Brick Lane, Darlinghurst
We all love our local indian takeaway. That warm, soothing, satisfying bowl of a delicious curry, either grabbing one quickly for an easy dinner on the way home, or attempting a brief escape from a blistering winter night staying in. Some are good. Some are better. Some are so disappointingly average. Either way, you usually know what you're in for each time you order your favourite, even if trying somewhere new.
A new wave is finally hitting Sydney. A number of institutions are slowly opening their doors, and in turn, shaking up our indian expectations. Sure, they will never replace that seemingly questionable shopfront that offered us that first experience of a fluffy, buttery, garlic naan wiping up a rich and satisfying curry, or replace the well-trodden regular, miles away as the expat go-to when desperately needing the closest thing to a homely reminder of mum's cooking, but they do offer up some familiar dishes where the indian flavour profile has been carefully re-homed.
Brick Lane is the brainchild of two English-born friends, Kiran Bains and Alistair French, both wanting to bring the UK love for Indian food to Sydney. For those who don't know, Chicken Tikka Masala has been named the UK's national dish since 2001. Bains and French have acknowledged that in order to cultivate this kind of love, it won't be done without adaptation into a style more palatable to our preferences down under. Bringing in the help of friend Joey Ingram (ex Bistro Mint) to head the kitchen, collectively, the three curate a smash hit of flavours comfortably familiar yet all in a bright new light.
We eye-off our must haves, then leave the rest up to Kiran. Confidence and passion for the menu is clear, and frankly, exciting. There's a bunch of snacks to start to accompany our Tempranillo. Whilst there's a stack in the cocktail list, we started this evening early so we'll rest with red. First up, there's the Naan-Mi ($12.50). Sound familiar? In a city so deep in love with a delicious and cheap vietnamese roll, it's honestly no surprise. True to form, there's roasted pork inside alongside with only a gently-spiced pate. Its accompanied with herbs and chilli and wrapped in a baby flatbread.
The duck and quail samosa ($4.50) is insanely crispy and perfect for dipping into the smoked eggplant raita. The calamari bhaji ($12.50) is again fried, but without a great deal of flavour and overall pretty mild. In terms of structure, it manages to hold a good, firm shape. The Smoked Beef Brisket ($18) is this table's crowd favourite - a clear, cooked adaptation to the classic steak tartare. Tender shreds of brisket top a luscious velvety hot-sauce. There's some contrasting slivers of green onion and a turmeric-stained, soft-center, slow-cooked egg to replicate the look of raw yolk. Scoop away with the crisp papad, and although the meat's not raw, it does a damn good job at satisfying to the same extent as it's obvious inspiration.
The king prawn curry leaf ($10) is a sight to be seen. Gorgeous halved-body prawns rest gently on a creamy coconut curry. The prawn is tender, with flesh easy to scoop out to wrap up with the leaf. Our main event is lifted by a generous topping of chilli and lemon slaw upon the Goat Curry ($28). There's a rich, thick sauce underneath, hiding delicate, flavoursome pieces of goat. Overall, it balances and is far from a heavy, oily curry often experienced elsewhere.
Its a solid feed with no need, nor room for dessert, despite having a few options. Speed and service appears effortless and flows harmoniously throughout the floor. There's a good rhythm, warmth, and energy to the place, leaving it somewhere you'd want to return to for that reason alone.