By Indranil Halder
The Colonial, Darlinghurst, Sydney’s authentic British Indian restaurant is here. A crowded house with British expats than Aussies or Indians. It is truely the home of real and unique British Indian curries.
Restaurant owners are Pankaj Khandelwal and Dolly Kaur. Pankaj who studied Masters of hotel management in France on a French government scholarship. The Colonial restaurants are in Darlinghurst and Neutral Bay. Food cooked by master chef Padam Vyas. Both of which boost high quality services. Sabin, Darlinghurst restaurant manager is always welcoming patrons with a smile. The Colonial restaurants ‘ own The Colonial Curry Club exclusive program gives access to dinner deals , home delivery and takeaway.
What are British Indian curries ?
It all started with British army personals and civilians who worked in India, brought the idea of curries to Britain. Since, then the curries have replaced fish and chips and Yorkshire puddings in the United Kingdom. This particular curry flavours are flamboyant and for the lighter British palette.
In 1733, curry was said to have been served in the Norris Street Coffee House in Haymarket, London. In 1747, the first British cook book ‘The Art of Cookery Made Plain & Easy’, written by Hannah Glasse, celebrated Indian curry recipes.
In 1887, Karim (the Indian domestic helper to Queen Victoria in England) cooked chicken curry, dahl and pilau for Her Majesty. Since, then tradition of curry remain part of British royal family menu. It is said that King George V loved only curry and Bombay duck.
In the 1940s, Indians started catering curries for local London crowd at their newly opened restaurants across town. Powered by Bengali ex-seamen from Sylhet, Bangladesh as chefs. They perfected British Indian curries including goat curry suited for British-Indian cuisine lovers.
In 2001, Britain’s foreign secretary Robin Cook referred one such dish, Chicken Tikka Masala, as a “true British national dish.” And today, curries add over £5bn to the British economy.
In 2011, Sydney had its own British Indian curry restaurant, The Colonial to celebrate British Indian style of food.
My love for British Indian Goat Curry
It was a rainy, windy and dark June evening. I entered The Colonial restaurant in Darlinghurst, Sydney. The restaurant was packed with patrons celebrating birthday parties. To brazen the cold weather, I decided to order Tawa Goat Curry with plain Nan bread as part of my meal. On the menu, I love the use of the word ‘tawa’ as a adjective to describe the goat curry. A tawa is a frying pan or griddle used for cooking in the subcontinent. The Colonial’s Tawa Goat Curry was delectable. The goat meat was cooked to prefection. The curry had a strong flavour of fresh green chilli , ginger and yogurt. It reminded me of the stories of goat curries in India.
There is the story of authentic Indian Railway Goat Curry developed by chefs of the Indian Railway during the British Raj. It is said that this Anglo Indian goat curry was served to the first-class passengers on the train that travel between Howrah-Allahabad-Mumbai.The train which was part of the the Great Indian Peninsula Railway and inspired French writer Jules Verne’s story book Around the World in Eighty Days. The other popular goat curry story at the time was of Goat DakBunglow. It was a bit more spicer. The Goat DakBunglow was served to drunken British officers by Bengali chefs after a night long Bengal rum, champagne and whisky parties in Bunglows.
My own childhood was full of memories of pièce de résistance dish of my mother’s cooking, the Chandanagar Mangshar Jhol (goat curry). A lost goat curry recipe which only had a sprinkle of mustard oil and few hand picked species from the French colony of Chandanagar, West Bengal. It was much milder version of goat curry than Indian Railway Goat Curry or even The Colonial’s Tawa Goat Curry, that I was having.
The Tawa Goat Curry, is everyone’s favourite including the members of Sydney’s curry connoisseur group, Sydney Curry Club (an exclusive group of professionals and entrepreneurial businessmen, who meet monthly, at an Indian, Nepalese, Pakistani or Sri Lankan restaurant, to enjoy food). For me, the Tawa Goat Curry was the pièce de résistance of my meal at The Colonial.