Butter chicken, cheese naan, diet coke: my idea of mild, stupidly creamy, excessively buttery heaven when in desperate need of not-really-Indian comfort food.
Like a ridiculously oozy carbonara and California rolls, the off-the-cuff idea of Indian cuisine many westerners still hold near and dear is a slap in the face to authenticity. Still, it’s also quite often too strong of a temptation to resist, previous the richness and variety on offer over on the other side of the credibility fence.
It’s quite easy to fight that temptation; you need to be diligent about finding the best Indian restaurants in Melbourne.
With such variety on offer from the subcontinent, Melbourne locals are spoiled by a rich tapestry of only the greatest Indian on offer, from the hellfire curries and puffed, charred naan bread of North India, to all the dosas, and vegetable-focused dishes in the Southern part of India has to offer.
These are the city’s top Indian restaurants in Melbourne for a good food adventure around what is truly some of the most varied cuisines in the world.
Indian cuisine must be the most aromatic cuisine in the world. There's no mistaking that heady mix of cardamom, turmeric, ginger and other such spices.
Here are our favourite places to enjoy rich curry, street food or something fired in the tandoor.
The Best 16 Indian Restaurants in Melbourne
Melbourne has one of the most culturally diverse culinary scenes globally, but you already know that, and so do we. What you may not know, though, is where to find the cream of the crop when it comes to Indian food.
There are takeaways and dine in restaurants dotted all over Melbourne, and we know you’ll argue that your local is the best. But after doing the rounds, we’ve come up with the ultimate list of the best Indian restaurants Melbourne has to offer.
Daughter In Law
Jessi Singh’s name has to appear at least a few times on a list of finest Indians in Melbourne – it’s the law. The Punjabi chef has been amongst the few successful tenants of modern Indian in Australia, pulling off smart twists on stereotypes both on and off the menu at this Little Bourke Street favourite.
The restaurant itself is wildly colourful and effortlessly cool, while the food served is a cross-country marathon of flavours and ideas, like the aptly named ‘inauthentic butter chicken’, which replaces the indulgent trifecta of butter, ghee and oil with an equally deep but more vibrant blend of tomatoes, garlic, fenugreek and ginger.
Other menu highlights include grilled jumbo prawns with pineapple, jalapeno chutney, yoghurt, kingfish sashimi in cashew milk, and the faultless chutney platter served with piles of poppadoms and naan bread. It’s a bit more fun and upbeat than your usual oily Indian CBD diner, with a fiercely modern take on Indian.
Address: 37-41 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne
Milan At Kew
Milan At Kew is that quintessential suburban Melbourne Indian restaurant that doesn’t nearly get enough praise as it should. Authenticity and traditional techniques are proudly displayed here alongside western-friendly dishes, yet, likely, you’ve only come across this hidden gem while scrolling through Uber Eats.
There’s no big-name chef or splashy interior behind Milan, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that this lack of modernity and pizzazz must mean a sub-standard Indian takeaway food menu. The menu is focused on quality produce, and it makes a difference, even if the menu itself is fairly standard.
Everything is done exceptionally well, from the masala and eggplant aloo to main dishes like prawn biryani and lamb rogan josh – this is Indian at its most traditional and authentic, and will always find you coming back for more.
Address: 44 Cotham Road, Kew
The great dominance of Jessi Singh wouldn’t be possible without St Kilda’s Babu Ji, which has since become so well known for the chef’s freewheeling approach to contemporary Indian that the brand can be found in New York and – formerly – San Francisco.
Blue pumpkin and chickpea curry deserve as much attention as the lamb korma and standout Kerala fish curry. The menu is constantly teetering between light and heavy dishes, with plenty of flavours packed into each.
A personal favourite is the unusual crispy calamari, sprinkled with gun powder and covered in curry-mayo. The $65 ‘meal for two is where the smart ones look first, netting you two regular curries, large rice, two naan bread, aside, and a bottle of house wine – that is, a lot of food. There’s a big menu here, so make sure you return to this prime St Kilda location.
Address: 4/6 Grey Street, St Kilda
Tonka holds a special place in the minds of food enthusiasts throughout Australia, positioned as one of the country’s most popular shots at contemporary Indian, in a central location. And really – one of the pioneers when it comes to challenging preconceptions of what Indian can be when given modern flourishes with good quality produce.
Chef Adam D’Sylva, who’s now heading a new restaurant at W Melbourne, has made quite the name for himself based on dishes with serious ‘wow’ factor, like vindaloo steak tartare, burrata with fresh coriander and charred roti, and a signature lamb curry with roasted coconut and black cardamom – all menu highlights.
Chef’s kisses all ’round for this slightly fine-dining take on an Indian CBD restaurant – a perfect dinner any night of the week.
Modern Indian food doesn’t get much better than this. Tonka takes family recipes from Executive Chef Adam D’Sylva and Head Chef Hendri Budiman and fuses them into punchy plates fit for city dining. The kitchen includes two tandoori ovens cooking all your classic naan favourites, plus loads of small and large bites for sharing and grazing.
Tonka is one of the best Indian restaurants in Melbourne, being the love child of highly successful Coda and a triumph of Adam D'Sylva (homage to his heritage) and Michael Smith (former head chef of Jacques Reymond).
High-end Indian has been a surprising gap in the culinary landscape in this city. Having experienced great high-end Indians in other Australian cities like Adelaide, international cities, not to mention India itself, I was curious to see what awaited me at Coda.
This hatted restaurant has taken Indian cuisine in Melbourne on an odyssey and delivers on technique and flavour.
Address: 20 Duckboard Place, Melbourne
The Spice Pantry
Staple menu items from a traditional and authentic North Indian restaurant? Nothing new. But it’d be foolish to skip over The Spice Pantry, which has a great location in Prahran and a great menu.
This rustic gem on the quieter side of Prahran is modest yet a powerhouse of wide-reaching home-style Indian that showcases quite a bit of the country and manages to find balance despite its swollen menu.
Consistency is key at this tiny family-run establishment, which is often at its strongest when serving up main worthy vegetarian curries like bhindi masala – spiced okra with chopped onions and tomatoes – and shahi paneer – cottage cheese cooked in cream and cashew paste.
Address: 68 Commercial Road, Prahran
Indian restaurant with Jessi Singh written all over the menu. Horn Please is a North Fitzroy favourite for rambunctious Bollywood numbers and an atmosphere so thick with festivity that it’s almost impossible not to be flung straight into party mode as soon as you step inside.
Grab some okra fries off the menu to start with, and then steadily build the feast as the drinks start making the ’rounds – you’ll need some naan, of course, then maybe that gorgeous butternut squash curry, some coconut fish curry, those cottage cheese and potato balls, and some of that sweet, sweet beef with a curry of coconut cream, coriander, and cardamom.
Taste any of those, and it’s not hard to tell why this is considered some of the most delicious Indian in Melbourne and one you’d find you’re coming back to time and time again – the best time being for dinner in this eternally hip location.
Both the food and the decor are as colourful as the Holi festival at Horn Please. The flavours are just as tantalising with a generous selection of street eats and curries, which you can share or feast on solo. When out of lockdown, they also offer a super tempting set menu for just $50 per person, including a variety of entrees, curries, rice dishes, naans and desserts.
Address: 167 St Georges Road, Fitzroy North
Aangan is right up there with the likes of Tonka and Daughter in Law as the greatest Indian Melbourne has to offer. The traditional Indian restaurant is an institution, if there ever was one, satisfying hard-to-please Indian enthusiasts and the rest of us all in the same.
And Aangan is consistent with their food, despite now having numerous locations throughout Melbourne, constantly winning fans with various Indian-inspired kebabs, more than just a dabble into South India’s love affair with Indo-Chinese food, and more.
Plus, it’s one of the only Indian restaurants in Melbourne where you can find a nod to North India’s ravenous street food dish, the Puran Singh da Tari wala murgh (chicken curry), which has regulars always coming back for their delicious food and varied menu.
Technically, the menu at Aagaman combines Indian and Nepalese flavours, but we’ll let that technicality slide. It’s as lentil as anything. With a team of chefs who specialise in vegan cooking, you can expect some seriously good veg. It’s some of the best vegan food in Melbourne, but don’t take our word for it, go and try it for yourself.
Address: 559 Barkly Street, West Footscray (also in Bundoora, Clayton, Cranbourne and Deer Park)
Bombay By Night
For almost three decades, Bombay by Night has dominated Caulfield’s intimate dining scene, maintaining a reputation as the area’s best Indian restaurant and a bastion of authentic South Asian dining. Regulars are quick to recommend the fish curry, beef Romana, and palak paneer – all menu favourites.
But really, anything will do here. The kitchen is so adept at a balance that anything you order from the menu will be perfectly textured, artfully balanced, and be packed full of the flavours and aromas that distinguish Indian in this fiercely multicultural hub.
Address: 355 North Road, Caulfield South
Traditional Indian street food is what you’ll find here, where a playful menu lists everything from chaat and dosa to pizza and wraps. Many of the options here are unexpected, but while some might be left-field, the kitchen knows how to make fusion Indian taste incredible.
A delicious example would be the ‘ChickPizza’, which is crispy open-faced naan bread lightly covered in a secret masala sauce and topped with pieces of chicken tikka, coriander, cheese, capsicum, tomatoes, and onions.
An order for dinner alongside some tandoori drumsticks, goat thali, and Indian crepes, and you’ll see why this is one of the best restaurants for Indians in Melbourne CBD – one which keeps regulars coming back for more, no doubt helped by a perfect location and close menu.
Address: 22 Katherine Place, Melbourne
If you want some of the best Indian street food and cocktails in a convivial converted warehouse in Brunswick for dinner, Bhang is where you go.
Every night from Tuesday through Saturday, this place was buzzing with shared feasts. It sloshed satisfied customers, digging through a menu that cherry-picks regionality and dresses it up with bold twists and flavour-forward techniques.
You’ll never go wrong with the Kerala fish biryani, nor the jungle maas, which may throw the spice-adverse amongst us off with its red hot slow-cooked goat and potato, made to a recipe formed in Rajasthan.
Hot tip: Besides being home to some of the best Indians in Melbourne, Bhang also has an excellent wine menu – one of the best you’ll find in Brunswick – so strap in and test your pairing skills.
If you’ve got dietaries—or don’t— Bhang is the best Indian restaurant in Melbourne for you. The whole menu is coded with symbols for vegetarians, vegans, coeliacs and nut allergies—we know it’s a struggle dining out when your diet is restricted, we hear you.
Bhang is the Indian venue that’s all about catering to you, and serving the best of modern Indian cuisine, fuelled by charcoal and cocktails. That’s right, they’ve got quite the booze list with all infusions and syrups made in house.
Address: 1/2A Mitchell Street, Brunswick
Part restaurant, part cocktail bar, Masti is the latest offering from restaurateur Manpreet Sekhon in 2021. She’s put together the ultimate sharing menu with loads of vegetarian and vegan items on there. The best bit is Vegan Curry Night which (when we're not in lockdown) happens every Tuesday— you can get a range of vegan curries, naan and vegan wine all for just $39 ahead.
A local institution in Melbourne’s east, Tandoori Den, has been serving consistently brilliant and authentic North Indian cuisine since opening 40 years ago in 1981, and in 2021 it still holds. The menu is packed with vegetarian options, and there’s a whole page dedicated to tandoor bread made fresh in house—you might want to rethink that low-carb diet after a trip to this place.
Packed over four levels, Mr Brownie is a pub, bar and curry house all wrapped up into one big foodie destination, and now in 2021, it's already become an institution. Jessi Singh is the man to thank for this wonderful establishment, following the success of his other venues — Mrs Singh, Daughter In Law and Horn Please.
The venue comes to life at night with the speakeasy-style bar in the basement, a beer garden and a rooftop terrace. Choosing where to settle in is the tricky part, but once you’re in, keep those beers coming.
Mr Brownie is a fun and lively Indian British curry pub by Jessi Singh with a stunning rooftop with sensational views of the city and South Melbourne surroundings. This is a four-storey pub with delights on each level, but it's the rooftop where you want to head.
The basement cocktail bar is also cool, but the open-air rooftop is perfect in Spring/Summer. The menu gives an Indian "take" on traditional pub fare and pairs perfectly with the beer list.
Curry pies are fun, as is the Indian style Margherita pizza, the Samosas, Indian style nachos, and the Thali platter is a must-order. As is the Fish and chips (you'll love the curry chips).
Fitzroy’s Mukka is all about sharing, sharing sides, sharing curries, sharing entrees — sharing the love.
Their tandoori mushroom skewers are tried and tested favourites, the pani puri is the ideal crispy snack, and their samosas always hit the spot—definitely one of Melbourne’s best Indian restaurants in our opinion.
Punjabi Curry Cafe
Punjabi Curry Cafe is a family business serving up some damn good grub along Johnston Street. They’ve been in the business for fifteen years, and their longevity is a testament to their food and super friendly service. The list of entrees alone is enough to get your mouth watering; we’d recommend the vegetable platter for starters to cover all bases — it includes samosas, pakora, onion bhaji and aloo Tikki. We’re not drooling. You’re drooling.
Bala Da Dhaba
A favourite amongst locals, Bala Da Dhaba, is one of Melbourne’s best local Indian haunts. The lamb vindaloo is a challenge for all you hotheads out there who think you can handle spice. For those preferring a milder dish, the chicken makhani is one of their most popular dishes — served fresh from the tandoor with tomato, spices and fenugreek.
FAQs About Melbourne Restaurants
The Most Popular Restaurants In Melbourne, Australia
- Red Spice Road, Melbourne CBD. Restaurant, Asian, Thai, Vegetarian, $$$
- Lake House, Daylesford.
- David's, Prahran.
- Chin Chin, Melbourne CBD.
- The Grand Hotel, Richmond.
- Vivace, Brighton.
- Rice Paper Scissors, Melbourne CBD.
- Rockpool Bar & Grill, Melbourne CBD.
Tandoori Chicken Tikka is one of the most popular Indian dishes for a reason. It is both flavour-rich and delicious. It has mouth-watering boneless chicken thighs marinated in creamy Indian yogurt and spices. Then, it is grilled in Tandoor (a clay oven) and served with hot and spicy mint chutney.
The vibrant, intensely colourful world of Indian food found an ever-increasing fan base in Australia after Australians began to travel through India during the 1960s and '70s. Each region of India has its style of cooking and distinct flavours.
Indian (Popularity Score 29)
Across the country, a taste for curries and naan has mushroomed since the 1960s, but Melbourne scored 100 points in popularity this year, Hobart second, with Sydney coming 7th with 81.
The definition of masala is a spice mixture that has been ground into a powder or paste used for cooking Indian food or a dish flavoured with this powder. A paste made of cumin and other ground spices is an example of masala.
In the Indian subcontinent, pork is a rarely found meat on menus with some notable exceptions (Goa, Kerala, Coorg, Naga, Sikkimese, and various Christian communities across the region). Hindus have no specific religious restrictions against pork, yet the dominant meats are chicken, goat/sheep and seafood.