A year ago, after having been to London twice in the previous two years, and having noted that the hot food trend there was the revivial of Indian street food in smart upmarket restaurants (similar to the Mexican trend that was already entrenched there and which has now reached saturation point in Melbourne), I wanted to know if anyone was doing the same with Indian food in Melbourne. I didn’t think anyone was, but that has changed with the opening of Horn Please in North Fitzroy recently.
I loved the food at the Painted Heron, Imli, Roti Chai and Dishoom in London, and it is fantastic that we can now get this kind of food in Melbourne. There are plenty of good inexpensive Indian restaurants in inner Melbourne. On Lygon St I like Namaste (south end in Carlton) and Kake di Hatti (north end in East Brunswick). But these and other places are about value for money, don’t offer much apart from food, may not serve alcohol, and if they do they rarely offer a good selection. They can’t compete on the complete experience, on style, and on matching wine and beer with food. It takes the step upmarket made by restaurants like Horn Please to do this.
Horn Please has an impressive list of local craft beers and selected imports. My first choice was the India pale ale Bridge Rd bling IPA from Beechworth, and then I had the Brooklyn East IPA from the Brooklyn Brewery, which is a little lighter and very refreshing. The wine list is exclusively Victorian, with most from the Macedon region. As a locaholic, I think this is outstanding.
The interior has thankfully not been ruined by the previous tenant, the chain Ghurkas, and remains familiar from the tenant before that, a somewhat upmarket bistro with a European / modern Australian menu that I liked but which was unfortunately short-lived. It features some gloriously hand coloured photographs that remind me of the amazing 150 years of photography exhibition that I saw at the Whitechapel Gallery in London in 2010 (you can see some photos of it at the Guardian).
We ordered (photos from the top down): papdi chaat (soft but firm chips made with chick pea flour described in the menu as ‘Indian nachos’) with cucumber, chick peas and pomegranate; samosas; papadums with chutneys; eggplant pakoras; and goat curry and rice with cumin and lemon. I was very impressed with all the dishes, with the goat curry being particularly delish and very tender, and papdi chaat being the outstanding street food / entree dish.
Access to the front door is up a slight incline without a step, and the narrow old fashioned double doors open inwards. Customers with physical disabilities may need assistance entering. I didn’t visit the toilets so I can’t comment on how accesible they are.
Horn Please looks fantastic, makes wonderful food and performs well – the service was prompt, their social media marketing and website are well done and the wait staff use an iPhone app to take orders. This was one of the best meals I have eaten this year, and I will be returning soon and as often as possible.