I got excited about Tellicherry before it even opened. On my daily walk I saw the fit-out progressing through the large glass windows. And, as soon as it said Tellicherry ‘Coastal eats by Nilgiri’s’ above the door I booked for dinner. My husband, whose parents were born in India, was equally enthusiastic when I told him about Tellicherry “finally we’ll have an Indian on our doorstep that’s as good as my mum’s Gujarati cooking” he said.
Ajoy Joshi and his wife Meera are behind Tellicherry. They’re well known for Nilgiri’s, their ever popular Indian restaurant in St Leonards that’s been around since the late 90s. If you’re a Sydneysider and lover authentic Indian food you may know Nilgiri’s well, and you’ll understand my advance excitement about Tellicherry.
When I asked Ajoy about the name he explained with passion that the restaurant is “named after the famous Tellicherry pepper that you can see on the wall mural”. These special whole black peppercorns are left on the vine for longer so they develop a deeper flavour, and you’ll see them used in many of the dishes on the menu.
One of the things I like about Tellicherry (apart of course from the food) is the service. From making the booking (which I then moved twice), to explaining the menu, to chilling my husband’s beer, everything was done with enthusiasm and a smile.
Chilling beer? Yes the other bonus of Tellicherry is that it’s BYO wine and beer, with just a $3 per person corkage charge. So settle in with a cold beer, a glass of rose or order a traditional lassi and start your Indian feast.
Everything on the menu is authentic, traditional and refreshingly unfamiliar. They’re not pulling in the crowds through a long menu of familiar westernised curries. Instead an intriguing list of entrees (you’ll want to eat one of everything) is followed by around 10 main dishes ‘from the coast’. Many of the dishes are vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free and the meat is halal only. It’s a menu calling out for you to experiment with new dishes. Even the two familiar dishes are given their authentic names – Murgh makhani or Kashmiri gosht (aka butter chicken and lamb rogan josh).
My Tellicherry feast
An Indian is only an Indian if you start with pappadums and pickle or raita. Maybe that’s the Brit in me but it’s a habit I won’t even try to break. So yes that’s how we started our Tellicherry dinner.
Moving on we ordered three of the nine entrees on the menu…..one meat, one fish and one vegetarian.
The Tellicherry pepper chicken is made up of chicken dices tossed with crushed garlic and Tellicherry pepper. It’s tender and juicy and packed with flavour.
The Meen Polichatthu is clearly one of those dishes inspired by the coast. Two pieces of fish fillet come wrapped in parcels of banana leaves with a turmeric, chilli and fennel marinade. This dish clearly shows how much thought and preparation has gone into the menu.
Moving on to the dosa. It’s one of those dishes that could even make the biggest of meat eaters choose a vegetarian dish. And at $12 it would make a meal in itself. It’s a must try dish if you make it to Tellicherry.
The Mangalore masala dosa is made up garlic chutney layered pancakes with potato stuffing. My husband was quick to show me how to spread the sauces on top before tucking in…..
On chatting to Ajoy he was at his most passionate talking about one of the main dishes we tried – the Tellicherry fish biryani. He explained how the dish is ‘dum cooked’, a slow cooking technique, until the rice becomes over three times its original size. The biryani is made up of star anise, Tellicherry pepper, biryani mix, basmati rice and fresh fish. It’s one of those dishes that you’ll have to take home for leftovers if there’s even a couple of spoonfuls left at the end of the feast.
Finally the Brinjal aviyal – stuffed baby eggplant in seasoned yoghurt with mustard and curryleaf ‘baghaar’. I didn’t ask the staff about the origins or cooking method of this dish but all I can say the taste was as good as the stunning presentation. It turns two rather ordinary baby eggplants into an extraordinary curry.
And to round everything off some garlic naan bread….
I was hoping we’d finish with leftovers to take home – we all know Indian food can taste even better the following day. But on this occasion every plate and bowl was left clean…..the true sign of Indian food that’s good enough to trek across Sydney for.
There’s little chance of bill shock at Tellicherry – for $101 we enjoyed an Indian feast to remember. In fact it really will stick with more than some of the Indian food I enjoyed on a recent trip to India. I’ll be back soon Tellicherry so save me one of those 25 seats!
- Order take-away – it’s available Tuesday to Sunday 6pm to 9pm.
- Book in advance for one of two dinner sittings – 5.30pm and 7.45pm.
- If you’re dining in a group of four or more consider the set trying menu for $45 per person.
- Follow Ajoys blog and learn more about his philosophy and secret recipes – ‘Thoughts from Ajoy’.
- Try Ajoy’s Famous Sunday buffet at Nilgiri’s – there’s a different menu each month to celebrate a different Indian festival.
- Shop 4, 260 Military Road, Neutral Bay NSW 2089
- 02 9953 7313
- Lunch Thursday to Sunday 12pm to 2.30pm, dinner Tuesday to Sunday (5.30pm & 7.45pm sittings)
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