Mother India, Cairns
Ok I can’t put it off any longer. My last post was well over two weeks ago, slack I know but I have been caught up in birthday celebrations for both MS and myself as well as a bit of Christmas cheer and a nasty middle ear infection that is yet to subside. Next cab off the rank with my Table 52 cards was Mother India on Sheridan Street a couple of weeks ago for a farewell dinner with my good friend EG. Seems my Table 52 cards are running rather low and I only really have ones from the Northern Beaches and Port Douglas left. Might be time to invest in the 2013 Edition to even out the playing field. I will use the Northern Beaches and Port Douglas, I just haven’t got around to it yet and I have to admit I don’t go up to Port very much. So back to Mother India. EG had already been to Mother India many times and even considers herself a regular. The owner remembered her from a few days earlier when she had dined there with her mother. I have dined at Mother India once many years ago for lunch but I can’t really remember what it was like. I have avoided it in more recent times after I called up one day to find out about their lunch specials to put on my Lunch page and had the person on the other end of the phone (I’m assuming the owner) give me an earful about how his chef had quit and he couldn’t open because he didn’t have anyone to cook. Needless to say I didn’t end up hearing the lunch specials and I decided I didn’t particularly want to know them but hey we all have our bad days.
I’ll admit I am the kind to hold grudges and my phone conversation did leave a pretty bad taste in my mouth but after reassurances from EG that it was ‘really good’ I thought I would stick my head in for a look and some curry. We got there around 8pm on a Friday night and there was about three other tables occupied at the time. A man who introduced himself as the owner showed us to a table and bought us some menus and water while we had a look over the menu. The owner was really friendly and chatted with myself and EG about her earlier dining experience and whether or not I had been to Mother India before (I didn’t mention the phone conversation). He was very gracious and happy to have us dining at Mother India, I think because out of all the Indian restaurants in Cairns Mother India is the one that gets most overlooked. Most likely because of its location on Sheridan Street, just that little bit out-of-the-way of the main thoroughfare. Although that doesn’t seem to be a problem for Happy 4 10 which appears to be doing a roaring trade.
After insisting upon a serving of papadums and chutney to start with and a glass of Giesen each, EG and I decided that we would both order a meal and share it. That was fine with me I had already picked out the Butter Chicken (isn’t that what everyone orders at an Indian restaurant?) but much to my dismay and something I did not know about my friend was that she didn’t eat chicken. She then went on to tell me a hilarious childhood story about her pet chicken that she got for her birthday that she did everything with (he waited in her room for her to come home from school and slept in her bed) until one day she came home from school to find a pile of feathers in the backyard and her favourite chicken missing. She then went on to say that this story wasn’t actually the reason that she didn’t eat chicken more that she just didn’t like it. It was a funny story none the less.
EG’s story reminded me of a story about my Nana (my mum’s mum who is now passed away) who had a favourite chicken when she was a child living in Sri Lanka. One day her favourite chicken stopped laying eggs so her father told her that they would have to kill it since it wasn’t doing its chicken-ly duties anymore. So after much reluctance and tears (from my Nana not the chicken) my Nana’s favourite chicken got the axe and when they chopped it open they found an egg inside. My Nana was so upset at the loss of her beloved chicken that she never ate chicken again. Up until she passed away my dad used to take great delight in feeding her pate and biscuits when she came over (something she absolutely loved), little did she know what she was actually eating. My dad thinks he’s so funny. So after all the chicken stories were exchanged I still longed for Butter Chicken but knew I had to decide on something else so I chose the Lamb Korma – Mildly spiced diced lamb curried in a creamy cashew and almond gravy for AU$16.95, while EG went with a vegetarian dish to add to the mix. She chose the Palak Paneer – Fresh ground spinach cooked with cottage cheese in fresh ginger, garlic and onions for AU$15.95. We ordered some Garlic Naan (AU$3.95), Steamed Rice (AU$2.50) and some Cucumber Raita (AU$4.25) to go with our dishes. I may dine at an Indian restaurant and go without Butter Chicken but I’ll be damned if I dine at an Indian restaurant and go without Garlic Naan, no matter how many times I need to do the Red Arrow the next day.
After the owner took our order he asked us how spicy we wanted it. Both being spice lovers we decided that we would have them both ‘Hot’. To which the owner replied ‘Indian Hot’ or just ‘Normal Hot’. Hmmm I was unsure about this one as was EG so we asked for a bit more of an explanation. Apparently ‘Indian Hot’ is only upon request and usually only for Indian diners but he figured he would ask after finding out my heritage and knowing that EG doesn’t mind a bit of spice. In the end we decided we would stick with ‘Normal Hot’ just to be on the safe side.
The decor at Mother India was a little dated but also very homely and cosy so it was kind of nice. There was a beautiful big tapestry on the wall behind us that looked very expensive and also looks good in a photo. I was just happy that we were sitting inside in the air conditioning as opposed to outside at some other restaurant. When you are eating hot food you don’t want to be sweating from both the food and the ambient temperature. I pointed out to EG the newly wed Indian couple seated behind us (noticeably newly wed because of the traces of henna on her hand and the large amounts of bangles she displayed on her forearms). They couldn’t have been more disinterested in each others company. Shame since they had probably only been married a couple of days. There was also a young child that from another table that kept harassing me because he apparently thought I was his mother due to me having a similar haircut as her (she wasn’t at the restaurant). *Insert my super awkwardness with children*. I’ll be honest I do want kids one day but I’m sure I am not alone when I say that I don’t like other people’s kids, hopefully I will like my own. Moving on, we waited probably about 15 minutes for our meals to arrive and when they did I realised just how much food the two of us had ordered especially considering we had already had papadums earlier.
We served ourselves a bit of each curry with some rice and a piece of naan bread and dug in. I have always wanted to order a variant of the Cottage Cheese type vegetarian dishes I see on Indian menus but never had the balls to do it for one reason or another. I was delighted when EG chose the Palak Paneer although I was a little hesitant about the onion part. I eat onion I just don’t like it when its chunky and crunchy. The onion was not like this at all in the Palak Paneer. It was soft and delicate. The Palak Paneer was a beautiful dish but sh*t was it spicy! Nothing I couldn’t handle but it was still bloody hot. I really loved the small lumps of Cottage Cheese in the dish which isn’t like your usual supermarket variety. The Indian Paneer (or Cottage Cheese) has much more of a milky flavour to it and a completely different texture to that I am used to.
The Lamb Korma was also lovely with tender pieces of lamb hidden within the thick nutty gravy. I actually think that the best part of eating Indian food is mopping up all the sauces with the rice and naan bread. Although we did order the Lamb Korma to be ‘Normal Hot’, the same as the Palak Paneer, it didn’t seem to be quite as hot as the other dish which was actually a good thing in the end because that and the Raita provided a bit of heat relief for us both.
The four pieces of Garlic Naan weren’t the best I have tasted and not as soft, moist and garlic-y as Garlic Naan should be. I don’t think that it was cooked fresh because it was a little bit dry and hard. It was also served rather un-elegantly in a bread basket wrapped in alfoil but maybe they were trying to save on washing up. It was a bit of shame but this was the only thing that let the meal down.
During our dinner the owner came over to check on us a couple of times to ensure that we were enjoying our meal and ask if there was anything else that we wanted or needed. He also made sure that the ‘Normal Hot’ wasn’t too hot for us and joked that maybe next time we could try the ‘Indian Hot’. The service was excellent and as I already said that owner was very accommodating and super happy that we had chosen his restaurant for our Friday night dinner. He made us promise that we would tell all our friends about it. The food at Mother India was delicious and there was plenty left by the time we were finished. One thing I must say is that both mains that we ordered had plenty of Cottage Cheese and Lamb in them. They weren’t just all sauce with only a couple of pieces of meat or cheese in them. A nice change from what I have experienced at some other Indian restaurants in town. I kicked myself that I hadn’t given Mother India a chance and used my Table 52 card sooner. I would most certainly dine there again without a Table 52 card, the same can’t be said for a few other Table 52 card restaurants I have been to. Upon presenting it at the counter to pay at the end the owner’s wife was most obliging (unlike the nasty woman at Taste of China) and even asked if we would like to split the bill between us, something the two of us were most happy about after neither of us had brought cash. How delightful! If you are not a lover of hot food then don’t worry about it Mother India ensure their curries are made to your liking. Like I said I’m not too sure about the ‘Indian Hot’ but I have to admit I am a little intrigued. Never say never right?
2/80 Sheridan St, Cairns QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 4041 1000
Opening Hours: Lunch 11.30am – 2pm Tues – Fri, Dinner 5.30pm – 10pm Tues – Sun