The Spice Pantry A New Indian Gem in Prahran
The Spice Pantry in Prahran is surely amongst the best Indian food in Melbourne. A big "call" but we are amazed by this new restaurant in the burbs. In true Melbourne style this is a small restaurant you may drive past on Commercial Rd Prahran. But stop and take the time to experience some first class (mainly) North Indian food.
Generations of a superb family run business. Anuj (left) with his uncle (centre) and Chef Anand his father (right).
While it's a new restaurant the team has loads of experience; in fact in the kitchen some 80 years between the two of them! Chef Anand is a brilliant Melbourne chef who is highly trained and worked in top hotels and restaurants in India, as well as successful ones here in Melbourne. Back in the day he had the Indian cricket team around including the great Sachin Tendulkar, as well as many Melbourne personalities and was acclaimed by the former Herald Sun food critic Eric Page. Now he is back with his entrepreneurial and foodie son Anuj to launch The Spice Pantry. Anuj is a top flight accountant who also loves hospitality and claims hospitality over accounting as his first love (can identify). He cut his teeth working in hospitality at the MCG (last 11 years) and has grown up as a foodie in his Dad's Indian restaurant environment.
This is not the sort of Indian food we expect in the burbs to be honest. Way above! We were invited (David and Ted) to sample the menu (lavish we must say) and we quickly realised this was a humble restaurant but of the highest quality. There is limited seating (maybe 20 including on Commercial Rd) at this cosy restaurant, and they do a roaring trade on home delivery. Also Chef Anand is a noted caterer - having catered successfully for large events of hundreds (once over 600!). Having eaten in most of Melbourne's top notch Indian restaurants and having been to India several times, we can attest to the high standard here. In fact the quality of produce available in Melbourne lends itself to standout cuisine, but it's the skill of Chef Anand that takes it into superlative overdrive.
So what makes The Spice Pantry stand out above the pack? Prime cuts of meat, quality spice profiles and spices, sauces made from scratch (and unlike some places a different sauce for each dish - yes some places use the same sauce and change the colour!), not too much oil in the curries, and the recipes and skill of the chef. There's pride in the dishes and it's a labour of love. And no shortcuts! For example the Naan bread is made with eggs, how it should be, but often not in some places.
For a small restaurant the range of dishes is impressive. We started with the entrees of Samosa's and Spinach Pakora (chopped spinach and onion fritters) with a delightful salad. And with a compelling dipping sauce.
The selection of Chicken Tikka from the Tandoori oven was first class, delightful boneless tender chicken with wonderful spice and yoghurt dipping sauce. We were served two types of Chicken Tikka; the second dish was infused with cheese and was stunning.
After substantial entrees we were served mains of note, including prime curries.
My favourite was the Prawn curry; using large quality jumbo prawns with a delicious sauce with nuances of mustard. A South Indian classic we would love to return for this alone!
Another highlight was the hearty Goat Curry, served on the bone.
Butter Chicken was possibly the best butter chicken I have ever eaten; not the nondescript renditions you often get but filled with flavour, tender and with a sweetness I loved.
The Indian Style Chinese Chicken dish was also a wonderful surprise, with fresh crisp vegetables.
Lamb Korma in a mild creamy sauce will always be a favourite and the tender lamb pieces were perfect, with a compelling sauce.
A feast of top notch Indian cuisine that rocked our world.
Chicken Karai was also first class. Yoghurt on the side added to the feast we were enjoying!
Palak Paneer with Cottage Cheese complemented the other curries and is a must order.
Generous amount of Naan bread handmade from the Tandoori oven was first class - made with eggs of course!
Dessert also hit the mark as we sampled a couple of dishes - Pistachio Kulfi ice cream with mixed berry dish that was refreshing and delicious and indulgent Gulab Jamun milk dumpling in golden syrup.
Anuj is truly passionate about hospitality and brings the love to The Spice Pantry.
The Spice Pantry is BYO with a bottle shop next door. They also feature with home delivery (if I lived in Prahran it would be a favourite to order) as well as Marriage With Spices catering service. We fell in love with the family run business of The Spice Pantry! Highly recommended.