Re­fram­ing In­dian cui­sine

Take an authen­tic gas­tro­nomic jour­ney with V.T. Sta­tion as they recre­ate true In­dian flavours us­ing home­grown in­gre­di­ents.

Metro Magazine NZ - - Metro + Vt Station - V.T. STA­TION, 73 DAVIS CRES­CENT, NEW­MAR­KET.

Sit­ting in one of V.T. Sta­tion’s black padded booths with the racks of old-fash­ioned suit­cases stored above, you might feel ex­actly like you’re on a train — even more so if you’ve man­aged to score the lone table hid­den in a low-ceilinged bolt­hole, all dimly lit and cosy. But de­spite hints to a nos­tal­gic past, V.T. Sta­tion also man­ages to feel mod­ern and ex­cit­ing: artist-de­signed brick and con­crete walls and drop-down me­tal light fix­tures lend it a grit­tier in­dus­trial look. All in all, it’s a very cool place to dine.

V.T. Sta­tion is named for Mumbai’s fa­mous Vic­to­ria Ter­mi­nus, which was built to hon­our Queen Vic­to­ria as Em­press of In­dia. Just as this bustling sta­tion is a hub for di­verse groups of peo­ple to cross paths, so too is the restau­rant.

The own­ers, who also helm Metro Top 50 restau­rant 1947 eatery, came back from a hol­i­day around In­dia burst­ing with in­spi­ra­tion and new ideas. Aim­ing to re­frame what “In­dian” food can be, they’ve set out to in­tro­duce new flavours to Auck­land din­ers, tak­ing care to recre­ate the tastes of what you might eat in their home coun­try but with New Zealand in­gre­di­ents.

V.T. Sta­tion’s menu is de­lib­er­ately de­signed just like a train jour­ney, so gather a group and take a trip through each sec­tion, from small dishes, to char­coal grill, to the cur­ries. The menu zigzags across In­dia, show­cas­ing food from all cor­ners of the vast coun­try.

The small dishes are where the chef gets to ex­per­i­ment, with in­ven­tive it­er­a­tions of fare that stays true to tra­di­tional In­dian flavours. Fig chaat is a mor­eish snack; tuck into a crisp wafer and mix up yo­ghurt, tamarind, mint chutney and a melty fig for sev­eral tasty mouth­fuls.

Highly ad­dic­tive chilli corn comes tossed in Manchurian sauce, tiny morsels great for shar­ing. And the juicy bat­tered Kholi­wada prawns come with bright­green co­conut chutney. For veg­e­tar­i­ans, pop­u­lar Pun­jab street food nu­tri kheema, flavour-packed minced soy paired with kulcha (po­tato-stuffed bread), is the ideal quick lunch.

There is but­ter chicken, but it’s not the but­ter chicken you know. V.T. Sta­tion’s ver­sion takes af­ter the orig­i­nal con­ceived in Delhi, where you can ac­tu­ally taste the tomato. And there is chicken ko­rma but, again, not the chicken ko­rma you know. The cur­ries are lighter, low on cream (or with no cream at all), leav­ing room to ap­pre­ci­ate the en­tirety of their menu. And you’ll want to sam­ple a few more mains, es­pe­cially the chef’s spe­cial, a lamb ki raan, cooked to ten­der per­fec­tion.

Oh, and the cock­tails. Rows and rows of house-made in­fu­sions (think gin with tea, or vodka and chilli) hint that the cock­tail menu is some­thing truly spe­cial — and it is. Restau­rant man­ager Sahil Pa­tel’s life pas­sion is rooted in cre­at­ing the best cock­tails he can, cu­rat­ing the drinks list with In­dian food’s bold flavours in mind, aim­ing to com­ple­ment rather than over­whelm. In­ter­est­ing in­gre­di­ents like cured yolk and pine-nut smoke, or in­trigu­ing syrups like earl grey, seam­lessly bal­ance with spir­its.

And there’s a lot of fun in­volved, too, with ev­ery cock­tail named af­ter a pop cul­ture ref­er­ence (like “Lady Bri­enne”, a strong and bold num­ber af­ter the strong and bold Bri­enne of Tarth in Game of Thrones), and one drink is served up in a bong, for rea­sons which will be­come clear once you or­der it.

Sahil’s goal is to con­vince Auck­lan­ders to treat cock­tails as se­ri­ously as we do wine. The cock­tails here taste com­plex and in­tri­cate, so it shouldn’t take much con­vinc­ing — es­pe­cially once you down them along­side some of V.T. Sta­tion’s de­li­cious food, loung­ing around in the sunny out-front court­yard.

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