Tantalizing the Senses - The Spice Room
By Maria Maung
On street level the entrance greets us with vintage Indian signage and an old tin bike that serves as the gateway into another world. As we walk into The Spice Room, we take in the ambience and begin to understand the careful consideration that has taken place to construct this invitingly opulent entertaining space. The walls are laden with intricately carved antiques doors, the lighting is warm yet low and moody.
Reminiscent of a traditional internal courtyard belonging to an elegant Indian home, a majestic communal wooden table is the centerpiece of the room complete with beautiful table settings. The walls are intricately hand painted and sanded back to give the effect of beautifully worn wallpaper adding to the inviting nature and old world charm of the space.
We were lucky enough to be guided through the space by interior designer Jill Hoffenberg who worked closely with restaurant owner Indra Matta in the development of The Spice Room. For both these women, The Spice Room was a labour of love and whilst Indra has placed her creative mark on the menu she also has a wonderful creative synergy with Jill that has naturally developed through years of working together on various projects.
We soon settle in for the culinary experience, beginning with an entrée of traditional street- style Pani Puri. Delicate bite sized crispy shells, filled with a spicy potato filling and topped with tangy tamarind or sweet liquid (added to your taste) We experience the refreshing bursts of flavor with just enough crunch.
Next we move onto one of the signature dishes, the King Prawn Gulmohar. The prawns are tender and meaty having being lightly spiced and cooked in the traditional clay oven, the prawns are then paired with a wonderfully fragrant rose infused yoghurt.
The spice then amps up with the Lamb Chops Mustard Marsala. Encrusted with a delicious paste of coriander and cumin, we add a squeeze of lemon to add a tangy kick that cuts through the spic and rich flavor of the meat.
If you like things hot and want to try some authentic street style cuisine, give the potato filled Fat Green Chillis and Okra Fingers a go. The slightly dense and crunchy Mumbai batter combined with the spice of chilli or the unusual texture of the okra works well with either accompaniment of sticky sweet tamarind sauce or the mint yoghurt chutney. Definitely one for the chilli lovers and those who seek to get off the beaten culinary path.
At this point we decided to take the edge off the spicy chilli with a round of lassi. A traditional yoghurt based beverage perfect for cooling down your taste buds in between spice hits. We particularly loved the mango and cardamom lassi for the perfect balance of fruitiness and refreshing fragrance.
The strawberry and rose lassi is equally fruity and fragrant but has an added tang to it. Perfect for cleansing your palette before continuing on your spice journey.
If you are game to try something more exotic, try the bhang lassi. A mix of yoghurt, ginger, salt and mint, this lassi is a riot of flavours. Salty, sour, yet refreshing, with a mild heat from the ginger and the distinct flavor of cumin, I found it to be an unexpectedly addictive hit of flavor enjoyed throughout the meal.
We then delve into The Spice Room signature dish of Emperor Chicken Biryani. This slow cooked dish features tender chunks of chicken cooked in basmati rice infused with saffron and garam masala. Topped with crunchy garlic, tomato, a hint of mint and served with a cucumber raita, this wonderfully hearty all in one dish encompasses the best elements of Indian cuisine.
Moving onto the realm of curries, we tried the Goat Curry and the Chicken Pataila. Both were mildly spicy and rich in flavor, the meat cooked to be juicy and tender immersed in the rich, delightfully flavorsome curries. The Chicken Pataila was a personal favourite, served true to it’s tradition on a light perfectly crisp omelette base with a fresh highlight flavor of sweet red capsicum.
One of the most memorable specialties of The Spice Room would have to be the naan breads. The sweet Peshawari Naan is a must try. This light naan pastry encasing sweet dessicated coconut and dried fruits is delicious. If you are looking for something to accompany the curries, you can’t go past the simple traditional naan or the chilli cheese naan for something richer, but it doesn’t just end there!
The dessert offering also features a Nutella Naan accompanied with banana and icecream…we liked to think of it as the modern Indian take on chocolate and banana pancakes. For a dessert that’s little more exotic try the Walnut and Date Samosas. Traditionally served as a light crispy savory pastry, this version is The Spice Room’s brilliant interpretation of the classic Baklava.
One of the key things that stood out about our experience at The Spice Room was the fact that it awoke our senses. Both a visual and culinary delight with so many layers of delicate subtleties mixed with bold flavours and visual statements, it was a dining experience worth savoring. What we loved most was that it in every aspect The Spice Room is unique. The finer details well considered, the flavours well balanced, the service well executed and the experience well worth remembering and one worth going back for.
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