Make sure you Don’t Tell Aunty, but this Indian restaurant is doing things a little differently.
From the moment you walk into Don’t Tell Aunty, it feels only natural to bust out some Bollywood hip popping manoeuvres. The distinctive Indian music joyfully fills the space, while brightly painted walls, mismatched gold, silver and copperware and teal velvet cushions add the final flirtatious flourishes.
Opening its doors just shy of a week ago, the contemporary Indian restaurant is located in the site that previously occupied 4Fourteen. As we bid farewell Colin Fassnidge’s consistent performer, locals eagerly awaited the new punter. Insert Jessi Singh. This internationally renown chef and restauranteur, whose collection of acclaimed restaurants spans from NYC to California, Melbourne and now Sydney, was quick to spot this opportunity.
Singh, in partnership with Amar Singh, owner of Horn Please, Babu Ji and Dhaba at the Mill in Melbourne, was playfully inspired by the home of a traditional aunty. The 85-seat venue, complete with a projector playing old Bollywood films against a pink brick wall, is a place you can show up unannounced and always be welcome. Like the name implies however, things are done a little differently here. There’s no ghee or oil in the curry, there’s whisky in the chai and the men do all the cooking. We won’t tell aunty if you don’t.
As for the menu, it spans all regions of India, with some Australian and American influences thrown in for good measure. Commendable street food dishes include Colonel Tso’s Cauliflower ($16), coated in a delicate tomato and chilli sauce before spending a decent amount of time in the deep fryer. The Yoghurt Kebab ($14) divides the table. Strained yoghurt is given a flavour explosion thanks to green chilli, cardamon and oodles of garlic, before it’s deep fried and served atop a vibrant beet and ginger sauce. Some relish in the punchy garlic hit, while others are left a little underwhelmed.
From the Tandoor menu, the free range chicken ($18) is a crowd favourite, marinated in an aromatic yoghurt before being expertly charred in the tandoor. Other dishes from the list include Aussie Lamb Chops ($26), Grilled Summer Prawns ($28) and Charred Local Fish served with ginger-honey sauce and micro radish greens ($24).
As for the all-important curry menu, you’ll find everything from Aunty’s Dhal ($14) to Punjabi Kadhi ($18), Palak Paneer ($18) and an ‘Unauthentic’ Butter Chicken ($21), made using yoghurt-marinated chicken, tomato, ginger, garlic and fenugreek. To mop everything up, aged basmati sella rice and naan bread make for dependable sides.
The wine list, designed by international winemaker and sommelier, Rajat Parr, features a range of approachable wines spanning from across the globe. Interestingly, all wines operate on a self-serve basis. The idea is that you approach the wine fridge, peruse the menu and pick and choose your own bottle before heading back to the table. If you would order drinks by the glass, conventional service applies, where your friendly waiter brings your tipple of choice to you.
Similarly, a self-serve beer fridge encourages patrons to pick and choose from a variety of locally sourced and imported brews throughout your meal. A bit like a visit to your local sushi train, you’re faced with plenty of enticing options but maybe left surprised with your bill at the end. Oops.
Don’t Tell Aunty is open for lunch and dinner from Tuesday to Saturday. If you’re in the neighbourhood and find yourself hankering for an affordable lunch option, a $10 buffet lets you put as much on a large plate as you’re willing to eat, without wastage. Load your plate up with an abundance of curries and street food, teamed with rice, papadums and naan.