Darbar, Braddon – My new top pick for Indian food in Canberra!

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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


Another fusion (Indo-Australian) dish followed – Jal Pari Hariyali ( a Chefs Speciality)
Marinated Tasmanian salmon fillets with turmeric, cashew paste, cumin, coriander powder and lemon juice, pan fried and served with crisped sweet potato and mint sauce on a bed of spices potatoes $17

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


The Lamb Chops were also truly beautifully tender lamb cutlets marinated in Kashmiri spices, roasted in Tandoor Oven $22 for a serve of 5.

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.

ADDRESS

(near Debacle – look for the yellow sign – opposite Grease Monkey – in the M3 building)

139/24 Lonsdale Street
Braddon, ACT 2612

 PHONE
TRADING HOURS

Open 7 Days:

Monday
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

Darbar Indian Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Salotto, Kingston – good for a group on a budget

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I’ve enjoyed Santa Lucia Salotto‘s great lunch special (now $13.90) but this week I road tested the main menu for a  group dinner on a budget.

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We were fourteen girlfriends with a $25 per head limit on food.  So we choose a range of dishes to share – which all turned out to be perfect picks – with plenty to eat and some left over.

It was all served together which gave it a tapas/shared plate feel and while everything was delicious – the salads were the real standout for me! (And there was no salad at all left by anyone!)

For 14 of us we ordered:

Antipasto

4 x ANTIPASTO PLATTER  with san daniele prosciutto, cappacollo, mortadella and wagyu bresola accompanied with grilled vegetables, warm olives, giaidinera and pickled artichoke $25 each (bread is $6 for six slices so we got two serves and a couple of extras thrown in!).

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Salads

3 x INSALATA CON FUNGHI with grilled mushrooms with mixed lettuce, garlic, chilli, spanish onion & sun-dried tomatoes $14 each

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3 x INSALATA CAPRESE with a soothing fresh tomato, basil and buffalo mozzarella salad dressed in an olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette $14.50 each

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Pizza (cut into 8 slices)

2 x PROSCIUTTO fiori di latte, san danielle prosciutto, fresh roquette and shaved parmesan $21 each

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2 x AMANTI DELLA CARNE fiori di latte, 3 meat ragu, salami and barbecue sauce $23 each

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2 x FUNGHI fiori di latte, 3 mushrooms with a drizzle of truffle oil $20 each

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BYO wine corkage is $9 per bottle and there’s seating inside and out!

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Salotto Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

3 top tips for hosting a Brunch event at home – the perfect meal for entertaining a crowd!  

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Mid-week public holidays are a great opportunity to host an event!
There’s usually something to celebrate – hence the day off – and guests have fewer prior commitments to work around.
And brunch is the perfect meal!

It can all be done ahead.

It’s flexible enough to fit in any budget.

It’s easy to adapt to special dietary needs

It is just one course that can be set out ready, leaving plenty of time to chat to guests.

It can all be cleared up to allow for a relaxed evening before heading back to work the next day.
But these are the three top tips for success! 

  1. Set beautiful tables
  •  it sets the scene
  •   it leaves plenty of room in the kitchen to set out the brunch buffet for everyone to       help themselves
  •    it leaves the washing up on the tables and not in the kitchen getting mixed up with      the food. It also allows it to be cleared up gradually as the dishwasher capacity           allows.

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2. Do everything ahead

Prepare dishes ready to serve and organise drinks

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3. If you are accepting offers of help – ask guests to bring anything that needs to be done on the day ( eg fruit platters, fruit salad) as this keeps the day free for last minute organising.

Some menu ideas:
Drinks:

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Lemon and mint ( or other flavours) infused iced water ( freeze ice in large containers to add)

Non- alcoholic fruit punch

Peach infused white wine

Sparkling wine and rose

Mango lassi shots

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Food:

Baked French toast using croissants and other pastries in a bread and butter pudding recipe

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Bircher muesli breakfast trifle using alternate layers of Bircher muesli, Greek natural yogurt and poached fruit and berries, topped with toasted muesli crumble, dried fruit and nuts and berries

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Pancake stacks (banana pancakes are yummy) layered with Greek natural yogurt, brown sugar and sliced banana and cinnamon, topped with chopped almonds or walnuts ( assemble on the day)

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Frittata or Spanish omelette

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Corn and Chorizo muffins

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Oven baked bacon

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Banana bread

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Scones with jam and cream

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And generously offered by others:
Croque Madame

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Savouries

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Dolmeh

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Fruit platters and fruit salads

Joy Indian – a new sister restaurant for Taste of Bangladesh

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Southside living fans of Manuka’s Taste of Bangladesh are welcoming the new opening of Joy Indian, a sister restaurant in the Erindale Centre.

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Shafique and Farhana’s new venture offers a larger space for functions and parties – which they do so well.

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The naan are baking in the tandoor…

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…curries cooking….

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…the gulab jaman simmering.

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Alam, an experienced Canberra chef, is heading up the kitchen.

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He is ably helped by Taj who is well known by Taste of Bangladesh regulars.

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Open Tuesday to Saturday for lunch 12:00-2:00pm and dinner Monday to Sunday 5pm -10pm, BYO is free corkage, takeaway is 10% discounted and delivery is free for $35 and over.

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I particularly like the look of the banquets which have unlimited servings of some of my favourite dishes.

The $25 banquet offers three entrees and four curries with rice and raita.

The $30 banquet is my favourite as it includes four entrees, four curries, raita, naan, rice and gulab jaman.

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Do drop by and check it out at 38 Gartside Street, Erindale Centre

Parking is easy!

Phone 0411 168 227 for booking or information.

Joy Indian Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Taste of Bangladesh, Manuka – budget perfect for large groups

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Whether you’d like to dine in or posh up some take-away, Taste of Bangladesh is perfect for large groups.

Shafique is great! He will work with you to get exactly what you need.

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A $1 per head party charge covers cakeage and corkage for any drink – alcoholic or soft – if you are dining in.

Up to 75 can fit comfortably, and while that will inevitably be quite noisy, the carpet and soft furnishings all help.

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A good $18 pp menu for a large group on a tight budget is:

Entree: Pappadoms & Onion Bhaji (Crispy onion fritter with tamarind and mint yogurt) (one per person)

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Mains: Chicken Dum Murgh, Fish Bengali, Palak Paneer (one of each per four people)

Spinach and Cheese Naan, Plain Naan, Basmati Rice (one of each per two people)

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Dessert: BYO  or order Gulab Jaman (one per person)

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If you’d like to order in for lunch, just want the onion bhaji, curries and breads delivered and plan to use your own rice cooker..

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salads…

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…and desserts…

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….talk to Shafique about the $71 Take-away Family dinner pack for 4 with a few ‘swap arounds’.

One pack is enough for 8 people if you ask for the two entrees to both be onion bhaji.

Taste of Bangladesh Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Hungry Buddha – a first look at the new Belconnen restaurant @HungryBuddhaCBR

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The Hungry Buddha is taking their excellent Nepalese food to North Canberra and they’ve chosen the perfect spot for group summer dining.

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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.

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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.

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The nepalese kheer rice pudding $6.50 is not a dish I would normally choose, but it was fabulous. The almonds and cardamom are delicious with the creamy sweet texture.

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With great chai it was the perfect finish to the meal.

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BYO wine is $6 corkage per bottle and wine by the glass starts at $7.50.
Budget for around $25-30 per person.
My thanks to Lachhu and the team for hosting my first visit to the new restaurant.

Turkish Pide House, Jamison – old fashioned charm 

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When I stepped inside the Turkish pide house in Jamison it was a little like stepping back in time. It had an has a unexpected old fashioned charm that’s very endearing.

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The menu is similar to many other Turkish mid range restaurants, and as we were a group of 14, we chose a banquet.

While we only ordered 10 banquets, it was still way more than we could eat. 8-9 would have been a better fit.

We also went for the $33 banquet which was like the $30 banquet but had doner meat and a small piece of Turkish delight/baklava ( very small) with tea/coffee (tricky to share).

I really did enjoy the six types of dip with warm bread and zucchini puffs that started us off. My favorite part of the meal.

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Then we progressed to kebabs, kofta, potatoes, doner meat, pide and a nice salad and rice with almonds.

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Corkage was very reasonable, around $5 per bottle.

Overall a good spot for a large group on a budget but perhaps go for the $30 banquet, two between three people.

Turkish Pide House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato