Amid the buzzling sound, spice and smell of China Town in the heart of Melbourne, one Indian restaurant has stood the test of time faithfully and bravely serving curries in a pocket where dumplings and noodles rule the roost. But Gaylord, established in 1985, is an institution in itself as The Age rightly described standing as one of the longest running Indian restaurants along 4 Tattersalls Lane. Little wonder then that it has bagged many awards, entertained the likes of Stevie Wonder, John Howard, Julia Gillard, Allan Border and even comedians Hamish and Andy have brought the attention to this colourful restaurant shooting their show on India from this very restaurant. For the new patrons, the flattering spread of photos on the wall prompts more eager questions!
On a Friday evening just as Melbourne settles down from its holiday season and the weather warms up to a slightly uncomfortable pace, Gaylord’s choice of chilled beers and array of drinks sooth us. We opt for Indian brand Kingfisher to jell with the tempo of the place. Twenty-eight years and going strong, the restaurant somehow exudes a haveli-like charm, closed from all sides, ornate golden walls, plush red chairs, chandeliers hanging from the ceiling full of mirrors, and traditional live music with a huge peacock distinctly standing on the podium.
The man behind Gaylord is no less of an achiever. Armed with forty years of experience as a chef, Musharraf has contributed to menus at the Taj Mahal hotel in India, the Palace hotel in Mumbai in the 1970s to name a few in a career where luck and opportunities also played a role. The menu at Gaylord is solely his where he is assisted by chefs who have worked at the Oberoi in Chennai carrying on his legacy and innovating where need be. Our sizzling hot kebabs platter has the stamp of Musharraf’s geniuses – chicken basanta kababs, and tandoori prawns and fish accompanied by green chutney and salads. The tandoor plays a key role in the kitchen of this restaurant coming from a man who has been one of the pioneers of its installation in Melbourne. If the entrees are good, the main dishes are even better versatile in their flavours and offering a truly rich eating experience.
The Chicken Jal Fry is a must try. It carries both Indian and Asian flavour as the boneless marinated chicken comes cooked with capsicum, onions wrapped in a thick flavoursome sauce. The Gaylord special Handi Diwani, lamb curry cooked with spices, onion, and tomato gravy is a very Mughlai influenced dish that goes well with any type of bread. We indulge in the tandoori breads such as butter naan, aloo paratha and masala kulcha. The masala kulcha is a winner with its sweet taste coming out of the stuffed raisins. The breads go well with the spicy dishes. Fortunately, we also get a taste of the chef’s special and soon to be introduced murgh pyaz kebab. Our sweet dish comprising mango kulfi, pistachio kulfi and gulab jamun is made in-house we are told and further piques our interest.
With customers trickling in By 8 pm, the place livens up even more. Given that we are just back from a six-week holiday in India and with signs of withdrawal symptoms, we are happy that our Gaylord experience has been delightful. The friendly company of manager Raj helps in shedding some of the mysteries of Gaylord. Raj informs us that Gaylord is an un-Indian name for an Indian restaurant and that, in fact, it means superior in French. The theory goes that in the 1950s in the history of food and beverage, it was French cuisines and wines that reigned supreme in the world. Gaylord Indian restaurant is an aspiration of that world class in food and dining!
Opened six days for lunch and seven days for dinner, the prices are affordable and the servings generous. “We have guests from every part of the world and cater accordingly. It is always spicy for Britishers,” laughs Raj, adding, “It is my duty to ensure that all the things I am doing ensures customer satisfaction.” Raj with his long global years of experience in the hotel industry has contributed to some of the mocktails on the menu introducing for instance the Virgin Mojito, a combination of mint leaves, crushed ice, sugar, lemon juice and sprite.
Rest assured you will not have really oily mouth moments at Gaylord, but the spices and fragrances will linger and you will come out feeling royally served and feted! Never mind it is located on a small lane but good food can take you anywhere.
By Indira Laisram