Jewel of India

Jewel of India's menu represents the diverse cuisine of India.
Jewel of India's menu represents the diverse cuisine of India. 

11 Bougainville St Griffith, ACT 2603

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Opening hours Mon-Fri 12 Noon – 2:00 PM 5:30 – 10:00 PM, Sat-Sun 5:30 – 10:00 PM
Features Licensed, BYO, Accepts bookings, Vegetarian friendly, Gluten-free options, Family friendly
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Chef Venkatesh Ramachandran
Seats 75
Payments eftpos, AMEX, Cash, Visa, Mastercard
Phone 02 6295 7037

The Canberra Times Top 20 for 2013: No. 18

India has one of the greatest and oldest food cultures but for many in the West, Indian food means little more than chicken, fish or lamb with a deeply coloured spiced gravy, and rice. The reality couldn't be further from this ubiquitous picture, with highly diverse dishes across India.

Which is why we champion Jewel of India, where this diversity is writ large across a menu full of distinctive dishes. Sure, you can get hooked on a pair of lamb cutlets singed and sizzling from the tandoor - so good - but there's way more to this pair of restaurants in the city and Manuka.

Reminiscent of most Indian eateries, there's a certain cultural craziness to the layout, fixtures and setting, with the dated formality of carpets and white tablecloths. But the fragrances of the subcontinent pervade the room, and service is friendly and professional.

All the regulation Indian starters are here: plump, crispy samosa filled with spiced potatoes and served with dhal and chutney, onion bhaji with tamarind, chicken tikka, carom-flavoured fish and kebabs of minced lamb. It's easy to churn through platters of this stuff, but hang back a little. The mains are packed with spiced action.

I really like the simply flavoured spiced fish with fenugreek - and I like the way Venkatesh Ramachandran's dishes take one spice in focus. The super-peppery chicken chettinad is another example of restraint in the spice cabinet.

Among the more unusual and interesting dishes, you will find all the favourites - korma, saag, vindaloo, rogan josh, madras. But nowhere makes you feel like focusing on the vegetarian menu like Jewel, where dishes are based on potatoes, dhal, paneer and entwined with stirfried okra, eggplant masala and pulses. This is one of the few places outside those weird Chinese vegetarian restaurants where you really don't need to eat meat.

Wine is well down the priority list here, but the list has some pleasant offerings and BYO is welcome.

Jewel of India is one of the stalwarts of inner Canberra dining, always aiming high in the food and service stakes, and sustaining your appetite for that great, exciting, slightly crazy nation.