I love Indian food, no doubt about it. The mixture of spices, the flavours exploding in your mouth, the yoghurt to cool the chilli before you take another bite … it’s to die for! You can imagine how excited I was to try out Govinda’s in Darlinghurst on Sunday night. What distinguishes Govinda’s from other restaurants is that it also has a small cinema on the ground level, and also offers lifestyle activities such as meditation classes.
After a short walk from King’s Cross station, we arrived at Govinda’s. We had a reservation and were seated quickly, albeit a little awkardly, since two small tables had been put together to seat six, I was seated right next to where the tables joined, making it a cramped experience. The all-you-can-eat buffet meal was $19.80 and the dinner/movie package was an extra $10 for the movie. There was a small selection of desserts and several drinks, including chi’i and mango lassi. I am not really a buffet person, and don’t believe in stretching my bowel just so I feel like I’ve gotten my money’s worth, but I was thrilled at the prospect of Indian food and headed to the buffet table to grab a bit of everything … only to find that quite a bit of the food wasn’t actually Indian. I’d estimate about a third of the food wasn’t Indian, which was a bit disappointing, because I expected a larger selection of curries. Don’t get me wrong, I love quinoa and tofu salads, but it’s not what I was looking forwards to. There were two curries on offer that night, a bean and potato curry with cheese on top, and a mixed vegetable curry with a spinach sauce. I took some of the salads, including a tasty looking yoghurt and cucumber salad (just the thing to cool your tongue down after a chilli hit, right?), some of the chilli condiment, mango chutney, and sprinkled sesame seeds over my curry. I also took some pakoras (battered and fried cauliflower), a bowl of dahl, pappadums, and basmati rice. There was also a pasta dish and potato wedges.
I hate to say it, but Govinda’s was a disappointment for me. My initial excitement dissipated when I arrived at the buffet table, and almost completely disappeared once I started eating. I have had authentic Indian food before – one of my friends is Indian and she cooks amazing meals. I found the food at the buffet paled by comparison. Spice isn’t just about chilli, you need a lot more than just that to make a good dish, but I think Govinda’s really missed the mark, and oddly enough it was the salads that stood out for me, which were delicious and fresh. “Oh, but it’s a buffet, what did you expect?” you might ask. I expected a lot more, judging by some of the reviews this place has gotten. The dahl and curries were bland, and the chutney was sickly sweet. After I’d tried most of the food from the buffet, I realised I would much rather go to the local (and cheaper) takeaway Indian place!
The mango lassi ($3.90), however, was delicious. I also tried their chocolate mousse ($8.90) – pretty average. I was also surprised that they didn’t have traditional Indian sweets on offer. A bit of a shame, really.
I also found the service a bit lacking. I understand that this place is quite busy, especially when people drop in for dinner before they see a movie, but if you’re providing a service you may as well attempt to try a bit harder. We had to repeatedly ask for water, and it took the staff a while to bring us back the menu for dessert.
I think Govinda’s buffet table was hit and miss. I enjoyed the salads, the condiments (except the mango chutney), but found the rest lacking. Desserts are okay, and the mango lassi is delicious, but people don’t go to a restaurant just for a lassi.