14 Bourke Street
Ph : (03) 9654 5714
Licensed (Until 11pm)
Open : Mon to Fri, 9am-3am; Sat to Sun, 11am-3am
Nowadays, the idea of a story, a narrative, is seen as an important part of promoting a brand, product, or business. A compelling or engaging story can draw people in. It was a personal and engaging ‘story’, of sorts, that lead to my desire to visit Red Pepper. Unbeknownst to me, it is also a regular haunt of my sister’s (whom I was visiting).
Our visit was on a stonking hot and humid Melbourne day, and I ordered a mango lassi ($4). It was quite thick and very filling, and not bad at all.
As a starter, two samosa ($7). Piping hot, the shell was thin (not stodgy) and cracked open beautifully to reveal an interior packed with spicy filling that had a good punch of heat.
You can choose to have either two naan/ one naan and a small rice/ rice only with all the main orders.
My sibling’s choice, and her usual order (she doesn’t eat spicy food), was Butter Chicken ($12.90).
The origins of this dish can be traced back to a Hindu Punjabi restaurant called Moti Mahal in Delhi. Red Pepper is owned by a Punjabi family, coincidentally. Wonderfully creamy, I find butter chicken one of those deceptive dishes. It seems to taste ‘simple’ in a ‘comfort food’ type of way, but making it involves the use of garam masala, ginger, garlic paste, lemon or lime, pepper, coriander, cumin, turmeric, chilli, butter, tomato puree, and various spices, often including cumin, cloves, cinnamon, coriander, pepper, fenugreek, and fresh cream.
Chicken Tikka Masala
My choice was chicken Tikka Masala ($12.90), aka Britain’s national dish. In fact, in July 2009 Pakistani-born British MP Mohammad Sarwar tabled an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons asking that Parliament support a campaign for Glasgow to be given European Union Protected Designation of Origin status for chicken tikka masala. Unfortunately for him, the motion was not chosen for debate. From what I can ascertain, there are possibly dozens of variations on its recipe, so all that I’ll say is that it was a very generous serve, a Tikka Masala which was less sweet than some I’ve had, and with more heat. The accompanying naan, nicely fluffy and charred, was more than enough quantity wise.
The third dish was chicken (lamb also available) vindaloo ($12.90), which I somehow forgot to try, but is this person’s second (to butter chicken) favourite dish at Red Pepper.
Red Pepper is a large friendly casual restaurant (you place your orders and grab a number) with a more formal sibling Green Pepper next door. It’s popular, and having seen the prices and now eaten there, I can understand why. Whether dining with others or even solo, it’s a comfortable place for a inexpensive, filling and good quality meal. Simple bang for buck. One or two reviews refer to it as a student hangout, but there was a broad demographic mix during our visit. Its location means that it is popular with those who work in the city.
Will I re-visit it on any subsequent trip to Melbourne? I’d quite like to try the eggplant dish, and I wouldn’t mind visiting Green Pepper, either.