How to judge an Indian restaurant? I have a mate, Blair, who swears there are only three criteria: rich butter chicken, garlic naan and a generous red wine. If a restaurant nails all three, he's happy. Did I mention he's a man of simple pleasures and undemanding tastes?
Blair's very happy with Haweli, in the heart of Northbridge. It nails the classics but has enough edge and flair to warrant a closer look from those who like more complex Indian. All served with warm service.
Haweli sits where Maya Masala used to be (not even Google can keep up with Perth's rapidly changing restaurant scene - if you look at the internet giant's street-view feature it still has Haweli's predecessor in sight.)
The generous red came in the form of Sandalford's Element cabernet merlot ($35); part of a small but affordable wine list with a few top-end tipples. Lasooni Tikka ($13.95) was four moist, tender and lightly spiced chicken thighs, charred from the traditional tandoor oven, with an accompanying trio of pickles and mint raita.
Richer still were four Barrah kebabs ($13.95); lamb chops marinated in ginger, garlic and yoghurt, and grilled on skewers. While a little heavy on the salt, the sweet, salty, savoury and charred flavours combined for a brilliant, lip-smacking, fall-off-the-bone entree.
The naan was as good as advertised: flaky and chewy at the same time; almost a cross of buttery roti and the bread-ier naan, dosed with plenty of pungent garlic. Mains were a familiar range of classics, with some interesting twists. Raan e Haweli ($29.95) is the restaurant's Northern Indian- inspired signature dish. A leg of lamb is marinated in spices overnight. Then cooked, and diced into large chunks, re-plated around the bone and draped in a luscious spicy sauce (tailored to your taste of mild, medium or hot.) A tad cool after reheating, the lamb was nonetheless delicious. As was a peppery, fennel-infused octopus curry ($22.95). You can even sit at Kashmiri-esque low tables, if you so desire, similar to a Japanese tatami room.
Indian deserts are generally saccharine-sweet: some say as an antidote to all the heat and spice. Classic Gulab Jamun ($5) came as two perfect deep-fried doughy balls (like doughnuts), swimming in cardamom-infused sugar syrup.
And how about that butter chicken? Blair was right: they nailed it.
Address 49/51 Lake Street, Northbridge
Phone 9228 8883
Open Seven days, lunch and dinner.
The buzz A generous and warm welcome. A suite of well-made classics. And some interesting Northern Indian dishes.