HALE W18 Masthead

Bollywood Masala: still heavenly

Emma Macdonald

When a new Indian restaurant opened 14 years ago in Dickson, I remember being asked to review it for The Canberra Times.

Bollywood Masala quickly became my favourite place, and I still recall my very first experience of their Bollywood Dahl.

At the time I described it as “Heaven in a Bucket” – a rich bean and lentil mix swimming in a deliciously rich and mildly spicy sauce containing my two essential ingredients to living a happy life – butter and cream.

It was served in a cute copper bucket (don’t worry that it looks small, as a little of this goes a long way), but the ‘heaven in a bucket’ tag has since stuck and it’s now written on the menu.

I am pleased to report that in the intervening years, I have never discovered a better dahl, and this is despite a trip to India where I ordered dahl in every city at every meal in the hopes of something just as delicious. The funny thing is I never found one quite as perfect.


The famous Bollywood Dahl.

In 2013, owner Arjan Chehl decided to set up a Kingston Bollywood Masala and would later close Dickson down.

So it was with a grumbling stomach and a hankering for some of that delicious long-lost dahl that we booked in recently.

The good news is that in a town where restaurants pop weekly and everyone is focussed on discovering the newest and next big thing, Bollywood Masala is everything I remembered it to be. And I realised how much I had missed it.

Bollywood Masala Dickson twice won the Best Indian Restaurant in the ACT the Kingston version then scooped the same award the year it opened.

Sharing a plate of starters we enjoyed their Tandoori Nimbu Jhinga – Australian prawns marinated in a paste of Kaffir lime leaves and lemon grass, finished with Indian spices and served with mint and garlic chutney.

My meat-loving dining companion attacked Tandoori Taster which comprised a piece of chicken tikka, paneer shashlik, lamb cutlet, mushroom, tandoori prawn; served with mint and garlic dip.


Then it was time for another firm favourite,  the Malabari Jhingan –  king prawns cooked in a tomato and onion sauce with mustard seeds, curry leaves, coconut milk and a touch of cashew nuts.

I had to retry the Palak Paneer, a popular home-made paneer in a spinach sauce which makes me feel healthy as well as happy.

And in the interests of sampling a wide variety of menu items, a Bollywood Leg of Lamb was also ordered. Although if you saw our table groaning under the weight of all that food you would have wondered where our other ten friends were hiding.

The lamb is one of their top-selling dishes with good reason – an off-the-bone melt-in-the-mouth Mughlai style combination of marinated leg of lamb, pan-cooked in a thick yoghurt-based sauce with a touch of rum and finished with Bollywood special herbs and home-ground spices.

Yes indeed.

What would a meal be without some garlic naan fresh out of the tandoor oven and some matar rice (with peas). And of course, I had to find room for the dahl, which has been part of every order I have ever made at that restaurant over the years.


We ate slowly, and our taste-buds took a trip down memory lane.

The Kingston restaurant is an airy and elegant place – lots of dark wood and a large window fronting onto Giles Street. It is not a flash new place with gimmicky food and a social media account. It is a family-friendly place for a long, slow meal and a good catch up.

The front of the restaurant filled up fairly quickly on the night we were there and it was lovely to see one diner order takeaway and sit at the bar over a glass of wine while he waited for the tandoor oven to do its thing.

Bollywood Masala is fully licensed and BYO with an extensive wine list offering a good selection of local and international wines, including by-the-glass.


Arjan is a beautiful host, warm and hospitable and able to explain all the dishes because they are part of his family heritage.

One thing is for certain. This is food that is rich and filling. If you are after something substantial, and not a foamy, tiny ornament on a plate garnished with micro-herbs, then this is the place for you.

Of course, we ordered way too much and could barely stagger out the door. But the good thing is, you can always take home left-overs. The dahl is just as good for breakfast as it is for dinner.

the essentials

What: Bollywood Masala
Where: 46 Giles Street, Kingston
Open: Lunch, Tuesday to Friday, 12-2pm, dinner, Tuesday to Sunday, 6-10pm
Phone number: 6162 1113 or website here

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Emma Macdonald

Emma Macdonald has been writing about Canberra and its people for more than 20 years, winning numerous awards for her journalism - including a Walkley or two - along the way. Canberra born and bred, she’s fiercely loyal to the city, tribally inner-north, and relieved the rest of the country is finally recognising Canberra’s cool and creative credentials. More about the Author