Bibi Ji, Carlton

MELBOURNE | Bibi Ji is the newest restaurant from chefs and restaurateurs Jessi Singh and Amar Singh (no relation). They’re the duo behind an array of popular Indian restaurants like Melbourne’s Horn Please and Daughter In Law, and Sydney’s Don’t Tell Aunty. At Bibi Ji, which I was recently invited to visit, the duo are putting a new spin on a familiar formula.

The Lygon Street space that was home to Caffe Notturno for the past 45 has been completely transformed, with the classic Italian-Australian design giving way to a vibrant array of colour. A rainbow of draped fabrics flow across the ceiling, with walls that are tiled, mirrored, and covered in bright paintings. The bar is a mixture of bright tiles and marble, and vinyl booths and chequered tablecloths nod to the venue’s past. It’s busy, colourful, and fun.

Bibi Ji is the affectionate Punjabi term for “mum’s house”. The restaurant is dedicated to mothers and grandmothers, with a menu inspired by simple home cooking, and street food snacks from across the Indian subcontinent. It’s a menu with flavours that will be familiar to those who have dined at one of Jessi and Amar’s restaurants, but that’s distinct in its own right. The focus is what people eat in their homes, across the Indian subcontinent, but you’ll also find a few reimagined dishes and favourites.

The menu is broadly split into snacks and curries. For snacks, its things like Amritsari fish fry, aloo poori with halwa, and papdi chaat. On the curry side, there’s things like railway chicken curry, typically served on trains in India, aromatic lamb bhuna, ghosht, and a flavoursome on-the-bone, goat curry. There’s a decent selection of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free options on the menu, and yes, there’s butter chicken. The version here is less sweet, with a smokier element than you usually encounter in Melbourne.

A great option to try a variety of things is the banana leaf thali. A large banana leaf arrives at the table, lined with assorted chutney and papadums. Each one represents a different region of India, a theme that’s continued through the progression. Following the chutney it’s three street food snacks, then hoppers and rice, followed by four curries with rice and accompaniments. To finish it’s dessert. It’s pretty good value at $49 per person.

To drink, its Indian inspired cocktails like mango lassi with cardamom-infused rum, and pina coladas. Wine and beer is mostly Victorian (skip the Kingfisher and go for the locally brewed house pale ale), and there’s a decent selection of whisky.


Bibi Ji

179 Lygon Street
Carlton
Victoria 3053
Australia

Telephone: (03) 9088 2094
E-mail: n/a
Website

Open
Wed – Thu: 10:00pm to 11:00pm
Sat – Sun: 8:00am to 4:00pm

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