MELBOURNE | Piquancy , in Hawthorn’s Auburn Village, is the new Indian restaurant from cousins Mani Waraich and Ranjit Singh, owners of St Kilda’s Babu Ji. Babu Ji is one of our favourite Indian restaurants in Melbourne, so when we heard about Piquancy, it didn’t take us long to head over for a visit.
Those familiar with Babu Ji will recognise a lot of that venue’s DNA in Piquancy. From the turban wearing mustachioed man in the logo, to the Indian pop songs playing through the speakers, the video clips projected on the white walls, to the craft beer fridge and indeed many of the menu items, it’s obvious that the two restaurants are related. The downstairs section is the ideal place to be seated – with the visible kitchen and a bit more hustle and bustle making for a more vibrant space than the quieter upstairs section.
The dishes on the menu span a range of regions from India’s central and northern regions, and are lighter than what many people in Melbourne associate with Indian food. Mani wants to show Melburnians that there’s more to Indian food to curry, more to Indian food than heat. It’s about simple, home cooking, traditional dishes and a focus on quality produce and flavour. Indeed, many of the dishes at Piquancy have their origin in Mani’s grandmother’s kitchen, which is where he learned to cook.
The menu is split into two sections – ‘from the street’ and ‘from the pot’. It’s easy to assume that this split is a starters and mains type thing, but that’s not the case. Prices are mostly north of $20 across the menu, and both sections feature substantial portions designed to share. ‘From the street’ includes the more contemporary dishes, such as Beetroot Paneer – beetroot marinated curd cheese & vegetables charred in the tandoori oven, and Tulsi Nimbu Fish Tikka – Atlantic salmon with basil, lime, garlic and candid orange. One of our favourites is the Batata Vada – a spiced lentil & potato croquette topped with fresh radish & beetroot sauce. It’s dense, complex, sweet, savoury and surprisingly light.
‘From the pot’ is where you’ll find curries and more familiar dishes. The Fish Curry – which uses turmeric coated Blue Grenadier, mustard seed & coconut milk curry, is a highlight, as is the humble Butter Chicken, which sees free range chicken cooked with tomato, cardamom & fenugreek for a tender, light curry bursting with flavour.
The wine list features around 25 mostly local wines, with a few old world wines included too. The aforementioned beer fridge contains around 50 different craft beers, again mostly local, with a few overseas options like the expected Kingfisher. What we love about the beer fridge is that you just help yourself and the bottles are counted up at the end of your mile – the Bridge Road Brewers Little Bling goes particularly well with the food here if you’re looking for a tip.
In a boon to those who have a gluten intolerance, around 90% of the menu here is gluten free, and there are a lot of vegetarian and vegan options on the menu too. Think things like quinoa biryani, cauliflower rice, and naan made with quinoa, chickpea and lentil flour with psyllium husk.
123 Auburn Road
Telephone: (03) 9813 5160
Wed – Mon: 5:30pm to 9:30pm