42 Auburn Rd
Auburn, NSW 2144
I’ve never been to Student Biryani, but I can tell you right now that it does the best biryani in Sydney. Ok technically that’s a bit of a half-truth; I may have never been to Student Biryani in person, but I’ve sure eaten it plenty of times. An old co-worker of mine used to occasionally organise biryani days at work, where he would order entire buckets from Student Biryani for us to feast on. And everyone who has ever tasted it agrees that it is the best they’ve ever had.
Student Biryani may be decked out like a dodgy fast food chain, but there is so much more to the story than that. From humble beginnings in 1969 as a street stall (next to a university, hence the name) in Pakistan, Student Biryani is now found globally all the way from Canada to the United Arab Emirates. Which explains why despite the fluorescent lights and dangerously greasy floors, Student Biryani has more customers on a weeknight than most of the nearby restaurants combined.
Prices here are cheap enough to induce a double-take; case in point, Meal 1 ($16) yields you a large lamb biryani, salad, raita, and a drink. And when they say large, they mean large – there is enough rice and meat here to feed the hungriest of punters.
But despite the cheap prices and huge portions, this food is top-quality and made-to-order. Each grain of jewel-bright rice is fluffy and light, gently coated with spice-infused ghee and more than good enough to shovel down on its own. But don’t short-change yourself like that; dig down into the rice and you’ll find enormous hunks of fork-tender lamb, slow-cooked on the bone in a rich, spicy gravy with large pieces of potato. I can wax lyrical about this all day, but you really need to try it to understand just how satisfying it is.
For some variety, we also got Meal 7 ($15), which is arguably even better value with a Haleem curry, freshly made naan, biryani rice (no meat in this one), and a drink. I had first come across Haleem curry at Faheem Fast Food, and fell in love with the unctuous, gravy-like curry of slow-cooked lentils and beef. And despite the robust array of spices, this is a surprisingly mellow and comforting stew, tasting just as at home scooped up with the pillowy naan as it is dolloped on top of a plate of spiced rice.
Student Biryani is the kind of place where the appeal of the food is so universal that it transcends generations and cultures. Not only can this be seen in Student Biryani’s success, but also just in the variety in the clientele it attracts on a Wednesday night in the suburbs of Sydney. You have young couples rubbing elbows with suits sitting next to families with children in school uniform in tow, and everyone is here to dig into a plate of biryani. And if you still don’t believe me, let me reiterate that they sell their biryani by the bucket – what other evidence do you need that people can’t get enough of it?
Rating: 14/20 – best biryani in town.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.