You know that mystical, magical stairway to heaven that you always hear about but no one has been so kind as to give you directions to? Well I found it!
Meeting up for a mid week, after work dinner with some of my favourite city girls, I stumbled across the infamous stairway in The Spice Room, a newly opened Indian restaurant in Circular Quay. With each step given the name of a herb or spice used in Indian cooking, basil leaves, fenugreek and peppercorns guide you up to a paradise filled with aromatic and tasty delights – my idea of heaven.
Opening late last year to rave reviews, The Spice Room provides Sydney siders with authentic, up market Indian food at extremely reasonable prices a stones throw away from one of our city’s busiest tourist hubs. Tucked away in the corner of Arthur street and Phillip street, the place is a hidden gem, just like a precious stone, it’s a little hard to find but pure quality.
Once you walk past the quirky entrance featuring a bicycle and those gorgeous spice stairs, the space opens up and you encounter sheer grandeur. Designed to look like an ancient Indian mansion, dark wooden tables are bathed in golden light and with antiques scattered around the room it’s like Aladdin’s cave – if Aladdin was one classy adult with a penchant for food and entertaining.
Like all Indian restaurants sharing is the name of the game here. Even if you choose to come alone, the giant share table in the center of the restaurant ensures that you won’t be dining solo.
The menu is divided in to several ‘rooms’.There is the bite room (entrees); the tandoor room; the ocean room featuring seafood delights; the sharing room listing platters of mixed items; the rice room giving the choice of around 6 different types of the White carb; the naan room which astounded me with its variety and finally, the banquet room which gives diners the choice of two different banquets at a per head cost. There is also a mains section that lists the variety of chicken. Lamb, beef and vegetarian dishes available.
To say your choices are extensive is an understatement. What really excited me though was that in addition to all the classic dishes you know and love (hello butter chicken), there were some dishes that I’d never seen before and they sounded incredible (salmon tikka anyone?)
Not to go too wild, we played it semi safe and ordered a smorgasbord of items in an attempt to try a bit of everything. We didn’t even come close but we didn’t care, it was all delicious. The black lentil dal ($16.50) was creamy and spicy, soaking perfectly into the rice. The saffron chicken korma ($23.90) was juicy and well balanced with a subtle sweetness. I just adored the lamb with apricots and potato matches ($26.50) – the meat was melt in the mouth and the potatoes provided a great crunch. The king prawn gulmohar flavoured with rose petals and gently cooked in a clay were prawns like nothing I’d ever tasted- tender and beautifully delicate. To accompany it all, the masala spiced mushrooms ($19.50) were a great choice – packed with flavour they made the perfect veggie side.
Despite the awesomeness of the above, I’d have to say my hands down favourite dish was the cheese naan. Fully coated with shiny, greasy tasty tasty cheese, we were all seriously tempted to say yes when the waiter came by offering a second serve. I could have ordered more to take home with me in a doggy bag but I was strong and I didn’t – and I regretted it the moment we left.
Just like the ambience, the staff were extremely charming and very helpful. They knew the menu like the back of their hand, made wonderful recommendations (saffron chicken yum yum). They have also mastered that great trick of remembering your order without writing anything down. Impressive- especially as we kept changing it.
They say the food served at The Spicd Room is fit for royalty and I’d have to agree. By the time we were done I was fit to burst. I’d had my fill of great food and great conversation – facilitated by the fact that it was pleasantly quiet.
I can’t wait to return. Very soon I will mount that stairway again with the purpose of filling up on tikka salmon, walnut and date samosas and of course cheesy cheesy naan bread Hmmmmmmm….yep, definitely heaven!