Curry Bunga: from Bhopal to Bermagui
A day or so ago The G and I were driving back to Tuross from Bega along the coast road through Bermagui. We usually stop at the end of Bunga Street (because that’s where the ice cream shop used to be) and wander up Lamont Street to find food. This time we noticed a new place right where the ice cream shop used to be. It was full of white tables and red chairs. As we looked in a lady and her family came out saying “it’s really good.” And she was right. It may even be better than really good. This is Bhopal come to Bermagui. It may be that the only reason you have heard of Bhopal is because you remember news about the 1984 Union Carbide disaster. This is not, however, the place to dig over the appalling behaviour of a major multi-national as it reacted to an event whose effects are still felt today. Bhopal is known as the City of Lakes and is as full of history as the rest of the Indian sub-continent. Bermagui is a small seaside town in New South Wales.
You can find Curry Bunga on Facebook; this picture tells you what you need to know
There is no sign on the shopfront that is the intersection between Bhopal and Bermagui. In my view there will be no need for a sign. The taste, sight and smell of Nandini’s culinary offerings are a brand in themselves. Nandini told me that there is a sign on its way but I reckon she should leave it in the back and let the place speak for itself. How cool would that be? The reason the Brits don’t put the name of the country on their coins and stamps is because they don’t need to. Curry Bunga is not likely to need to advertise. The original name chosen was Bhopali Khansama (Bhopali Cook) but Nandini said that Curry Bunga, named after its street address, was catchier for the locals. The eating space is bright and airy and there was evidence of family-friendliness; there was a recently-vacated high chair around which the floor was bestrewn with rice. The plates on the table were scraped clean.
I knew we were onto a winner when I looked at the menu. Palak Paneer is a winner for me every time. Nandini’s aim is to make everything from scratch and that, of course, applies to the paneer. She makes this with Tilba Milk and, my word, it is seriously tasty with a creamy and light yet firm texture. I am also unable to pass up a Peshwari naan and when mine came I was delighted that it was not too sweet. I
Above: You can keep your fancy menus; this tells me all I need to know. And it will be different tomorrow.
I don’t know the right way to eat a Peshwari naan; personally, I eat mine by dipping it into lamb curry. The spicy flavours of the succulent lamb curry were well balanced and there was lots of sauce to pour over the rice. We also took the zucchini daal, a great combination that I shall start doing at home. The portions are generous which is always a good start for me yet we cleared our plates and sat back with great satisfaction after a wonderful lunch.
A trip to India is always an experience. It is a riot of colour, noise, cows, history that you never knew, and electric cabling that can only work by magic. Part of the Indian experience is street food. We are too full of health regulations and worries about hygiene to allow street food in Australia. Curry Bunga is as close to that street food experience as we can probably get. There are no pre-made commercial sauces and flavourings here. Nandini’s imagination and sense of spices makes her flavours unique. The aromatic fragrances that assault your senses as your meal is prepared make any wait worthwhile. You eat freshly cooked food made from fresh ingredients by the person behind the counter. And the person behind the counter, and her assistant, are as friendly and engaging hosts as you could wish. We will certainly be back.
Curry Bunga is Nandini’s rasoi (kitchen) and it’s close to the junction of Bunga Street and Lamont Street in Bermagui; 0414 660 480.