MELBOURNE | ISH opened on Gertrude street late last year, offering a unique take on Indian cuisine. We were invited in by owner Ganeev Bains, who has made it his mission to challenge Australian preconceptions about what Indian food can be.
Ganeev studied hospitality in Laussane, Switzerland and Adelaide before moving back to home to Chandigarh in India. After some time in the restaurant and nightclub scene over there, he decided to move back to Australia with his wife and ISH is his attempt at bringing Chandigarh’s vibrant dining scene to Melbourne. The space has elements of a bar about it – a long, fully stocked bar lines one side of the small, narrow space while high tables and stools line the other side. Decor wise it’s exposed brick, low lighting, timber furniture, and a few subtle decorations.
In the kitchen, Ganeev has enlisted the help of head chef Michael Stolley (ex Pole Pole) in the kitchen, and the result is food that’s different to what you get at most Indian restaurants, fused with flavours and techniques from across India and around the world.
We sampled an assortment of things from the menu, and couldn’t fault a single dish. Of particular note is that our two favourites were both vegetarian dishes. One particular highlight is the Kashmir dum aloo. It’s served with gnocchi-like pan fried potato dumplings, saag puree, popped lentils, and dried cherry tomatoes. The flavours and textures combine wonderfully in this truly unique dish. Another highlight is the tandoori malai broccoli, served with wild black rice, candied cashews and chilli. You can’t see the cashews because we got them on the side (Lauren’s nut allergy). This one really packs a punch – the only thing we tried that was properly spicy. The food here isn’t about spice, but simple flavours and balance. When a dish is spicy, like this one, it’s done with purpose.
If you do want meat, try the Kerala beef curry with Victorian grass-fed beef, pomegranate, raita pearls, and micro coriander. It’s lighter than what most expect from a curry and pairs perfectly with ISH’s delicious black garlic naan. Also try the delicate and fragrant tandoori chicken and the fantastic South Indian spiced duck pate topped with Brussels sprout mustard achar and served with black cardamom ghee naan. For dessert, try the ISH deconstructed chocolate mess. It’s a wonderfully chocolatey mixture of flavours and textures that works fantastically well.
For drinks it’s a fully stocked bar filled with beer, wine and spirits. The wine list is particularly notable for its assortment of drops from around the world that match perfectly with the food. Also of note is ISH’s selection of Indian whiskeys and house cocktails. Try the Indian Elixir, a sweet spiced cocktail with a secret blend of spices modelled off masala chai. The Kambipura Sour, a mixture of Amrut Indian Single malt whisky, Sangiovese, plum wine, egg white, and lemon, is also fantastic. For those wanting something non-alcoholic there’s also soft drink, Indian filter coffee, an assortment of T2 teas, and cold drip coffee.
We love a good butter chicken with garlic naan and rice as much as the next person, but if you want to expand your ideas of what Indian food can be, and taste some unique, exciting flavours in the process, ISH is well worth your consideration.
199 Gertrude Street
Telephone: 0413 895 143
Sun, Tue – Thu: 5:00pm to 10:00pm
Fri: 5:00pm to 10:30pm
Sat: 12:00pm to 3:00pm; 5:00pm to 10:30pm