In Short: Dining at Manjit’s At The Wharf is an unforgettable and exciting experience. The fantastic view of Darling Harbour is a bonus but the main attraction that will keep you coming back is their attentive service and authentic Indian food that excites the palate and innovates in presentation.
Kings Street Wharf is one of Sydney’s premier dining precincts and with a host of dining options available, you will be spoilt for choices on what to eat. Restaurants with cuisines from the exotic east to the wild west, chances are that you will find a restaurant there that caters every craving. If its authentic Indian food you crave, that tastes wholesome and hearty like it’s home-cooked but presented in a refined and innovative manner, then look no further than Manjit’s At The Wharf.
Since 1984, this family-owned business has been instrumental in changing Australian’s perception of Indian dining, by introducing us to authentic Indian food that smells and taste like what you might actually find in India. Today, there are 3 Manjit’s restaurants in NSW, with Manjit’s At The Wharf being their latest foray that combines the harbour view and sophisticated flavours of the subcontinent.
Head Chef Varun Gujral comes from a long line of chefs in his family. Varun takes the recipes from his father and adds his refined and artistic touch to each of the dishes. I hazard to guess his artistic creativity was influenced by his artist mom Kawal Gujral, as Manjit’s At The Wharf aims to present Indian food in a way that can only be described as both traditional yet innovative and unconventional.
Once at your seat, in addition to being able to see and feel the vibe from the chefs preparing the food from the open kitchen, you will get a whiff of the exotic aromas. The wait staff are also very friendly, attentive, and knowledgeable without being intrusive. They are familiar with the flavours and ingredients of each dish and are always on hand to offer assistance if you are unsure of what to order from the extensive menu. And if you are lucky enough, you might even run into the patriarch of the Gujral family, Mr Manjit Gujral himself.
Even before you get to the food menu, you will notice that Manjit’s has an extensive bar menu which means that you get a tempting list of drinks and cocktails to go with your meal. I was intrigued by the Smoked Bombay cocktail, which is made with Nepalese Khukri rum, honey, cinnamon and figs. The drink is presented at the table in a theatrical manner, with plumes of smoke induced into the drink, to create that smoky flavour. The smooth, smoky flavours of the drink is so mild, and fragrant. It is so easy to drink and the aromas from the cocktail that you get each time you lift up the drink, is alluring. It is a classy relaxing drink and a great way starter to our meal.
From Manjit’s food menu, there is an extensive array of entrees and main. One good way to enjoy your meal in a fuss free manner is to order a couple of entrées and 1 or 2 mains. Then sit back and let Varun impress you with the way he and his team of chefs prepare and serve the food.
The first item we were greeted with was the Pappadam with a trio of dips of tamarind raita, mango, and mint. Traditionally, Pappadams are flat circles of wafer-thin, crispy cracker. Manjit’s version of Pappadam is still the same light, crispy, flavourful cracker. But instead of making them into flat circles, they roll them up into log shaped wafers, and serve them in a silver basket. This way of presenting them transforms this simple humble Indian cracker, to a level of elegance without compromising its original textures or flavour. Each of the 3 dips also have a different flavour profile. The Tamarind Raitha has a savory note, while the Mango dip is sweet and the Mint has a refreshing cooling effect.
To really awaken the palate is an entrée of Gol Gol Gappa, which is Manjit’s take on the popular Indian Street food, the Pani Puri. With each serving, you get four delicate crispy ball shells, with the top cracked open and filled with a delightful mixture of spiced chickpeas and potatoes. Essentially, this is a fun dish that you are meant to enjoy with your fingers. Therefore, the best way to eat this is to drizzle the tamarind and amchur cavier sauce over the top of the ball, lift up the entree and attempt to eat it in one bite. That way, you will get the full taste explosion of sweet,salty, savory flavours going off all at the same time in your mouth.
If you love mushrooms, then you should definitely try Manjit’s Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Khumb entree. Fresh organic mushrooms are stuffed with paneer cheese, cottage cheese, and water chestnuts, then grilled to give it a light charred flavour. A subtle amount of truffle is then added to heighten and intensified the smell and flavours of mushroom. With each mouthful, you get a light yet luxurious feel in your mouth. This dish could be presented in any fine dining restaurant and it would be hailed for its truffle perfume and earthy flavours. It’s an atypical Indian dish but so representative of Manjit’s approach.
A duo of spectacular seafood entrees commenced with a Fish Malai. Fish fillets are gently marinated in a secret signature spice mix, then battered and quickly fried to give it a crispy coating on the outside. You can smell the mouth-watering aromas of this dish before it arrives. The outer crispy batter gives way to an incredibly perfectly cooked white fish meat, so tender it just melts in your mouth. As with many of the dishes at Manjit’s, the highlight is the way it is presented. Served on a plate shaped like a painter’s palette, four types of Indian chutneys are artistically smeared on the plate to resemble paint of grey, yellow, green and red to complement the fish fillets. This is followed by a final touch of green dust on the top of the plate and strands of golden saffron adorn the top of the fish. This is a dish that is spectacular both visually and taste-wise.
The cavalcade of delicious entrées continued with a row of Prawn Pakooras. Small prawns are seasoned and battered in crispy pakora batter then deep fried to a golden brown colour. Usually, I love my huge tiger prawns but it’s the small prawns that are sweeter and more intense in flavour. I thoroughly enjoyed this entrée and my only complaint was that I wish there was more of it, as they were purely addictive and once you start, you can’t stop!
When a dish is labelled the signature dish of the restaurant, you can be assured that its something really special. With the Lamb Shoulder Anarkali, it is a recipe that dates back to the time of the Mughal Empire. The name Anarkali invokes images of a dancing lady with a colourful twirling dress. Just like its namesake, this dish consists of bone standing tall in the middle of the plate, surrounded by tender lamb shoulder that has been marinated and cooked with pomegranate and molasses. With the divine fragrance of familiar Indian spices, this dish smells and tastes like it has been slow cooked for the longest of time, such that the flavours from the lamb, spices and aromatics have all been fused into one and created a circular pool of deep red sauce.
If the idea of roasted eggplants sounds boring to you, then you have definitely not tried Manjit’s Baingan Takatak. This is one vibrantly colored dish, served with a dome cloche over the plate. Once the cloche is lifted open, you get a plump of smoke, a delight of scents and visual presentation. This vegetarian main consists of slow roasted baby eggplant, combined with onion, tomato and chilli, to give this dish a smoky, sweet, tangy spicy flavour thats quite out-of-this-world. To not waste any bit of the delicious sauce, you should eat it with some rice or naan bread. While the slow cooked lamb anarkali may have been billed the signature, I believe this is the star dish, just for the pure theatre and amazing depth of flavour. For a meat lover, this vegetarian superstar rose above all others!
I have ordered, and eaten, a great many Tandoori chicken dishes in my life but Tandoori lamb cutlets is not something that is typically offered in most Indian restaurants that I have visited. This is where Manjit’s Bharrah Kebab would forever change my perception on the best meats for cooking Tandoori style. Marinated with the exotic mix of red spices, then flavoured and tenderised with yoghurt, garlic, ginger, and lemon juice and cooked in a tandoor oven to allow the lamb fat to render and also to give it smokiness, the flavours of this tandoori lamb cutlet dish is just unparalleled. Served in a deep curved bowl, the lamb cutlets sit up proudly on a mat of green banana leaves, enjoy this dish for its use of spices and aromatics, making it delicious and attractive.
Every race and country have their own interpretation of a rice dish, made with a different variety of rice which is usually grown in that country. The Biriyani is that universally known Indian rice dish that most people would recognise and would have tried at least once. For me, its my Indian comfort food as it was the one Indian dish I ate most frequently growing up. Manjit’s Dum Biriyani transcends all my expectations of typical chicken biriyani. Firstly, I love the way that its presented in such a dramatic manner. The dome-shaped brown pastry covering the top of the casserole pot has a knife stuck right in the middle, like its daring you to go for it. It felt like King Arthur pulling out the sword from the stone. The flavours were everything that a chicken biriyani should be and then some. The fragrant chicken is marinated in spices and yoghurt, then cooked with the colourful spiced rice so that every essence of the chicken is infused into the rice. I was filled with delight and satisfaction as I delved into layer after layers of unending treasures.
Just when you think that you cannot possibly fit in any more, you realise that no Indian meal would be complete without Naan. And who could resist Manjit’s famous hot, buttery, warm flat bread that you can order plain or with garlic, cooked in a tandoor hot oven, with the charred bits that add to the flavour and texture. Need I say more ? Manjit makes their serve as one huge piece, enough to feed three or more people. It is so amazing that when it’s served, usually you will get the other tables turning their heads and suffering instant food envy.
Kulfi is known as ice cream with an Indian spice twist. To me and little Coco and Viner Sammi, all ice cream is good. But Manjit’s Mango Pistachio Kulfi is not just good ice cream. It is literally art on a plate. A tall majestic cone of Kulfi ice cream sits in the middle of the plate with swirls of mango sauce, followed by sprinkles of crushed green pistachio nuts. The sweetness from the kulfi is tempered by the sweet, yet citrus, fragrance from the mango sauce, followed by the nutty crunchy textures from the pistachio.
At the end of the day, what sets a meal at Manjits The Wharf apart from any other Indian dining experience is not just the location but the friendly, attentive service and delicious food that will surprise you every step of the way. Combined with the aesthetically pleasing presentation, the all important taste, spicing and flavour will truly delight.
* Coco & Vine dined as guests of Manjits at the Wharf. However, all photos and opinions are our own.