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Review: Copper Chimney

Michelle Brotohusodo

These days it’s very easy to get into the habit of ordering the same thing every time you go to a particular kind of restaurant, especially if you really like a dish. For example, I will almost always get a pork chop with broken rice at a Vietnamese restaurant, or Massamun lamb or beef at a Thai restaurant. But sometimes it’s good to branch out and try different things—and it helps when the restaurant doesn’t offer the standard fare. Copper Chimney is one such place.

Copper Chimney opened in Civic late last year and, while it has a few traditional favourites on the menu, such as Butter Chicken and Lamb Rogan Josh (you guessed it, it’s an Indian restaurant), it also offers dishes that aren’t so commonly found.

I went there for the first time with some friends last Friday—it had been a long-ish week of work and we thought dinner would be a nice way to end it. Walking in, the first thing that caught my eye was the gorgeous feature wall decorated with bright colours and statues. There were also more subtle decorations on the other walls, and the whole effect was tasteful and pleasant.

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My friends and I were greeted by the owner, Pramod, who ran us through the menu and pointed out some of the dishes we might like to try. We decided to be adventurous and let Pramod choose for us.

While we were waiting for our food we ordered drinks: Kingfisher beer for my friends and mango lassi for me. While Kingfisher is an Indian beer, these were brewed in Melbourne (I’ll get to what my friends thought of it later). I loved my mango lassi. It was really smooth, not too thick or too runny, and had a great flavour. I had dinner at another Indian restaurant a few days later and the mango lassi I had there was definitely not as good as Copper Chimney’s.

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Our first entree was the Chicken 65. Pramod explained that the 65 could refer to two things: the first is a 65 day old chicken, the second being a dish that uses 65 ingredients. The Chicken 65 was the latter. We weren’t sure what it would taste like, so we took a small serve each to start. The meat was really tender, and it had a glaze to it, so it wasn’t dry at all. But boy, did the Chicken 65 have a bit of a kick—I don’t know what the 65 ingredients were, but chilli was definitely one of them! That said, we all liked it. I’m a chilli wuss and normally shy away from hot food, but I couldn’t stop myself from picking at it. My friends said the Kingfisher beer helped to take the bite out of the heat, so they happily ate lots.

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Next up we were presented with a serve of palak papdi chaat: spinach leaves in a crispy lentil batter, topped with yoghurt, date and tamarind, and chilli and mint sauces, on mash potato. This was a cold dish (a good one to eat after the heat of the Chicken 65), and just delicious. One of my friends said the crunchy bits were awesome (they were), and we all agreed the contrast in texture with the soft potato was great. The sauce was sweet, which made me happy, and we thoroughly demolished it all.

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Our final entrée was the moti kebabs: cheese and onion stuffed tandoori mushrooms. I love mushrooms so I really enjoyed these. While there was debate about the strength of the flavour of the mushrooms, with one friend saying she couldn’t really taste them, while the other said she could, we all agreed they were pretty nice. The stuffing was creamy and smooth, but the flavour seemed more mustardy than tandoori.

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While we took a break before our mains, we enjoyed the atmosphere of the restaurant. It wasn’t that busy, but there was music playing at a good volume—loud enough to be atmospheric but not so loud it was intrusive. We liked that the tables were nicely spaced apart and not all crammed together. This, combined with the music, meant you could easily hold a conversation but without worrying that the people at the table next to you could hear every word. When I say the restaurant wasn’t busy, there was actually a large group in the restaurant’s private dining room, but we could barely hear them at all.

Then it was time for the mains. Suddenly on our table there were three types of naan: garlic, cheese, and one with potato in the middle. They smelt amazing and tasted great, especially the potato one which I think was everyone’s favourite. I don’t think the cheese one was as cheesy as I thought it would be, but I might have been distracted by the potato one.

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Along with the bread was a serve of prawn curry Goanese, which was prawns cooked in a sauce of coriander seeds, cumin, turmeric powder and freshly ground coconut, and some chicken Chettinad, which we were told was a speciality from Southern India, chicken with a pepper spiced curry. One of my friends and I took an immediate liking to the prawn curry Goanese, which had a sweet sauce (which my friend said was different to what she’d normally expect for Indian food) and lots of prawns. It was one of those dishes that you easily end up continuously heaping and eating the sauce on rice and naan bread without realising that you’ve eaten more than you should, because it just tastes so good! My other friend said the flavour wasn’t as strong as what she’d normally expect for Indian food.

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As for the chicken Chettinad, one of my friends described it as “unexpected”. It wasn’t the kind of dish that any of us had ever seen or ordered at an Indian restaurant before. The chicken was really tender, and the pepper and spice kicked in in the aftertaste—it was one of those dishes where you take a bite and think the flavour’s not that strong, but then it hits you.

We thought that was it for the mains, but then Pramod brought out a serve of goat Bhuna Masala, which was spice coated pieces of goat, served on a sizzling plate. Like the other dishes, the meat was really tender, and the spices were nice, but like the chicken Chettinad, it had a kick of flavour at the end.

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We were all quite impressed that the serves were, as my friend put it, generous with the protein, i.e. there were a decent amount of meat/prawns in each one, as opposed to some places which give you a lot of sauce but not necessarily much else.

While we were eating the mains my friends were given a try of the Haywards 5000, another Indian beer, but actually brewed in India. My friends said that while the Kingfisher could have been drunk with or without the curries, the Haywards went great with them, and it was as if that was how it was meant to be.

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Though we were pretty full by then, we were intrigued by the desserts. Pramod kindly put together a tasting plate for us so we could have a taste of each dessert without tipping ourselves over the edge. The desserts were a gulab jamun, carrot hulwa and a serve of mango kulfi (Indian ice cream) and pistachio ice cream.

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The kulfis were a bit icy for my liking, but I really liked the gulab jamun and the carrot hulwa, as did my friends. Both were a bit pudding-y, and warm and delicious. I was particularly pleased and surprised with the gulab jamun, as I normally find them a bit sickly sweet, but this one was just right.

One of my friend’s final observations was that Copper Chimney, unlike some other places, doesn’t have every dish under the sun. Instead, it does a few things, but does them really well.

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The place: Copper Chimney
Where: 24 West Row (Melbourne Building), Civic
When: Lunch Mon-Fri 12-2.30pm, dinner Monday to Sunday, 5.30-10pm
Food: Indian
Drinks: Wine, beer, lassi, other soft drinks
Phone: (02) 02 6162 1845
Web: Visit their website or Facebook page

The author and her friends dined courtesy of Copper Chimney for the purposes of this review.

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Michelle Brotohusodo

Michelle moved to Canberra vowing to stay for two years, tops. 10 years later, she’s a bona fide Canberra convert. When she’s not working in her day job as a public servant, she’s enjoying Canberra’s culinary delights or finding fun things to do/see in and around town. More about the Author

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