I need to start with a sincere apology to the people of Murwillumbah, for reasons that will become obvious later.
Have you ever had one of those days when everything seems overwhelming, nothing seems to go right, and you wonder how it will end? Well, that's exactly what happened to me towards the end of the week, recently. It wasn't that anything bad happened, it's just that everything that was happening seemed to pick up pace and looked like it could go hurtling past me, and if I wasn't careful I'd be swept away in its wake. So what do you do when you're faced with a potential tidal wave of emotions and 'stuff'? You go out for dinner!
And as luck would have it, the end of that awful week coincided with a good friend's birthday, so I had the perfect excuse for an indulgent dinner, cooked and served by someone else, with no dishes to do afterwards. The friend whose birthday it was, was quick to accept the offer of a night out, so we decided to eat at one of Murwillumbah's best kept secrets - the Coriander Indian Restaurant.
When I say 'best-kept-secret', I mean really best kept secret. The restaurant is tucked away behind a very ordinary looking row of shops, out of the way of the main shopping area. It seems that only locals know about this little gem, and they've been holding on to the secret, in fear of it becoming so popular they won't be able to get a table without booking weeks ahead. I guess I'm not going to be too popular around town for letting the cat out of the bag.
In fact, it was a local who told me the secret when I first moved here. I had no idea what was lurking behind that little row of ordinary buildings that I'd passed so often on my way home from town. But on the first visit, the restaurant became my favourite place for Indian food - instantly. The reason will be revealed later (hint: Penang).
Parking is no problem; there's plenty on the street outside, but if you can't find a spot there, drive into the large designated carpark right in front. Either way, you'll be sure to find somewhere close to leave the car.
It was dark, but you can use your imagination to see how much parking there is in front
Once you've worked out the parking, the next choice is where to sit - inside or outside? And the weather won't dictate the choice because the outside is geared up for most differences in temperature, or precipitation, and believe me, Murwillumbah gets its fair share of rain. The plastic shades will keep you warm and dry.
As soon as you walk in, you'll more than likely be greeted by a smiling staff member who will attend to your every 'dining' need. If they're all busy at that exact moment, it won't be long before they are by your side, assisting with any choices you are struggling to make, from where to sit - to what to order.
Samantha, Amanda, and Anu will take care of you at Coriander
Probably the most striking part of the decor inside is the mural on the wall in front of you as you enter. The street scene transports you away from that little spot in the northern rivers of New South Wales, to another place, and another time. Wherever your imagination takes you, the food will definitely enhance the experience by re-kindling old memories, or creating new ones.
You could easily picture yourself dining on a street somewhere in another time, and another place
Now, what to order? If you've been following my articles, you've probably guessed by now that I am vegetarian, and luckily, so is my friend - the one whose birthday it was. The great thing about living in Murwillumbah is the number of restaurants and cafes that cater for herbivores. Having spent the last five years out in 'beef country' where the cafes had barely heard of vegetarians, let alone how to cater for them, Murwillumbah is vegetarian Heaven. And the Coriander has an exceptionally long list of 'meat-less' options, which makes it a little difficult to choose, but if we go back often enough we'll eventually work our way through the list and try them all.
Vegetarian Heaven - but carnivores are not forgotten
So far, every dish I've had has been outstanding. Having said we'd work our way through the list, I have to admit, I have some favourites that I keep going back to. And one of my favourites is the Malai Kofta, which is "vegetable made into balls stuffed with nuts simmered in herb sauce and finished with cream" (quoted from the menu). When you combine this with coconut rice, you have the perfect meal, for around $20. This doesn't mean carnivores are neglected - they are adequately catered for with the usual (meaty) favourites of lamb, chicken, beef, prawn and fish dishes.
Don't worry carnivores, there's lots for you to choose from too
Now, back to the earlier hint about Penang. Many years ago I had the pleasure of spending two years on the Malaysian Island of Penang, and one of my favourite things to eat was an Indian bread called 'roti'. On my first visit to the Coriander Restaurant, I discovered my beloved roti on the menu. I was instantly taken back to that magic time in my life when summer lasted forever, and the three cultures that are woven into the colourful fabric of Penang provided culinary memories that will last forever. The Coriander Restaurant has become the bridge that links me to some of my favourite times, and for that, I'm thankful. But it isn't just about the memories. It's about the taste, the atmosphere, the friendliness of the staff, and the decor, but mostly the taste. The food is divine! Not overly spicy, if that's what you prefer, but easily spiced up if you can handle the heat.
Looks like the perfect place for a romantic evening - you just need the right occasion
Having guests over and want a quiet night in? No problem. The Coriander does take-away, and even has a delivery service (there may be conditions on the delivery so phone and check first). Take-away might be a good option if you're in a hurry - just phone your order through, and pick it up on your way through town. Oh, and if you're a student on limited funds, the Coriander Restaurant has a special deal to help drive your dollars further. There aren't too many places that offer a deal like that.
But the very best option, in my humble opinion, is to take yourself and guests to the restaurant, and savour it all - the food, the service, and the decor. Dining should be a holistic experience involving all your senses; well, at least sometimes anyway. Otherwise, take-away in front of the telly while watching your favourite show will taste (almost) as good. Either way - the Coriander Indian Restaurant has you covered. Warning! Now that word is out - it might be best to book first, just in case.
Dinner: Open 7 Days (5:00pm - Till Late)
Lunch: Tuesday (11.30am - 2.30pm)