Chef Jessi Singh at Horn Please. Photo: Simon Schluter
WHERE AND WHAT
What, no typical colonial name such as Indian Palace or Royal Indian? Owners Jessi and Jennifer Singh must be tired of explaining their curious choice of Horn Please (it's the rule governing the riot of India's roads), in the more sedate context of Fitzroy North, just near the Edinburgh Gardens. Horn Please is an offshoot of their Kyneton restaurant Dhaba at the Mill, doing its bit to elevate the local stocks of an often-abused and little-understood cuisine.
WHERE TO SIT
A generously proportioned shop front had no need to expunge the broad, white archways from the days it was a Nepalese restaurant. Bollywood movies are projected silently onto the wall, with solemn portraits and bold Hindi script adding to the understated flair.
WHEN TO GO
Monday to Wednesday 6-9pm; Thursday-Saturday 6-10.30pm; Sunday 5.30-9pm.
Samosas stuffed with peas and potato, green mango and pomegranate at Horn Please. Photo: Simon Schluter
Indian food goes brilliantly with a beer and Horn Please takes its selection seriously, with a 20-plus list on a serve-yourself system from a fridge near the door. Wine sticks patriotically to the Macedon region - seven whites and reds - or you can BYO (it's $10 corkage a bottle).
No oil slicks, more sophisticated spicing than usually encountered among Melbourne's Indian restaurants - Horn Please had me at the fat samosas, which were stuffed with pea and potato, green mango and pomegranate. Chilli-dodgers will find plenty to like here, the heat trumped by the fragrant aromatics of fenugreek, cardamom, cloves and all the mysterious spicing of the subcontinent, although if heat is what you're after, a hot chilli sauce and a powerful pickle turn up for you to add at will. Pappadums are also worth ordering, if just for the accompanying trio of minty coriander, sweet mango, and date and tamarind chutney. ''Street food'' starters include an unusual papdi chaat, billed as the Indian take on nachos and starring fried chickpea fritters with a zingy combo of tomato, pomegranate and coriander. There's no seafood on the short menu but from the eight mains, goat curry in a dark gravy that's heavy with cardamom hits the right notes, and grab some of the chewy, fat naan (made with organic and unbleached flour) to soak up the sauce from the free-range butter chicken in a creamy lake. Among three desserts is kulfi - the sweet, rich ice-cream made with evaporated milk - and mango lassi.
Locals have embraced it, and it's overflowing on weekends.
Indian food doesn't have to mean chicken tikka masala.
- (03) 9497 8101
- Cuisine - Indian
- Prices - Entrees, $5-$10; mains, $10-$16; desserts, $5-$6 (all- you-can-eat rice and curries Sunday, 6-9pm, $20)
- Chef(s) - Jessi Singh
- Owners - Jessi and Jennifer Singh
- Cards accepted - AMEX, EFTPOS, Mastercard, Visa
- Opening Hours - Mon-Wed, 6-9pm; Thurs-Sat, 6-10.30pm; Sun, 5.30-9pm.
- Other Branches - Dhaba at the Mill, 18 Piper St, Kyneton, (03) 5422 6225 plus roving food trucks in Woodend, Castlemaine and inner city.
- Author - Larissa Dubecki