Being a vegetarian I am usually quite happy to go to Indian restaurants since there are always plenty of vegetarian mains (mains guys, not side vegetables!!) on the menu. But I used the term 'quite' because too many Indian restaurants in NZ seem to serve exactly the same food, and by same I don't mean that it has the same name, but it is exactly the same! Like something cooked in big pots somewhere and then distributed around all the Indian restaurants, and take-aways too. Of course there are exceptions, and Ghazal seems to be one of them.
The place is unpretentious and friendly, plus on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays the mains are only $10. I went with Arantxa and Sue, who organized the evening since she knows the owner well, having a business in the area herself (Sudan Hair). In fact she is a regular and when she goes there she doesn't even order, her husband Dan and her just eat what they bring to the table, accommodating for their tastes too (with Dan being on a no-carb diet, he gets finally chopped cabbage or cauli instead of rice).
And so we didn't order, since Sue had requested a vegetarian evening for us three, and we just sat down and waited. It is lovely not to have to look at the menu sometimes, and while we were crunching on pappadums two different starters arrived: some paneer marinated in yogurt and spices and then cooked with capsicums, and some unusual vegetarian dumplings in a gravy which had soy sauce in it (soy sauce is used in Northen India). Both dishes were not exactly spicy, came with unusual dipping sauces and tasted different from anything else you usually find in Indian restaurants.
I was actually full by then, but the two mains were amazing! Gary Smagh, the owner, is vegetarian and he cooked the cauliflower curry, the best I ever had. The chef is not vegetarian, to cater to the general public I guess, but his lentil curry was equally good, in fact it was hard to decide which one of the mains was the best. We had rice and naan, and were so full that we had to take the leftovers home. We ate them the day after, and they tasted great (and without the aftertaste what you usually get if you try to reheat take-away food).
I took a take-away menu on my way home as we plan to return with the boys soon, and yes there are all the standard dishes that you find in all Indian restaurants, including the usual butter chicken. For some reasons I cannot understand Kiwis really love butter chicken, obviously the person who invented this dish (Moti Mahal restaurant?) put together two of the British customers' favorite words: butter and chicken, and got a winner. But there are also novel names on the menu, and I know that if I go there again instead of just looking at the menu I'll ask Gary what vegetarian dish he has cooked for his family that day, and I'll have that too, if there is to spare :-).
Ghazal Indian Cuisine
9/5 Captian Scott Road, Glen Eden
09 818 1122
Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©