There are times in life when you want to get dressed up and head out for an all-night lip-smacking, lobster-smashing dinner marathon, then there are times when you just want to pull on your jeans and eat some damn good food without all the fuss. When it comes to the latter, which, let's face it, happens more often than not, the hidden wonders of Mirchh Masala Chaat Court are just the ticket.
This chilled out little spot is hidden in Woolloongabba and is the kind of place you wouldn't know existed unless someone awesome, like me, told you about it or you stumbled across it while looking for a late-night Chemist (also me). It sits inconspicuously above the Mirchh Masala Indian Grocery store with a hand-written sign next to a well-worn staircase displaying opening times.
Head up this staircase to a halogen-lit spice-fuelled heaven — this is undoubtedly one of Brisbane's best Indian restaurants, and certainly Brisbane's most authentic North Indian street food. The food court style dining room is O.G and filled with round red and white tables and chairs that look like something out of the Jetsons. Bollywood music videos pumping out of a wall-mounted flat-screen TV and a room packed full of locals from the Indian community make you feel much further away than its back-street Brisbane location.
Like a good, truly authentic Indian restaurant should be, Chaat Court is strictly vegetarian. As the manager proudly explains, everything is made fresh to order and the proof is in the Puri. Chutney Puri, that is. A deliciously sweet snack originating from the streets of Mumbai, these crispy little round puffs of goodness are filled with three types of chutney; green mint coriander, sweet tamarind and hot and spicy, giving it the perfect balance of cool and sweet with a hot aftertaste.
True to its street food heritage, Chaat Court serves its meals on an eclectic mix of plastic, paper and tin foil plates and bowls, accompanied with plastic knives and forks. This no-frills plating just adds to the low-key charm of the place and puts the focus on the food.
The veritable smorgasbord of legume-fuelled treats is led by the Mirchh Masala (MM) speciality, Chole Batura. A simple dish of spicy chickpeas served with Bhatura, a light and golden puffy fried bread packed full of herbs. Equally delicious is the Paneer Aloo Tikki, a sweet and spicy chickpea dish with a hidden filling of home-made cheese and light fluffy potato with a golden, crispy outside.
Don't even think about ordering your meal 'mild' playa, the food here comes out spicy, delicious and well-balanced. Meals range in price between $6.99 and $11.99, with the most expensive menu item, Thali, stretching out to $15.99.
As charismatic server Senpher explains, the ice cream cabinet houses eight delicious home-made flavours. You won't catch a rum and raisin or cookies and cream concoction creeping round these parts, instead refreshing flavours like saffron and almond (Kesar Badam) take pride of place and, impressively, the ice creams are all gelatine free!
If ice cream doesn't take your fancy try a tasty little Gulab Jamun instead, these dumpling-like sweets are a refreshing combination of sugar, cinnamon and cardamom. Or, as Senpher boasts, try the delicious mango lassi. Word on the street is, it's Brisbane's best.
The restaurant is cash-only but mysteriously there is a conveniently placed ATM right next to the drinks fridge. Chaat Court is open 11:30am to 9pm every day except Wednesday.
Mirchh Masala Chaat Court is a refreshing change from the theme-heavy food scene raging through Brisbane at the moment. It cares not for your well-maintained beard or double denim outfit, son. This low-key, no-frills joint is about one thing and one thing only, delicious Indian street-food. So, get familiar.
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Image credits: Phoebe Lee