ginger, garlic, herbs and spices have been on my wishlist. And I was not disappointed. They are a perfect side to the goat curry with rice and naan.
With great chai it was the perfect finish to the meal.
Ethiopia Down Under is another gorgeous family run suburban restaurant – welcoming, casual and committed to bringing this lesser known cuisine to Canberrans.
There’s a variety of combination meals available or put together your own meal that may include:
Samosas (2 for $6.90)
ETHIOPIAN BEEF SAMOSAS – spicy beef samosas
ETHIOPIAN CHEESE SAMOSAS – fetta cheese samosas
ALIT’CHA DORO $19.90 ( my favourite dish)
Strips of chicken breast pieces cooked with carrot, green chilli & onion
ASAR TIBBS $20.90
Nile Perch fish fillet pan-fried fresh with burbere spices, capsicum, onion & tomato
ALIT’CHA “YAYESH” WAT $17.90
Chef’s special beef and coconut cream in mild Ethiopian spices
DUBOU WAT $15.90
Spiced pumpkin cooked in a berbere sauce
RICE/INJERA – served with mains
HOMEMADE ICE CREAMS, GELATO & SORBETS ( thanks to an Italian colonial heritage)
$8.90 No mixed servings available
Ginger, Toasted Coconut & Chocolate Shards
( my favourite although, I do generally like my icecream sweeter and creamier)
Ethiopian Sidamo Coffee & Roasted Hazelnut
It’s also great value as there’s a 25% discount for Canberra Entertainment Book holders and….
Open for dinner every night except Mondays, you’ll find Ethiopia Down Under at the Pearce Shops.
It is in good company with Rama’s and the Pearce Vietnamese nearby, all facing into a courtyard that’s lovely on summer and evenings and great for kids.