When I conjure up an image of an Indian restaurant I think of a densely packed, rich smelling place with lots of decorated poky spaces and overheated diners apologising to one another as they pull out their chairs. Perhaps that’s heavily skewed by my own travels through northern India and the experience of every square inch of space being occupied by a human, an odour, a vibrant colour…or animal.
I was relieved, then, on this very balmy stormy night to discover Gur Taj restaurant in Collaroy had room between tables to swing a cow (not recommended), all open and airy and spacious enough to encourage large groups and early dining families like our own.
I had been invited there by Sumit Singh to provide a genuine review of his food. He felt confident we would like it and hoped we would pass the word on to other locals. The venue was abuzz while we were there, and I wondered why he felt he needed any more customers given the place was clearly popular.
But of course after a couple of years now of lock downs and nervous dining, a steady stream may still not be enough for many of our local traders. As Sumit stands before us warm, friendly, excited, with the hint of a humid brow below his turban, I detect a subtle sense of fatigue in him with keeping the Gur Taj palace humming.
The restaurant is a family affair, he tells me, pointing to various people rushing around with purpose, each is nominated a familial relationship to himself.
I took an instant liking to Sumit and his restaurant, and quietly prayed I would like his food.
Malai Kofta, a vegetarian specialty of Gur Taj was a particularly enjoyable and unusual dish. It has a starchy texture like yam, and it is drizzled in thick almond gravy, garnished with fresh cream.
A different vegetable curry of mushrooms, potatoes and peas was less exciting, and failed to fully deliver on flavour and was a little small for the price.
What joy I felt, then, when I took a spoonful of the beef vindaloo and was rewarded with a rich salty spicy hit of flavour, which, I discovered, is mellowed beautifully with the vegetarian dish I had just discounted. Of course, I thought to myself, Indian food shouldn’t be judged (nor eaten) with one stand alone dish. It’s a dance of various fare which pulls you from one direction to the next and jolts your senses from left to right Bollywood style.
The various breads (naan) were great – fresh and lighter than your average with a cottage style cheese rather than the thicker cheddar common in food courts – and the tasty fried starters (Bhaji, Pakora, Samosa), provided a great opportunity to sneak a vegetable or two into my four-year-old. All ingredients were good quality, which is always reassuring where strong spices and ghee could be used to disguise imperfections.
The mango lassi was another hit with the kid, and something I enjoyed a few sips of between some of the hotter dishes.
Overall, the food was good, and I would very easily recommend it as place to catch up with friends particularly if there’s a few of you to accommodate. But watching my very satisfied looking husband lean back into his chair and rub his stomach as a trademark post meal nap began to beckon, I realised he had been even more satiated by the experience than I. He has worked in Indian restaurants before, and this is one of the few cuisines where he is a far better judge. He’s a tougher critic, too. But there, semi-comatose, was a very happy man.
“I really enjoyed that,” he said in a rare show of praise. “That was really good. I wish I could eat more.”
Gur Taj has been in the area since 1996 and is available for dine in and take away.
It is located at 1030 Pittwater Road Collaroy, with parking right out front.
More information and bookings:
02 9971 2740 0468 889 029
Transparency check: This is a genuine food review; meals and reviewable beverages were provided free for the purposes of review, and we attended by invitation so it was not anonymous.