Thursday, 29 November 2012

Horn Please - Fitzroy North review

On the very day that I finally made the trip to the Batman Park to sample the wares of the Gumbo Kitchen, I very nearly deviated from my carefully laid plans when I discovered the Dhaba Food Truck parked 20 metres up the road. I have always been enticed by Indian food; the spices, the aromas, and the fact that vegetarian options are more than a mere afterthought. After a little research, I learnt that the brains behind the Dhaba food truck are actually Kyneton's acclaimed Dhaba at the Mill team, and they were about to open Horn Please on St Georges Rd. That's just a few blocks away, WIN!

After hearing nothing but good things in its opening few weeks, it was with great anticipation that I finally made the 5 block stumble to see what all the fuss was about...and there was a lot of fuss. The place was absolutely buzzing with excited diners, perusing the ample drinks list - beers are either micro-brews or imported - and salivating over the seasonal menu. This is one of the cornerstones of Horn Please: traditional Indian street food - as the name suggests - made from quality, fresh ingredients. The menu has some recognisable dishes, but also many that are less familiar. The papdi chaat came particularly recommended. Described as the indian take on nachos, it is a fusion of fried flour crisps, chickpeas and pomegranate in a salsa. My dinner consisted of a combination of the papdi chaat, the samosas, and the Mumbai rolls: a take on spring rolls stuffed with pear, caggage, zuchini and carrot - although these have seemingly already been rotated from the menu - to start, followed by the dhal makhani with basmati rice and the sesame and onion seed naan.

My main gripe with the food is probably borne somewhat out of my own level of expectation, but valid none-the-less. Certainly, the array of authentic street cuisine on offer is impressive, and the freshness of the ingredients compared to that of the corner store, Polak-run Indian takeaway joint is obvious to even the 10-pack a-day smoker. However, just what is being done with the ingredients is the problem. Whilst the papdi chaat provided something a little different, on the whole the food was incredibly underwhelming. Much talk had been about the fragrant spicing, however all I could note was the distinct lack of spice in every dish we tried. It's all well and good to be creative with the ingredients, but it felt like there was a little something missing in each dish to bring out the flavour. I did enjoy the contrasting flavours in the mumbai rolls, but one starter - which is no longer on the menu - is not quite enough to be a saving grace. Perhaps this place is better suited to the carnivorous diner, but didn't quite do enough to entice repeat business from this herbivore.


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