Sunday, February 22, 2009

Mantra, Sydney

Grove Shopping Center Shop 12,
166 Military Rd,
Neutral Bay 2089 Map

Mantra Bollywood Restaurant was a tale of great food, shame about the service. The restaurant itself is upstairs in the Grove Shopping Centre in the Neutral Bay area of Sydney and is decorated with really gaudy "faux" Indian pictures and textiles. With the music that is playing there is no doubt that you are in an Indian restaurant. There are a couple of banqueting areas that have low tables and cushions and look great. I can imagine a meal with a large group of friends in one of them would be a real hoot.

The menu itself has quite a lot of options, including a good vegetarian selection. No baltis or chicken tikka massala on there which was refreshing. We started with a vegetarian entree selection that included potato cakes with chick-peas in a superb sauce, some lightly battered veg and leaves - again really tasty with a minty flavoured sauce - and vegetable samosas. The whole selection was lovely and we looked forward to the main courses. We also ordered a tomato and cucumber salad, which never arrived. More of that later.

My main course was panir cheese with peppers and tomatoes (in "happy colours" it said on the menu!) along with pilau rice and a potato and pea stuffed naan. My wife had a prawn dish. The cheese dish had a wonderful fruity flavour and just a hint of spice and was thoroughly enjoyable. The naan was great and had a lovely charred flavour. This was all accompanied by - what else? - a Cobra beer. Even on the other side of the world, some things stay the same.

Not everything however. One of the things that I've noticed here on Indian menus is that there are no vegetable side dishes. Which is a shame, as there were a couple of dishes on the menu that I would have liked to try, but didn't want a whole main dish size of them. Mind you I've only seen a handful of menus so far, my great "Down Under" food adventure has only just begun.

So, the food was great. The service however could be improved upon.

We had to request the wine list and my wife asked which of the white wines was the driest. The waitress looked completely blank and said that she would have to find out. Eventually a glass of white arrived, but it took a while to find out what it was. The starter selection arrived with no description of what any of the pieces were and, as I said before, one of the dishes never arrived. Halfway through the meal my wife ordered another wine which also never materialised.

Still, the food was so tasty that we plan to go back sometime in the future and try some of the other dishes. Hopefully, the service was a one-off. I'll let you know.

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