Bombay Street Kitchen
This Glebe restaurant pays tribute to the dying street food culture of Bombay.
The Indian restaurants of Sydney are, by and large, traditional curry and rice affairs accompanied by ornate, old-world interiors. But Glebe's Bombay Street Kitchen is looking to break free from the pack, serving up street food as homage to Bombay's hawkers and khau gallis (laneways lined with street-side food stalls).
The restaurant sits on the bustling corner of Glebe Point Road, purposely designed for its outdoor seating and open-air atmosphere which best mimics the vibe on the streets of Bombay. Husband and wife team Rajoo and Shaloo Gurram are not new to the restaurant game, having previously owned Nelson Bay's only Indian restaurant (fittingly named The Only Place) for over 20 years. It's an all-round family affair here, with the couple running the kitchen and their daughter, Manasi Gurram, manning front of house. Manasi tells us her parents are very proud of their cooking, and can still be found in the kitchen most nights. It shows — their food is certainly something to be proud of.
Of course, it's best to start with the namesake menu of street eats. The spicy pani poori and tangy dahi poori ($7.90 each) are crispy semolina pockets stuffed with potatoes, sprouts and tamarind chutney, served over puffed rice — and they're lovely little puffs of goodness. This is hand-to-mouth eating at its best. "You would eat these on the street with all different groups of people around, and no matter how fast you ate, the vendor can always calculate what you owe in his head," says Manasi. Her expertise and stories help bring the experience to life. The menu is also full of anecdotes, which is a nice touch on the dish's origins and regionality.
The Koliwada prawns ($10.90) also come with a story — the dish hails from Bombay's fishing district where fresh, simple food is served seaside. The prawns are lightly coated with spices, deep fried and served with a refreshing lemon yoghurt.
If you can't go for Indian without curries and rice, they do that too — but with a street food flair. The goat curry ($18.90) — a signature dish typically served in railway stations — is full of bold, tangy flavours. The fall-off-the-bone meat is best paired with a side of coconut rice ($5.50), which adds a cooling element.
If all this eating gets you thirsty, the Indian-inspired cocktails use traditional ingredients; both the tamarind margarita and rose and cardamom martini (both $14) are strong and a good match for the food.
The street-side sign reads "travellers locals, scholars and shoppers all welcome", which is an appropriate nod to the multiple walks of life, both rich and poor, that these eat streets attract. The only sad story we heard on the night is that this Bombay street food culture is dying out because young people are stuck on eating trending Western food. In Sydney at least, this delicious tradition is very much alive.