For better or for worse, the role of the restaurant selector when dining out usually falls to me. It's absolutely fine by me as I have a ready list of "must visit" restaurant broken down into area on hand. But when we were planning a catch up with Bella and Missy, Bella threw me a challenge. We needed strictly gluten free and vegetarian restaurant but an inexpensive and if possible, one that I could write about. I suggested on place- it was inexpensive but delicious Asian food but then Bella asked me if it was "gluten responsible." I had no idea so faced with the onerousness and seriousness of the question, I passed the task onto her. After some looking and some phone calls she came back with Delhi 'O' Delhi.
It's a restaurant I've driven past countless times on the way to King Street in Newtown. Resembling a glass cube tucked under another building, my friend and Newtown local Girl Next Door had been trying to get me to visit for a long time. We are dining early as Bella has her daughter Pookie Bear with her. We take a look at the menu and Pookie Bear asks for ice cream. Of course. Because since when do three year olds know that you're not supposed to have dessert first?
They're good with recommendations and the bonus with much of the food is that a lot of it is gluten free and there's a good vegetarian section. The restaurant swells during the night and gets very noisy. There are few soft furnishings in the restaurant to absorb sound so a raucous table of four nearby drown out a lot of conversation.
The mango lassi is thick and served with ice in a mason jar. I find it a bit too thick but once the ice melts it thins it out making it easier to drink.
We chose this dish as it is vegetarian so Missy could have it but of course Bella couldn't as there is gluten in it. A popular street food, I've had these serves as a bowl of crisp chips but here they're a hollow crisp deep fried pastry with chunks of diced potatoes, raisins and chick peas drizzled with a date and tamarind chutney and a yogurt and mint sauce.
Served as three patties of spiced grated cottage cheese, fresh herbs and raisins these are grilled on a hot plate. They're served with a tropical fruit chutney but the patties themselves are very strong in ginger that really dominates a tad too much. Apart from the ginger they're a touch on the bland side and the alfalfa garnish ends up adding much of the flavour.
However we really enjoy the tandoor grilled spatchcock served on the bone, with succulent, marinated meat flavoured with hung yoghurt, green chilli paste and ginger. It's a good sized entree with enough for four.
They're fast with bringing Pookie Bear's food out which is fortunate because she is getting a bit restless. Just in case you're interested in what a child's meal looks like, it's enormous with a mild grilled chicken flavoured with yoghurt and roasted cashew nuts, a whole fluffy butter naan and sesame crusted potato wedges.
Decibels rise as the restaurant fills and the door swings open constantly letting cold in (avoid the table near the door during cold weather). Our mains arrive after a short break. The butter chicken is made with free range chicken pieces cooked in the tandoor oven and then it is simmered in a sauce with fenugreek leaves, cashew nuts and fresh cream. It's quite sweet and Bella likes the level of sweetness in this dish.
The two following mains are more savoury than sweet. The Duck Chettinad is a South Indian speciality. The skin on duck pieces are flavoured with star anise, coconut, black pepper, fennel and whole roasted red chillies. I would have loved the meat to be a bit softer but the flavours are very good indeed.
However I prefer the diced lamb shoulder cooked in a rich pistachio and yogurt sauce flavoured with green cardamom. Again I would have loved the lamb to have been a bit softer but the flavours are full and bold.
Missy's main is a recommendation from the waiter. There are three soft, light dumplings made up of baby corn, potatoes and cottage cheese. These sit in a rich cashew nut sauce strong with green cardamom. It too is on the sweet side but perhaps not quite much as the butter chicken.
We all love the twist on basmati rice that is flavoured with fresh lemon juice, curry leaf and mustard seeds.
I have a slight obsession with peshwari naan. This is a naan filled with coconut and dried fruit. This one isn't filled as much as I like and is quite thin in filling.
We decide to share one dessert and its unusual presentation peaks curious Pookie Bear's interest. There are two pillows of deep fried sweet pastry filled with pistachio soya paneer (dairy free), pine nuts, cashew and dark chocolate on top of a stand made out of toffee. The filling tastes mostly of chocolate and it is little Pookie Bear that takes one pillow and nibbles on it until her cheeks are stained with chocolate.
So tell me Dear Reader, if a restaurant is noisy, do you tend to eat quickly and leave or do you like a restaurant to be lively?
This meal was paid for independently.
Delhi 'O' Delhi
3 Erksineville Rd, Newtown, NSW
Tel: +61 (02) 9557 4455
Open 7 days 5:30pm-10:30pm