We arrived at the restaurant early and it was relatively quiet, but within the next hour it began to fill up and the pleasant hum of chatter surrounded us. Run by husband and wife team (the husband is also the Head Chef), the venue is clean and bright in appearance. I like that you can see straight into the kitchen from the restaurant, and there’s a lovely aroma filling the air.
Jeremy and I peruse the menu, deciding to skip entrees so we can focus on the mains. After all, the best part of eating Indian is having a selection of curries to share. Once we’ve placed our orders, a complementary serve of papadums with mango chutney is brought out.
Sometimes when you’re eating at home and the papadums are from a packet, you can forget how great fresh ones can be. These were excellent, with fennel seeds throughout, and the crisp texture light but perfectly crunchy. I really enjoyed the sticky chutney which was well balanced, slightly sweet but also a little tart.
Not long after we cleaned up the papadums, our food started to arrive in a flurry of activity. The Channa Masala ($15.00) was our vegetarian choice – a well cooked Punjabi style chickpea curry. Normally I’m all about dahl, but my boy was pretty tempted by this chickpea version so I was happy to try something different (especially since I knew I was going to get my go-to butter chicken).
The chickpea curry was really different to other curries I’ve tried. Thick and almost starchy, it had layers of spices and a unique flavour.
The butter chicken ($22.00) looked promising the moment it hit the table. The oven roasted chicken thighs in a tomato based creamy sauce with fenugreek leaves were vivid and warming – a classic comfort curry with it’s buttery goodness.
For me, I can’t help but always gravitate towards this curry in any Indian venue, so I feel like it’s the constant I compare between venues. To date, Bollywood in Innaloo is my benchmark and I have to say, Varq’s version comes extremely close – the only thing that I felt was slightly missing was the smokiness that Bollywood’s butter chicken has.
Our saffron rice ($4.00 per person), raita ($4.50) and butter naan ($4.00) came out at the same time as our final dish. When we’d placed our order we thought we’d picked the malabar fish curry but what came out was a lamb dish instead. We didn’t realise until we’d had a bite each, but neither of us minded at all since what we did eat was tasty. I’m thinking the name must have been similar to cause the confusion!
The lamb was flavoursome and for the most part tender. I did have a couple pieces that had large veins of sinew running through the middle, but it was easy enough to navigate around these. The sauce was coconutty and again well balanced, something I can say happily was the case with all their dishes.
While I enjoyed the curries, I actually have to say the standout dish of the night was easily the butter naan. Flaky, slightly smokey in parts and so light it dissolved on my tongue. It definitely lived up to it’s buttery name and every bite got better and better.
The mark of a good naan bread for me is whether you can enjoy it with or without curry to dip it in – and in Varq’s case, yes you could. Great value and absolutely spot on flavour and texture. I loved it.
With so much food you can imagine at that point in time we were feeling very full! But I’d earlier spotted a saffron poached pear dessert on the menu, and was unable to shift it from my mind. I was captivated by the sound of it, so I was all ready to order the moment our lovely waitress came by our table.
But it wasn’t meant to be! They’d run out of the pear on that evening (yes, cue devastation – I guess a visit back for this plus some other curries I had my eye on is in order) so I was out of luck. Since I’d already made up my mind that I wanted dessert, we chose a couple dishes off the menu on a whim. I had no idea what to expect as I don’t think I’ve eaten many Indian desserts except kulfi.
Jeremy’s choice was the rasmalai ($10.00) – cottage cheese sponges served in a milk reduction and sprinkled with pistachio nuts. The texture of this dessert was really different – a little grainy in the cake but creamy from the sauce. It was really sweet! I have heard from most of my friends who eat Indian desserts that this is the case, but I don’t think I was quite prepared for how much it would be.