88 Regent St Redfern, NSW 2016
|Opening hours||Lunch and dinner Tue-Sun|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
Where were you during The Great Jaffle Craze of 2015? I can recall a trip to Canberra just to burn my top lip on a gruyere and yabby jaffle by the fire at Monster Kitchen and Bar. Fancy sealed sangers were everywhere that winter, from the good (a sujuk sausage and feta jaffle at Meraki Merchants in Parramatta) and the bad (too many lasagne jaffles) to the ugly (a Korean army-stew-inspired jaffle with noodles, kimchi and kransky at Potts Point's Ms.G's).
If you missed the moment, relax – the jaffle is coming back like a carb-loaded Halley's Comet. There was a jaffle battle on MasterChef in April, Chippendale's The Old Clare Hotel has introduced a scamorza cheese and truffle-filled number to its bar menu, and Flyover Fritterie in Redfern offers two of the toasted sandwiches to choose from.
A dosa potato jaffle ($16.90) bursting with peanut chutney and turmeric-yellow spuds, is similar to the buttery, onion-y sandwiches found on every second street corner in Mumbai. I dig it, but not as much as the paneer tikka jaffle ($17.90), which warms you like wearing socks straight out of the dryer.
Thick and squidgy slices of paneer (fresh curd cheese) meet a riot of masala in a self-contained triangle that's all crisp edges and ouch-that's-hot filling, while mint and tamarind chutneys are on hand to boost flavour even further.
If Flyover only sold jaffles, it would probably still be packed with families and Millennials most weekends. However, owner Gunjan Aylawadi's ambitions go beyond the Breville.
Fed up with the sameness of Indian restaurants in Sydney – too many of the same curry and naan combinations – Aylawadi opened a tiny CBD takeaway shop three years ago to recreate the vibrant flavours and street-food diversity she experienced growing up in Delhi.
With a focus on chickpea-flour fritters (known as bhaji in central India and pakoras in the north), Flyover's popularity grew to the point where Aylawadi needed more space.
Her Redfern site launched beneath student accommodation behemoth Iglu in February, and it's an inviting spot, prettied up with wildflowers and pink accents to distract from cheerless concrete walls.
The kitchen isn't taking shortcuts. That mint chutney is pounded fresh each day; ginger roots are ground and juiced to create a chai ($4.90) full of zip and verve.
Like most chai teas, however, the milk can weigh you down. A full-bodied filter coffee ($6.90), brewed with beans sourced from Indian farms, is more sensible if you want to order big – or better yet, order a Grifter Watermelon Pilsner ($10) that gets along tremendously with all the deep-fried stuff.
And boy, is there a lot of craggy, golden, spindly, deep-fried stuff! My favourite oil-bronzed items are two moreish whole green chillies ($7.90) drenched in a batter of Pluto Pup-like consistency. Tempura it ain't.
The individual silverbeet, broccoli and cabbage pakoras, piled onto a mixed fritter plate ($18.90) promise a lighter time, but you'll still want a friend to help carry the load.
Everything is vegetarian and mostly vegan, which means you (or rather, I) can feel not that unhealthy about inhaling the bonus fritters served with creamy coconut lime khichri ($21.90). The compelling stew combines masoor (red lentil) dhal with basmati, quinoa and black lime so each mouthful is a different set of textures. Sunny flavours, such as coriander seed, ward off the cold and, with all due respect to the paneer-stuffed toast, it's the best thing on the menu.
A spinach and paneer palak ($27.90) is dull by comparison and the liveliness of an accompanying fennel salad is quickly swamped by the moss-green curry.
Things pick back up with pav bhaji ($25.90), a popular Mumbai street food of mashed and spiced vegetables served with soft white rolls. Flyover makes its own pillowy pav buns, ideal for dunking in a soupy mix of cauliflower, potatoes, peas and kale, which tastes like the last few ladles of a great minestrone.
Indian food is so much more than one cuisine, and certainly more than the intestinal Drano beloved of food-court curry shops. Flyover showcases multiple regions with integrity and respect, while targeting younger diners through savvy graphic design and attractive plating.
I've just realised the restaurant delivers too, so bring on The Great Paneer Jaffle In Your Pyjamas Craze of 2022. It might even be cool enough to eat by the time it's at your door.
Vibe: Warm service and spices to get you through winter
Go-to dish: Battered whole green chillies ($7.90)
Drinks: A handful of wines, craft beers and seltzers, plus a contender for Sydney's best chai
Cost: About $70 for two, excluding drinks
This review was originally published in Good Weekend magazine