Five Indian restaurants in this year’s Chef Hat Awards

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Five Indian restaurants – three from Melbourne and two from Sydney – have featured in this year’s Australian Good Food Guide (AGFG) Chef Hat Awards.

These include Melbourne’s Tonka and Sydney’s Urban Tadka. The Sydney-based Manjit’s Wharf and Melbourne’s Atta and Ish restaurants were listed as well.

Hearty congratulations to these restaurants, highly regarded in the community, for this industry honour at the national level.

It comes at a time when the hospitality sector has faced its toughest challenges, and for these establishments to endure, by keeping their high standards intact, is commendable. With pandemic-inspired pivots including high-quality takeaways and diversifying into heat-and-eat meals, they managed successfully to keep their core enterprise suitably afloat. The worst is not over yet of course, as staff shortages continue, but the AGFG felicitation must surely have brought a spring in their step.

Interesting to note that these leading Indian restaurants are popular for modern interpretations of their native cuisine. Experimenting with their technique as well as presentation, they stand head-to-head with contemporary restaurants in the large Indian metropolises. At the same time, they also give diners here the option to pick from all-time favourites such as tandoori cuisine.

tonka restaurant
Source: @tonkarestaurant / Instagram

TONKA (Melbourne CBD)

Celebrity chef Adam D’Sylva admits he can’t remember the number of times he has been on top-restaurant lists, but he accepts our congratulations all the same.

At the moment, all his attention is on seeing a return to regular life after two years of lockdowns.

“The city’s starting to come back a bit,” he said with hope. “School’s gone back, and corporate will be back soon, so there’s a bit of promise.”

Tonka opened in 2013 and rose to acclaim very soon after.  “It’s called Tonka because the building was the site of a nightclub called Honky Tonks,” D’Sylva revealed.

He pondered a bit when we asked what’s the most popular order at Tonka, as if to say, how can I pick amongst so many?  “Perhaps the tandoori ocean trout,” he offered finally.

Chef’s choice, just so you know when you dine there next.

Pic: Guava and mango bombe Alaska with caramelised quinoa

READ ALSO: MasterChef 2021 has made Australia that little bit more inclusive

Urban tadka Scallops
Source: @urbantadka_restaurant_events /  Instagram

URBAN TADKA (Terrey Hills, Sydney)

The upmarket Urban Tadka, equally popular with Indian and non-Indian diners, has made it to the AGFG list consistently for a few years now. Inder Dua, co-owner, told Indian Link, “We’ve had a challenging time like everyone else in the last 18 months or so. But we tried to be creative through it all, introducing some new elements.  Our bottled cocktails have been a hit with takeaway clients, and there was good take-up for our special care boxes for occasions like Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, and Valentine’s Day. The staff have been amazing, and it’s been good to see our regular patrons still in touch!”

Pic: Lychee scallops

ISH Cauliflower
Source: @ish_restaurant / Instagram

ISH Indian Restaurant (Fitzroy Melbourne)

Having launched only in 2018, Ish has taken the fancy of Melbourne’s Indian community in its short life. Owner Ganeev Bains told Indian Link, “You could say the bulk of our time has been COVID-dominated. But the AGFG honour has been on our wishlist, and it’s good to see the recognition so early in the life of our restaurant.”

Pic: Sprouting cauliflower, curry butter and roasted chana

manjit's crab utthapam
Source: @manjits.wharf / Instagram

MANJIT’S WHARF (Barrangaroo, Sydney)

The well-known Manjit brand’s newest outlet Manjit’s Wharf has maintained its elite standing after launching in 2016, introducing protege Varun Gujral as chef de cuisine. Following the latest AGFG listing, the young chef told Indian Link, “Yes it’s been a difficult year, so the news is welcome. We’ve kept ourselves busy meanwhile. We innovated with heat-and-eat which has gone down well so I’m pleased. In my own work, some experiments with new preparations have been quite successful, and I’ve now transitioned them to the menu. Come along and try my Bamboo Biryani!”

Pic: Crab utthapam

Source: @attarestaurant / Instagram

ATTA (Albert Park, Melbourne)

Launched in 2017 by self-taught chef and co-owner Harry Dhanjal, Atta has impressed with the elegant dining experience it offers. Its exciting menu alone provides a glimpse into Dhanjal’s passion for pushing the envelope when it comes to Indian food: how about Fried barramundi fillets with capsicum and yellow chillies in coconut gravy, or Tandoori chicken/paneer served on betel leaf with cabbage foogath and balsamic gels?

While you may think these are a modern take on Indian favourites, a must-try is the chef’s favourite kaali dal, slow cooked for 18 hours, sort of like your grandma’s winter staple, cooked overnight on the angeethi.

Pic: Murgh tikka


In the Readers’ Choice category of the awards this year, no less than 33 Indian restaurants found mention. Included are eateries in small or remote towns such as Mornington Peninsula, Torquay and Echuca Moama in Victoria; Orange, North Haven, and Ettalong in NSW; Atherton, Hervey Bay, Mackay and Warwick in Queensland; Launceston in Tasmania, and Busselton in WA. Read the full list here.

About the Chef Hat Awards

The Australian Good Food & Travel Guide (agfg.com.au) was launched in the late 1970s, inspired by the Michelin and Gault Millau guides of Europe. The first Chef Hats were presented in 1982. Today, the AGFG has grown to become a highly trusted national guide reviewing restaurants across Australia.

Chef Hats are awarded for the food alone. Typically, the awards are based on ratings of judges who dine anonymously and pay full fare, as well as on readers’ votes, although the judging carries more weight.

The inspectors pay particular attention to ingredients, taste, presentation, technique, value and consistency.

READ MORE: Indian restaurants with unique names

Rajni Anand Luthra
Rajni Anand Luthra
Rajni is the Editor of Indian Link.

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