Justine de Jonge is a Melbourne freelance travel writer and blogger who loves travelling the vegan road. She also loves blogging about her vegan travels at www.fireandtea.com .
Published July 21st 2012
Tucked away from Ringwood's congested Maroondah Highway is an unexpected destination for good, home-cooked Northern Indian cuisine. Dripping in crimson furnishings and wooden carvings, Phoolwari gives the impression that it's just another Indian restaurant. Yet, beyond the deities and pulsating Indian pop music, visitors can discover a menu that's crowned with Northern Indian specialities at a decent price, all served with a warm, friendly welcome.
We arrive early so we have the luxury of choosing a prominent table by the window. Within moments, the table is set with crispy pappadums, mint and plum sauces, together with a pitcher of water without us having to request one. The bar stocks a selection of wines and beers (both imports and local) and allows BYO yet the specials board points the way to a bottle of Yarra Valley semillon sauvignon blanc for only $9.50.
A steady stream of take-away business doesn't get in the way of dine-in guests receiving their meals in ample time. Entrées are served not long after pappadums are crunched away and a vegetarian platter brings to the fore Phoolwari's tasty samosas, tandoori mushrooms and sabzi pakora.
Enough time is given for guests to sit back in between courses to enjoy a drink and soak in the upbeat tunes over the speaker; seclusion and warmth being a welcomed addition to an otherwise cold eastern suburban weeknight.
Vegetable rice arrives and it's jewelled by colourful spring onion, peas and carrots. It's teamed with an eggplant and potato dish in a light, well-rounded gravy which could only be found at the heart of any true, home-style cooking. A rich bowl of dhal makhani brings a contemporary twist to an old favourite – black lentils and kidney beans finished with cream and coriander – that can be mopped up with wide quarters of garlic naan.
House special curries, along with the classics, offer visitors an array of choices well under $20 and chilli levels can be served to anyone's liking whether it's medium, hot or extra hot. Seafood dishes also feature and only cost around $18.
Our brimming stomachs say no to sweets though a small selection of staples including gulab jamun and kulfi sit waiting in anticipation for any keen sweet-tooth. The bill arrives not long thereafter but our intuitive waitress urges us to pay only when we're ready.
Phoolwari is open for lunch Monday to Friday 12pm to 2.30pm and dinner seven nights a week from 5pm to 10.30pm. Take-away is available and ample street parking can be found throughout Murray Place.