As they approach the one-year anniversary, the kitchen at inspired subterranean restaurant Indu have re-worked parts of their menu, just slightly changing things around with a few additions here and there as we dive deeper into spring and prepare for summer. Sam Prince’s unique Indian dining experience has built quite the reputation since opening; its popularity calls for this kind of evolution, spicing things up quite nicely by focusing on what works and rethinking what doesn’t, treading further into the unexpected side of Indian dining. The side that doesn’t usually have a platform down here in city full of indulgent butter chicken and other cream-heavy curries.
As I described in my first piece on this restaurant earlier this year, Indu is beautifully based on Prince’s time as an aid worker in India and Sri Lanka. The villagers weren’t able to pay for his medical services, but to show their gratitude they would often invite him into their homes for a meal. The recipes at Indu are inspired by those times, in addition to input from a smart kitchen team – led by Head Chef Chris Evanges – who nicely translate Prince’s dedication to showcasing a different side of these cuisines. The philosophy is well realised here, not just on the menu but also in Indu’s Village to Village program, which connects to those in need via a partnership with ACFIC accredited grassroots organisation Palmera. As such, Indu helps raise funds for village economies, helping to build infrastructure for local village enterprises as well as addressing job security, training, and business opportunities.
My visit to check out the reworked menu fell on a Wednesday right after work hours; it felt like a Saturday. The place was surprisingly packed, loud and buzzed but just calm enough so the consistent soundtrack of The Rolling Stones and The Beatles could set the tone. Like the playlist, there’s a lot of soul within these walls, an infectiously hospitable atmosphere that’s as intimate as those off-shoot private dining tables that cleverly sit separate from the glowing green three-quarter booths. From the line of ceramic pots filled with fragrant spices that welcome guests, past the energetic bar and peer-in dosa kitchen, to the main kitchen from which Evanges keeps a watchful eye on the floor; Indu’s scene is exciting even before the drinks and food start coming.
Favourites have thankfully been kept in tact, so as soon as you open that menu it would be best to get the most essential starter ordered straight away: the smoked goat’s leg dosa ($18), a crisp, buttery, crepe-like flatbread topped with a mount of steaming hot, smoked goat’s leg, zucchini ribbon raita, pomegranate, and a chilli & bacon jam. It’s fun tearing the dosa apart and filling little pockets with this intensely flavourful mix.
New to the menu – and also from the Dosa Bar – is the Egg Hopper ($12) that’s been filled with eggplant pickle, pomegranate pearls, goat’s curd, and coconut sambol. It’s one which speaks to the more Sri Lankan influences of the menu, with the open, bowl-like crepe big enough so that all ingredients are slightly separated. Before you begin wildly tearing at the hopper, mix everything together and then roll it up, that way you can fold everything into each other so the real beauty of the stunning flavour combo comes out.
The small coconut crusted fresh crab koftas ($14 for 4 pieces) have a dollop of aioli on tap and get most of their flavour from squid ink, but the earthy dryness may be off-putting to some. Instead, those with a hankering for strong flavours should save stomach space and order up as many of those gorgeous, sticky twice-cooked NSW lamb ribs ($6 per piece) as they can. They come crusted with a strong almond and jaggery spice, giving the mouthful a rough texture before those deliciously tender meat melts on the tongue.
A larger amount of options for mains is another benefit of the menu changes, one of the better additions being the hot-smoked rainbow trout ($26) with a coconut milk that’s been infused with lime and cardamom. Roe that has been compressed with tamarind and a sizable trout skin round out the dish, giving you plenty to love even if the crispy skin is the show-stealer. The trout is soft and fleshy, taking on the flavours of that coconut milk for an exciting taste.
Indu’s signature main is “The Great” lamb raan, offered as a half serve ($45) of full serve ($80). The soft, 48 slow-roasted meat itself is a little dry but benefits greatly from fresh mint chutney and lunumiris; even better if you have a side of fluffy paratha ($6) so you can use that crispy golden bread to make yourself some small sandwiches.
The standout improvement to Indu’s initial menu is found at the end of dinner, in the dessert section. Options were modest initially, but there’s a wide range of treats now, the best being the peanut semi-freddo ($14) with jaggery, popcorn, chocolate mousse, salted caramel, and cocoa crumbs. There’s a lot going on here, and while the popcorn isn’t necessary the semi-freddo is spectacular, the light and velvety texture mirroring the soft peanut butter profile.
Though not quite as good, the gin & tonic cheesecakes ($13) are still well worth the order, bite-sized and tart, sitting on an interesting crispy coconut and pistachio roti with dehydrated orange on top. Indu seem to love their gin cocktails, so instead of finishing with some dessert wine it’d be wise to give a look at their signature G&Ts: first there’s hendrick’s, rose petal, and cucumber ($15), second a mix of beefeater 24, orange, and coriander ($14), and lastly one made with gin mare, mango peel, and peppercorn ($16).
Address: 350 George Street, (entry via Angel Place) Sydney CBD
Contact: 02 9223 0158
Hours: Mon-Fri 12pm-late; Sat 5pm-late.