Bollywood style in a Brunswick back street
Bhang is fun and frantic with pleasing regional Indian food and spicy cocktails
DINNER at Bhang is a little like stepping onto the set of a Bollywood movie.
A wall-sized collage of Bollywood posters dominates the downstairs dining room, and when it first opened a few years ago the restaurant had a contemporary Indian vibe.
But once the novelty wears off, you will still discover a solid restaurant serving simple and pleasing regional fare from throughout India.
Located in a former funeral director’s building at the Sydney Road end of Mitchell Street, Bhang opened in 2017.
Owners Sway Quach and Dougal Colam already had long experience in Brunswick through Sydney Road mainstay Tom Phat, which they have operated since 2004.
Bhang’s name derives from edible cannabis leaves used in food and drink on the sub-continent since 1000 BC – but the restaurant’s website assures customers that it does not serve bhang.
Its combination of good Indian food and spicy cocktails was an immediate hit with locals, and on a recent Saturday night visit it was clear it is as popular as ever.
There are two dining rooms: the aforementioned downstairs room with a long cocktail bar on one side is more suited to drinks and snacks, while upstairs there is seating for about three dozen customers who want to linger longer.
It is noisy and fun and the staff are friendly and attentive.
The restaurant’s signature cocktails are all priced about $22 and include Kheera Masala (garam masala gin, cucumber, elderflower and fresh lemon), Chilli Chopra (strawberry vodka, chai, chilli and lemon), and Haldi Amigo (tequila, Cointreau, fresh lime and turmeric).
We began with a simple serving of pappadums accompanied by pickles and chutneys, and a plate of crispy deep fried spinach chaat, which were delicious when dipped in mint raita. At $15, the pappadums were reasonably priced but as is common with Indian restaurants, there were insufficient pappadums for the dips, and we were charged an extra $5 for another five pappadums.
On the recommendation of our waitress, we ordered a Tandoor Thali to share. The thali comprised of lamb shish, chargrilled prawns, chicken tikka and green chutney paneer along with a cucumber salad and was easily enough for four when accompanied by a butter chicken curry and a serve of gobi palak (roasted cauliflower with spinach, green chillies and spices).
Bhang’s menu emphasises its charcoal josper oven, and other grilled dishes on the menu include lamb shank rogan josh and a whole rainbow trout cooked over a charcoal Kashmir spice rub. There are four meat curry choices and half a dozen vegetable options.
Sadly, our butter chicken had a little too much sauce and not enough chicken pieces, which is not uncommon in Indian restaurants, but there was enough rice and garlic naan to soak up most of the sauce, and we did not leave feeling hungry.
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Service at Bhang is quick – perhaps too quick: our mains were served before we were even halfway through our starters and before one of our party had received their cocktail. Although this is the fault of the kitchen, not the waiting staff, restaurants need to learn to leave some breathing space between courses, especially when customers feel as if they are being hustled to eat and drink so that their table can be cleared for the next booking.
But overall, Bhang is an enjoyable night out, even after repeated visits. Most mains will set you back $25-30; our bill, without drinks, came to a reasonable $151 for four.
Bhang has half-priced drinks during a 5-6pm Happy Hour every Tuesday to Saturday, Tuesday nights feature a $25 thali deal (a thali is meal made up of a range of smaller dishes served on a platter with raita and rice), and Thursdays have a $20 biryani and bhaji special.
Walk-ins are welcome from 5pm, but bookings are advisable on busier nights.
Bhang, 1/2A Mitchell Street, Brunswick. Tuesday-Saturday, 5pm to late. Ph: 9383 2488. Email: email@example.com