The first thing that hits you when you walk through the doors of this unsuspecting restaurant on Brunswick Street is the scent of spices wafting from the back – as soon as it hits, your mouth instantly waters.
There’s a mix of languages being spoken by both patrons and staff, and the eclectic décor really puts you at home in this cosy restaurant.
The charm of the restaurant lies within the decor and the promising smell of Indian food. All the chairs are miss-matched and sit within a colour scheme of orange, white, and teal. A local street artist in Fitzroy did the in-house mural featuring old school Bollywood actress Waheeda Rehman – there’s a cocktail on the menu named after her, and everything you smell is all produced in house.
“Since day one, we’ve focused on the basic and producing everything in house,” says co-owner of Mukka, Prateek Dhawan. “Our spices to sauces, and everything in between.”
The restaurant is a family made venture, with brothers Aditya and Prateek Dhawan as the co-owners, but the whole family is in on the business.
“The whole restaurant has been done by family and friends,” Dhawan says. “We got a blank slate”.
The Dhawan brothers’ dad has hand painted the tables and bar with mandalas, the bar was hand-made by the three Dhawan men and their carpenter friend, and their mother is out the back in the kitchen making sure all her recipes have been made up to scratch.
“Spice is everything in Indian food,” Dhawan says. “When you’re cooking everything in house, in that little kitchen, we get people peeking inside from the street to see what’s cooking.”
Before Mukka opened, they did a survey with over 200 respondents gauging what people liked or looked forward to with Indian food. They did a few tastings, perfected the dishes and came to create part of the menu.
“All the recipes are my mum’s recipes – she controls the quality,” Dhawan says. “All the dishes are her recipes and any new dishes that come out are usually suggested by Sammy.”
Their South Indian chef Sammy – who perfected the South Indian meals – basically created the upper half of the menu.
“When we opened up four years ago, there were no Indian restaurants focused on making Indian food special,” Dhawan explains. “Like the revolution of Asian restaurants over the years, I feel like we’re seeing the same with Indian restaurants. We’re moving away from the cheap restaurants and looking towards providing quality in our food, a lot of effort is being put into our food.”
Mukka are introducing some winter specials to really warm you up, including Goan Vindaloo, a Malabar Pumpkin Curry for the vegetarians and vegans out there, a Mughlai Chicken Korma, a Malai Kofta, and an entrée of Kolkatan Indochinese Chili Lamb. There’s also a winter cocktail, Malana Alexander, which is a Brandy Alexander with an Indian twist – like all their cocktails.
The Goan Vindaloo and Malabar Pumpkin Curry are unmissable specials, they’re both hearty winter dishes that make you feel warm and fuzzy eating them. Scoop them up with a bit of Mukka’s fluffy naan and you’re in for a treat.
“The curries we’ve selected are very warming curries,” says Dhawan. “Indian food is about warming. When everything else is forbidden during winter, it becomes a time where people sit together and eat together. The bustling nature of the restaurant and the food really warms people up, and it’s a joy to see.”
Mukka’s desserts are the perfect way to top off your meal. Gulab jamun is a good wintry dish – kind of like golden syrup dumplings but a thousand times better – and they’re made in house, so the flavour and sweetness can be controlled. If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, try the Jalebi – which was inspired by the movie Lion – all the proceeds from this dish go to the charity Magic Bus at the end of every month.
This homely Indian restaurant holds so much more than just food – though the food is pretty bloody amazing – and if you’re interested in trying Mukka, it’s only a few doors down from The Evelyn, making it a perfect place to grab some pre-gig grub.
Find Mukka at 365 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy. Check out the full menu, opening hours and more at mukka.com.au.