Menzies Alley, Melbourne Central
E07/211 La Trobe St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
Earlier this week, I walked into our tea room for morning tea, only to be assaulted with the aroma of someone heating up garlic naan in the sandwich press. The force of the food craving that hit me was unbelievable; I assume it’s equal to the level of desire some women feel when they think about bearing children. I may usually be notoriously indecisive when it comes to where to eat, but not this time – I am hitting up Chilli India tonight.
Anyone who’s ever been to Melbourne Central more than once or twice in the last 10 years will probably know of Chilli India. It is all but indomitable; year after year, the aroma of curry spills out from the brisk canteen-styled eatery and into the laneway, which seems perpetually lined with diners tucking into plates of vindaloo and biryani.
After the Tea Room Garlic Naan Ordeal I had experienced that morning, I had sworn to Chris that I was going to order at least six pieces of Garlic Naan ($3.5ea). Thankfully common sense won out, and we decided to share just one (admittedly generous) piece. And oh what a glorious piece it was. Flaky from the tandoor, the bread glistened with a lavish coating of golden butter, and a generous layer of aromatic crushed garlic.
I quite like ordering goat curries when I see them on the menu, as I find they often tend to be one of the more authentic of the bunch. We were warned that the Kadai Goat ($14.9) was ‘a bit spicy’, and although it certainly had a kick to it, I actually thought it was a near-ideal level. The wok-fried chunks of goat were stewed in a bold-as-brass sauce of tomatoes, garlic, ginger, and spices. It was a strong, flavoursome curry that knocked the craving right on its head.
The Chicken Korma ($14.9) turned out to be a surprising winner. I had expected a mild, sweet, and westernised curry with no kick to it whatsoever. Instead, the gravy had a rich, deep aroma and a generous whack of chilli, underscored by a nutty creaminess from the cashews. The smooth, rich sauce was mopped up completely with a serve of fluffy Steamed Rice ($2.95ea).
Chilli India exceeded my expectations. I had gone in expecting a meal that left me shrugging and saying ‘it’s fine’, but instead, the curries I tried were surprisingly bold and complex. I’ve always been slightly curious about Chilli India, and now I can say this for certain: it definitely does taste as good as it smells.