Mumbai, the metropolitan city of India. A city that celebrates and welcomes a diverse range of cultures, brought in from communities across the country. The meeting point of north and south. At the heart of this incredible city is Victoria Terminus (aka VT), the main railway station, a World Heritage site, and the gateway to this colourful city.
When Areeb, Harry, and Angela began planning their newest venture, a street styled Indian restaurant, the famous station was their inspiration. They wanted to break away from the notion that Indian food was a $10 Butter Chicken, rather whisking their guests away on a culinary journey from the streets of Newmarket to the streets of Mumbai. With the menu as their ticket, guests travel through the regions of India, north to south, experiencing authentic Indian food, as you would find it on the streets of India.
“Whatever you eat here is authentic, just what you would eat in India. We just plate it differently.”HARRY
Their food is served as is – it’s not mild, medium, or hot because that would require changing the spices and the these are used to bring out the flavours. Some dishes require up to 20-30, each playing their part in the unique flavour of a dish. All their spices are blended in house, including some of their own creations. Indian curries are made with a base of pistachio or cashew paste, not with cream as European cultures have adapted. The difference in taste is clear. It’s light and fresh; there’s no heavy feeling when you leave.
The VT Station menu is designed to be shared, allowing guests to travel through the regions via a range of dishes rather than a one stop journey (a main). In addition to the delights of taste and smell, the owners have been caring and clever to take into account each of the other senses. Your first step into the restaurant is onto the beautiful Victorian style tiles, similar to those on the original station floor. Vintage luggage is placed on shelves, above the intimate cabin styled seating. Throughout the evening the sound of an old train whistle blows as food is ready to be served to tables. The detail and integration of the VT Station into their space truly lifts the atmosphere and creates a sense of history.
Chaat: Despite being a $6 dish on the snack menu, this was my favourite! Often a heavy dish, VT has created a lighter version, without ruining the flavours. They’ve switched out elements like potato for fig. Originating from New Delhi, this little dish packs a huge punch of flavour. Delicately plated it seemed a shame when Harry picked up a spoon and cracked the outer crispy wafer to mix the flavours. But after just one spoon I realised that the beauty of this dish was in the contrasting flavours, all playing off each other in a single mouthful – soft fig, crispy light wafer, with a dash of yoghurt, tamarind, mint chutney, and bursts of juicy pomegranate. Incredible!
Medu Wada: An Indian styled fluffy donut made from fermented white lentils. Ripped apart and dunked in a tangy dahl (sambar) or coconut chutney, these were delicious. The sambar has a strong taste, made up of tiny lentils and spices. Nothing quite like a good dahl!
Railway Kebabs: Hailing from Bombay (Mumbai) are the double marinated Sheekh Railway Kebabs. Lamb, minced and marinated overnight, with a second marination in powdered spices, before being grilled over charcoal. The lamb is soft, with a smooth charcoal flavour. It is served in a rich creamy Kashmiri Gushtaba sauce made from a brown onion paste, yoghurt, black cardinman seeds, and lamb stock.
Tawa Fish: Tender grilled Hapuku cooked in the tandoor, served on a rich meen mouli sauce. There was a beautiful charcoal undertone to the flavour and a nuttiness to the sauce. With its subtle fish flavour this was a lovely delicate dish.
Chilli Chicken: An Indo-Chinese dish of gooey chicken bites tossed in chilli paste, soy sauce and capsicums. It’s the hottest dish on the menu, so best served last! It’s not spicy to begin with but slowly builds, bringing out the full flavour of the dish. This dish is also from Mumbai, despite being Indo-Chinese. It’s an example of India’s VT Station being the meeting point between Northern and Southern Indian, and beyond – bringing together a medley of spices, flavours, and dishes, as people move in and out of the region.
Sikandari Shank (The Chef’s Special) : A North Indian recipe dating back 300BC – a lamb shank, with meat that absolutely falls off the bone. Marinated overnight in light spices and finished in a smooth, silky-rich gravy. Moreish!
Daulat Ki Chaat: We finished with the Daulat Ki Chaat, a traditional dessert served on the streets out of large bowls, right onto the paper plates. VT Stations Daulat Ki Chaat is as authentic as it comes, with the only difference being the plate it’s served on. A light and fluffy dessert, it is the product of hours of whipping milk and collecting the froth that forms on the top. It’s cooled then topped with saffron and pistachios.
While the dishes are kept as an authentic representation of Indian street food, the team wanted to inject a modern twist by creating a bar that would specialize in the art of mixology. There is nothing inherently Indian about their cocktails, but they compliment the sensory experience of VT Station food menu perfectly. All their syrups are made in house – everything made from scratch, with fresh ingredients. They even created a zero waste cocktail, using the pulp of the rhubarb, lemon, and ginger for a sticky dried fruit topping. Just watching the bartenders is an experience in itself – simply fascinating.
Sip Sip Pass: Don’t feel guilty, it’s not illegal! A blend of Pisco, Amaro, Bianco Vermouth, Lime, Scarborough Bitters, Orange Bitter, green tea syrup, and the star of the show …. Sichuan Smoke! This infuses the cocktail before whirling around the inside of the glass. Big, bold, and smokey!
What an Egg: A heavy, smokey blend of Bourbon, honeycomb, earl grey tea syrup, lemon, Barrel Aged Bitters, egg and cured egg yolk. I’m a big fan of egg white in cocktails but I’d never had a whole egg! Surprisingly, I hardly noticed it, but it definitely added to the density.
Dancing Flamingo: The zero waste specialty. Vodka, strawberry, rhubarb syrup, orange liqueur, Lime Rhubarb Bitters, and Peychaud’s Bitters, topped with soda. A beautifully busy cocktail, garnished with dried Rhubarb strips and a strip of crunchy dried fruit made from the leftovers of the rhubarb and lime, with a pinch of ginger.
A good journey should open your eyes to the unfamiliar, push you out of your comfort zone, teach you things. Although I’ve only experienced a small part of India very briefly, I did at least have the chance to try a few unfamiliar flavours. I pushed myself into a plate of Chilli Chicken (I have an incredibly low tolerance for hot food), the flavour was amazing. There’s a burning desire to return and explore so much more of this amazing country. In the meantime, I have VT Station to keep me motivated.
Great for: Casual after work drinks, perched up at the bar, which could easily turn into a group dinner. Or an intimate dinner for two, a special occasion you book in advance and look forward to for weeks.
Price: Mains around $20 – $30, with starters from $6 – $15. Bar snacks are $15 – $20. Well priced given size and atmosphere and comfort of the restaurant
Ambience & theming: As mentioned above, this place is a true sensory experience. The theming is incredible and just as much a part of their offering as their food and cocktails.
Location: 73 Davis Crescent, Newmarket, Auckland
Opening Hours: 12-10pm Tuesday to Sunday