This is Indian food, but not as you know it. Babu Ji is changing the landscape of Indian cuisine, combining traditional techniques and flavours with a delicious modern twist.
The man behind this revolution, Mani Waraich, learnt his trade sitting on his grandmother’s knee, absorbing all he could about the importance of fresh produce and thoughtful preparation in Indian cuisine. She instilled in him the belief that ‘recipes begin not in the kitchen, but on the farm and in the earth’.
Opening on Valentine’s Day 2014, Babu Ji has been spreading the love through food from day dot. The restaurant appropriately takes its name from the Hindu word that’s used to address one’s father or a respected elder. The term is infused with great love and respect, something that is communicated across every part of the restaurant.
Following the mantra of ‘not just curry and rice’ Mani and his Head Chef, Ranjit Singh, endeavour to change public perception of a cuisine that’s so close to their hearts. Ranjit is joined by two chefs who have no shortage of experience, with Janral Singh boasting eight years with the Oberoi Group and Amit Joshi having worked with the Hyatt Group for six years.
In uniting their home and adopted countries, Mani and Ranjit source the best local and seasonal produce from Melbourne markets and boutique producers. The menu changes every two months to reflect what’s in season, and the kitchen team rely on feedback from diners to determine what stays and what goes.
Upon walking into the venue, you’ll be hit by the sights and smells of classic Indian food, as well as the jovial sounds of a delightful dining experience. Each dish artfully combines traditional flavours and spices with modern techniques and an Australian touch. The pani puri literally explodes in your mouth, uniting sweet and savoury with a myriad of different textures. The tandoori chicken will break every stereotype of the dish you’ve ever had – the succulent meat is seasoned to perfection, while the inspired selection of sauces results in a pairing that your palate will love.
There’s no such thing as individual servings here; everything is best when shared. This includes the seafood platter, which boasts a fresh selection of oysters, scallops, octopus and mussels, each topped with a unique blend of tastebud-tingling sauces. Don’t forget to leave room for the fish curry, complete with Blue Grenadier, turmeric, mustard seed and coconut milk, or the 12-hour slow-cooked dahl with black lentils, ginger, garlic and garam masala.
A fully stocked fridge allows you to get up close and personal with what you’re about to drink, with an impressive selection of local and imported beers that are constantly rotating. Help yourself to what looks interesting and you’ll be billed for whatever bottles are on the table at the end of the night. This type of honesty sums up a night at Babu Ji. Between the authenticity of its owners and setting, their innate trust in their customers and the surprising twist on traditional fare, it’s one of the most genuine, and delicious, dining experiences out there.