Indian restaurants in Perth appear to multiply at a rapid rate in the past few years. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – competition encourages excellence and variety apparently is the spice of life. Inglewood isn’t a large suburb but it has three Indian restaurants within a few kilometres of each other on Beaufort St; none of which I had tried. I set out with a group of friends to change that and to see if Jolly Good Indian lived up to its name.
The restaurant is in a converted house, and this in itself is high on the charm scale. Dining in different rooms as opposed to one large area can reduce the noise level, and give you a bit of privacy if that’s what you want. Decorated throughout with Indian knickknacks, the restaurant retains some of its beautiful old windows and even has a display cabinet with Indian jewellery and accessories for sale.
We started with a few entrees of curried chicken spring rolls, and potato and onion bhaji. The spring rolls were scant on filling, and dry and overcooked.
Whilst the bhaji were crisp, they were somewhat bland and I’ve had far better. I may have been spoiled by sampling Sauma’s bhaji a few weeks ago, so comparisons will be inevitable. I prefer a higher ratio of onion to chick pea flour batter – I think the potato watered down the flavour and the crunch factor. A mint chutney or sweet tamarind based dipping sauce would have been better than the one provided.
Whenever I dine out with friends, it’s inevitable that butter chicken will be ordered. Although I like this dish, the quality varies enormously between restaurants and I’ve had some really bog standard versions of this in the past. I’d much prefer trying a different chicken dish than going for something I suspect may be humdrum. However group dining is all about going with the flow and accommodating crowd favourites, so butter chicken it was. Jolly Good’s dish comprised the usual boneless chicken pieces in a creamy sauce, but with no depth of flavour. I’m puzzled as to why they would use chicken breast pieces rather than thighs – this inevitably means less flavour and less succulence in the meat.
My friends enjoyed the lamb rogan josh but I didn’t sample this dish as I’m not fond of lamb and there were several other dishes ordered that I much preferred. I never feel deprived when my friends order lamb or beef dishes, as long as there are other options on offer. Occasionally I will nibble at a meat dish at a shared table but it’s not something I would order for myself.
There were a few prawn and fish dishes on the menu, and we settled on the tiger prawn tikka masala. This was another mild curry so I had to settle for a bowl of cut up chillies on the side to add some heat/interest to my food.
We’d read some enthused comments about the palak paneer so we naturally had to order this and see what the fuss was about. It was a pleasant dish, but again, not memorable or special. I guess that summed up the experience overall – nothing was a stand out, though it was all acceptable food.
Mixed veggies shabji was our final dish, and this was a typical Indian vegetable curry of potatoes, cauliflower, carrots and peas in a mild sauce.
The best thing about Jolly Good Indian is the setting. Although everyone enjoyed their meal, we all agreed that there wasn’t much difference in taste between our dishes, with the exception of the palak paneer, but this was likely because it was spinach and not tomato based. I guess it didn’t help that every curry was mild, and I much prefer the added depth that chillies bring to a curry. With different curries you expect to find the hint of sourness in tamarind, the pungency of curry leaves, the smoothness of coconut cream or yoghurt, the bite of chillies or the intensity of a variety of fried spices. We didn’t experience the range of flavours that should come with a range of curries.
Some people will likely be quite happy with this food, and I can understand why. It’s palatable and acceptable and certainly won’t offend you. However as a lover of Indian food I appreciate and expect the differences, subtleties and the complexities that make this cuisine so special. Jolly Good Indian failed to deliver on that level. All much of a muchness really, and more of the dumbing down of food to cater to the Western palate.
Surely Western palates in the 21st century have evolved enough for us to not only appreciate, but to demand authenticity in international cuisines?