Wondering where to book your next dinner date or family get together? It can be difficult to try and find the right restaurant.

At Dish Cult, we do the investigating for you by exploring some of Melbourne’s most talked-about restaurants. This week our writer Lauren Dinse went undercover to see what Fitzroy Indian restaurant Ish is all about.

Here are her notes…

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The restaurant

Ish, 199 Gertrude St, Fitzroy VIC 3065

The vibe

Ish isn’t your typical Indian restaurant. There’s no Bollywood-esque music, no laminated takeaway menus, no classical Indian paintings gracing the walls. Rather, just like its self-described “modern-ish” take on Indian cuisine, the vibe here is sleek, moody and decidedly up-scale.

My dining partner and I loved the tasteful sultriness and gold copper plates hanging on the trendy brick walls inside, but couldn’t resist sitting outside on the patio instead to soak up the sunny vibes of Gertude St at dusk.

The food and drink

We started with a cocktail each. My dining partner opted for the spicy virgin mojito mocktail, which was spot-on – herbal, leafy and refreshing and just as good as the alcoholic version. I got something called “The Indian Elixir”, in keeping with the theme of the night.

Spicy, seductive, sweet and indulgent, it was probably one of the most interesting and delicious cocktails I’d ever tried. I’d come back to Ish just to re-try that cocktail alone. The presentation was stunning.

 

The cocktails are worth a return visit to Ish. Image credit Lauren Dinse

After our drinks, we asked for the curried egg bonda, an Indian-style scotch egg with onions and fermented batter. I’d never tried it or even heard of it before. Being a Scots-woman who loves a good scotch egg, I wasn’t disappointed. It was a crispy golden-fried flavour bomb, kind of a cross between an onion bhaji and a devilled egg.

The curried egg bonda was a delicious flavour bomb. Image credit Lauren Dinse

We decided to try one more starter, a vada pav. This is a famous street food from Bombay, essentially a spiced potato fritter wedged into a fluffy white roll. The bread was super soft, like eating a cloud, and the mint and coriander chutney coating the potato was delicious. My dining partner remarked it tasted very comforting and perfume-like, like something an Indian grandmother would make. I’m glad we only ordered one each, however. It was filling.

Comfort food in the form of a vada pav. Image credit Lauren Dinse

For mains, Ish is all about the curry. I can never say no to a butter chicken and we decided to try out the island fish curry, too. The Punjabi-style butter chicken was incredibly smooth and creamy, and my dining partner, who can be a little fussy about chicken, approved of the quality of the breast meat. I was also impressed to find the portions very generous.

I had been warned in advance by the waiter that I might find the fish curry quite spicy, but I barely found it hot at all. Maybe I’ve just eaten too much chilli over my time, but I reckon they could definitely turn it up a notch – or at least, customise according to the customer’s preference.

The aged basmati and turmeric rice we ordered was, surprisingly, a highlight on its own – fragrant, textured, and with no trace of that faint damp or old taste in rice you typically get from cheap takeaway establishments. The black garlic naan was also of premium quality.

I’d recommend large hungry groups opt for the set menu as it appears to be a large quantity of diverse dishes for amazing value.

It's all about the curry at Ish. Image credit Lauren Dinse

The service

We had lovely waitstaff over the course of our dinner, particularly the young gentleman who made a joke or two and had a chat with us.

We were never left waiting or wondering what was happening next (a risk at some restaurants if you’re sitting outside), yet we also didn’t feel hurried along or pushed to order extras. Only thing I’d say is that it was a little chilly that evening, so some heat lamps might be a good investment in the future – particularly after summer ends.

Why should I book Ish?

If you love Indian food, but want something that’s a bit more special than your average suburban takeaway joint, Ish is a gorgeous restaurant. The atmosphere is elevated and the food ticks all the boxes. You’re likely to try something here you’ve never tasted before.

Of course, it’s a bit pricier than most Indian restaurants. But you get what you pay for. The serving sizes are on the generous side, and the quality is near faultless.

For a special dining experience you’ll remember, I’d book Ish for your next romantic date night, a birthday or big group dinner.

Book it here

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