The Babu Ji team open a second Indian restaurant with lamb stew, a self-serve beer fridge and flaky naan.
Piquancy is taking its name seriously. As soon as you step through its door — tucked amongst the quiet cluster of shops on Hawthorn's Auburn Road — you'll be hit with the sharp, spicy attributes synonymous with the restaurant's namesake.
Since opening in April, it hasn't taken long for the team behind St Kilda's Babu Ji to draw the crowds across to Melbourne's east for plates of their distinctive modern Indian cuisine. Operating on a mostly walk-in basis, tables for the dinner service are in high demand, with a few tables reserved for larger groups willing to indulge the chef's tasting menu ($49 for four courses, $69 for six). If you manage to nab one, you'll sit amongst white brick walls bearing shelves of greenery and large Wes Anderson-esque portraits of Indian men.
For those who would rather pick and choose, the menu is separated into dishes from the street and dishes from the pot, all of which are made with locally sourced produce. For the former, you're looking at the likes of juicy charred pieces of tandoori chicken ($26), layered cubes of sweet beetroot paneer ($23) and crispy handmade samosas with pomegranate, green mango powder, spiced potato and peas ($17). Servings are best suited to groups of four.
The pot dishes out staple Indian delights such as butter chicken ($24) and palak paneer ($22), but also a few welcome surprises. Pile your silver plate high with melt-in-your-mouth lamb kafirana ($26), a stew featuring the subtle combination of ginger, garlic and lime leaf. For the adventurous, the fish curry ($25) is a must. Made with blue grenadier, turmeric, mustard seed and coconut milk, the rich, creamy flavours will almost certainly form part of your regular order. Of course, you'll need to mop it up with a serving of naan; we're happy to report that the kitchen seems to have got that flaky-doughy balance just right.
Local wines and craft beers are on offer — though, if you're after the latter, you'll have to get it yourself from the self-serve beer fridge. It'll give you the chance to ponder the labels in all their glory. It's just another way Piquancy will pique your senses.