Prepare for a heady sensation – as your taste buds savour an exquisite spread, from authentic Keralan Fish curry to Cabbage Thoran; from coconut cream to crispy curry leaves; from spicy Eggplant Achar to puffed Amaranth, this is a culinary journey that canvases everything from authentic Keralan cuisine to Australian produce.
So, on a quiet Wednesday night, it seemed perfect to drop in at Fitzroy’s The Rochey on Johnston Street – and we did, efficiently guided to a table through a large bar complete with a pool table, a DJ’s stage and speakers rendering a cool youngish selection.
We were seated comfortably in the dining area which oversees the kitchen, where Chef Mischa Tropp of We Are Kerala, set up permanent home last year.
Set amidst bright neons, darkish interiors, coloured waxy corners and washed brick walls, Rochester Hotel’s, The Rochey lends a rustic yet funky edge to a delectable ride to ‘God’s own country’ with Chef Mischa.
Just as we had settled down from taking in the remarkable venue – ‘an instagramer’s paradise’, we were blown away starting with Egg Bonda, an egg version of the traditional Alu Bonda, egg and onion masala coated in a crispy fried sourdough batter.
With much of the menu being gluten free, we could not resist the Crispy Prawns topped with fried curry leaves and an incredible recheado mayo – Recheado being a tangy Goan condiment prepared with Feni, a fermented cashew drink.
We polished up the mayo faster than the prawns!
India’s coastal region features brightly in the menu with the Mussels in the Goan curry sauce served with fresh coriander – a fragrant combination of spices for perfectly simmered mussels.
The confit Baby Corn on corn custard topped with puffed amaranth and kashmiri chilli is a winner – a zesty presentation that is a must-try as a starter.
On this incomparable modern take on a traditional Indian cuisine, Chef Mischa chatting at our table on his rounds, said that he is helping develop a “more complex understanding of Indian food culture”.
Well known to the history of CURRY, England born, Rochester’s Stu Moss is behind the revolutionary idea – Melbourne’s first CURRY in a PUB, who road-tested with Chef Mischa before the menu was finalised.
An imaginative BAR MENU was created with Kerala fried chicken – a Crispy Chicken Maryland marinated in kashmiri chilli served with pickled cabbage; and Goan Pork roll – Roast pork belly with pickled cucumber & carrot, Kashmiri chilli topped with mint chutney.
Variety of lager, ciders, cocktails, wine and alcohol selection are on offer to go with the scrumptious menu.
“Yes the menu was specifically created for the Rochey… we took four months to develop a menu that we felt fit in with the pubs ethos,” Mischa said.
Delving deeper in to our delicious quest, we went on to the main course with a fragrant Fish Nadan, an authentic Keralan fish curry in a bright red flavourful sauce.
The catch is fresh and locally sourced – Spencer Gulf Hiramasa Kingfish from South Australia, which has a sweet and fresh taste and retains its firm layers in Chef Mischa’s Fish Nadan, soaking up the piquant masala.
Though, a bit higher on the heat measure, it is an invigorating and satisfying experience for all fish lovers, especially when accompanied with the house-curd, Kachumber salad and brown rice.
Another gratifying dish by Chef Mischa was Pork Amsol, succulent pork belly in a sweet-sour kokum fruit, green mango and cumin light sauce accompanied with Girija’s Cabbage Thoran, a crunchy stir fried cabbage with coconut and curry leaves and flaky Parotha.
Incongruous as it may seem, the simple and intelligent combination of local ingredients fused with Malayalee centric spices and sauces is a fresh and sizzling touch to Fitzroy’s bohemian repute.
Chef Mischa’s menu is a seamless fit to the “pub ethos”, a refreshing change to Melbourne landscape dotted with chicken parma pubs!
Chef Mischa, whose mother is of Indian Keralite origin, is incredibly proud of his heritage and has retained most of the authentic techniques and recipes, he learnt in Kerala. His inspiration comes from the women of India, who infuse warmth and love in to their cooking.
“I love to experiment while retaining the taste and flavours that are authentic to Kerala,” Chef Mischa said.
With century old influences, Keralan cuisine is mouth-watering and stimulating, drawing from the gastronomies of Nayar Hindus, Syrian Christians, Muslims and others. It prides itself on being predominantly non-vegetarian.
Chicken, pork, beef and a range of seafood – mussels, prawns and mackerel are everyday staple and Chef Mischa’s menu replicates this diversity.
We finished the night with a subtly sweet and light dessert, a chef’s special – Grilled pineapple on coconut custard topped with crunchy cashew praline.
“A celebration of Indians in the food and beverage industry”, Chef Mischa will collaborate Jesse Singh (Baba Ji, Horn Please), Harry Mangat (Biji Dining) and the team from ISH to celebrate the revolutionising of Indian food and beverage scene in Australia.
Jessi Singh will be cooking his famous Colonol Tso’s cauliflower, Chef Mischa and team will be doing a Goan style suckling pig on a spit for a suckling pig Pao (roll), while Ish will be cooking their incredible Tandoori lamb cutlets and Harry from Biji dining will be doing his modern take on Sorpotel.
They will be joined by of Indian producers including Avani, Domaine Simha and Nazaaray Estate wineries. Guests can expect two dishes from each of the chefs involved, with 8 dishes in total, 7 drinks – 4 wines, 1 gin, 1 beer and a Mango lassi is also on the menu.
“We want to present Indian cuisine in all its diversity in Melbourne and change perceptions of typical ‘Indian’ food,” Chef Mischa said.
DJ Richi from Mumbai Masala, Hari strings and percussion, DJ amin and traditional Indian dancers will entertain diners.
Located: 202 Johnston St Fitzroy, VIC 3065 / 03 9419 0166
Pub dining, Bar, Outdoor seating, Garden dining
Gluten Free options; Vegetarian & Vegan friendly