Colour Me Flavour opened in Woolloongabba only a couple of months ago, and brings modern Indian food to Brisbane. Their food is based on Gujarati cuisine, which while mainly vegetarian, does include meat and fish. The first encounter with their food was actually at a Deliveroo event, where they supplied four lentil dhal mousse cakes. They were something different, and piqued our interest.
The restaurant is actually next to the Princess Theatre on Annerley Road, although Google Maps makes it look like it is inside the Diana Plaza Hotel. It replaces Apple Tango, and keeps most of the decor, with some updates. It has an upmarket end of casual feel. The colour palate is copper, tan, and grey. There are bar height tables and seats through the middle of the space. The open kitchen runs along one side, and there are more standard height tables and bench seats along the other side, with matching padded stools.
There were quite a few people there when we arrived for dinner. Lively Hindi music was playing in the background, enough to provide atmosphere, but not so that conversation was drowned out. The front of the restaurant is open to the outside, which means that patron voices and the sizzling sounds of cooking from the kitchen don’t get trapped inside.
We were quickly shown to seats, and water and menus brought to the table. The menus come as a book of multiple bound pages, and the dishes are listed under the headings of Inspirations (entrees), Plates, Tandoori dishes, Gujarat specials, Vegetarian classics, and Desserts. We enjoyed the novelty of having to look up every other ingredient in some dishes because they were entirely unfamiliar. Sauerkraut thoran? Kashmiri birch basturma?
We eventually managed to narrow our choices down to a few options. Unfortunately, they were out of the Colour Me Platter Board, which had been one of the first things to catch our eyes, and the Pork ribs. We ended up picking the Potato and Chana Dal Masala Vada, the Carrot, Kale, and Beansprout Pakoras, and the Grilled Queensland King Prawn from the Inspirations section, the Lamb Shish from the Tandoorised section, the Fish of the Day from Plates, and the Macae 62% Namelaka and the Chickpea Crispies from the Desserts section.
First to arrive was the Potato and Chana Dal Masala Vada, with bacon bits, scallion, shaved foie gras mousse, coriander chutney, and pickled madras onion. The vada is a fried dumpling, and in this case was crunchy on the outside, and soft and warm on the inside, with an almost fluffy texture. It had a curry flavour, and a hint of spicy heat. Chana dal is made from black chickpeas, and that flour as the main component of the mix rather than the potato is probably what keeps it from being dense and heavy. The coriander chutney was a good accompanying sauce for it. The pickly slivers of onion added a bright tanginess. The foie gras was presented very differently from the usual, an almost powdery paste thinly spread on the plate. You could definitely taste it if you scraped a little off with the edge of your fork, but it was not meant to be the dominant flavour of the dish, just a deeper note.
The Carrot, Kale, and Beansprout Pakoras were served on a bed of charred butternut kasundi, with bay leaves and black cardamom yolk confit. As they were brought to the table, it was explained that they were a house speciality. They were certainly presented quite differently from how we have had them before. Instead of compact fritters, it was a thicket of battered and crunchy-fried slivers of vegetables. Hidden at the bottom of the heap were pieces of the butternut pumpkin, stewed to a soft texture, providing both sweetness and a contrasting softness to the dish. The confit egg yolk served as a sauce. The dish wasn’t oily or heavy at all, and retained the natural sweetness of the vegetables. There were surprisingly fiery punches of heat from some of those slices of vegetables being chillies though, and it wasn’t the red ones that were the culprits. Be prepared if you order this..
The Grilled Queensland King Prawns were done with a Bloody Mary tikka, and came with courgette and carrot voodles (vegetable noodles) and a curry coconut dressing. The tikka marinade had a smoky flavour. The prawns were tasty, but a touch overdone for our liking. The voodles and sauce compensated for the relative dryness of the prawns, and had an earthy flavour that had an almost, but not quite, bitter finish, reminiscent of tumeric.
The Lamb Shish was Tasmanian lamb marinated in their special tandoori spices, and grilled, served with a torched bouquet garni of East-meets-West herbs and spices. It came with a platter of salad, potato, raita, and mint sauce. We had expected the lamb to be served as pieces rather than in sausage form, so were a bit disappointed when it was brought to the table. It looked like it was going to be dry, and it certainly had a coarse texture when cut into. Having said that, it was pretty tasty, well-seasoned, a little spicy, and with just a hint of sweetness. It was better with the mint sauce and the cucumber raita, which gave it needed moisture. The bouquet garni was a sprig of thyme, rather than a bundle of assorted gathered herbs. It came to the table smouldering a little, which gave the dish a bit of theatre. The potato cubes were nicely cooked, so that they were soft inside, but had a crisp skin outside.
The bread we ordered on the side was almost like pratha, with the same sort of swirled dough, but it was lighter, and not oily.
The Fish of the Day was whiting, in a home-blend dry spice rub, served with coconut-stuffed bhindi, and dark caramel soy sambal. There was a batter coating on it, which must have been chickpea. This was crunchy but light, and also well-seasoned. The fish inside was firm but moist, perfectly cooked. The bhindi turned out to be lady’s fingers, or okra. I generally avoid them, because I dislike their slimy texture, but that was minimised in this case because of the frying. We were warned as the dish was placed on the table that the sambal sauce was hot, and that others had enthusiastically applied it to their food before testing and regretted it. On cautiously sampling a small amount, it did indeed have a powerful burn. It was slightly sweet, but needed tempering with the raita from the other dish before more could be had.
We were far from hungry by this point, but couldn’t not have dessert. The Chickpea Crispies were served with a chai quark “anglaise”, orange, pickled pumpkin, basmathi sorbet, and lychee meringue. It was not really a visually appealing dish when it arrived, with what looked like a white goo blanketing the other ingredients. It was a good illustration of how appearances can be deceiving, however. Despite looking runny, the white substance, which turned out to be the chai quark anglaise, had a steamed pudding-like texture. That probably explains the inverted commas around “anglaise” on the menu. It had a light, quite floral fragrance. Underneath that was hidden yet more interesting things. The blood orange was a striking colour in contrast, and had citrus flavour without sourness. The basmathi sorbet chunks carried the delicate aroma of basmathi rice. If you’ve always slathered your rice in sauces and not tried it on its own, you’re missing out. They had run out of lychee meringue, but replaced it with lychee crisp instead. This was another novelty, however they made it (perhaps by freeze drying it). It kept the shape of lychee segments, and certainly had the flavour of lychee, but had an airy, puffy texture, almost like a prawn cracker. The rice crispies, for which the dish had been named, were buried at the bottom, individual puffed crunchy grains of rice. It was a clever mix of unexpected textures and delicate flavours.
The other dessert we got was the Macae 62% Namelaka. This had anardana, chilli hazelnut praline, ghee-lemon myrtle sponge, and white clover froyo. It was like a day and night contrast to the other dessert. This was presented in a rather more chefily crafted way, in a heavy parabolic stone dish, all the components visible and arranged, and flecks of gold leaf for accents. Macae 62% is a dark chocolate made out of Brailian cocoa. The namelaka was like a smooth, very dense mousse. The chilli hazelnut praline on the side added a good crunch, and, unsurprisingly, had a mild heat. The ghee-lemon myrtle sponge had large-ish air pockets and a springy texture. It didn’t taste very strongly of lemon myrtle though. The frozen yoghurt was a little bit tart, for contrast in an otherwise very rich dish. Again, this was a well put-together dish, richer and more indulgent than the other.
The staff were friendly, and happy to answer our questions about the dishes. We were well looked-after, and even had our cutlery changed between courses. Considerately and professionally, they delayed the cooking of our mains, as we took a while to get through our entree dishes.
Colour Me Flavour definitely offers something different to the food scene here. There was an article in the Washington Post about how different value is placed on different “ethnic foods”. Indian food tends to be seen as cheap curries you get for a quick takeaway. The complexity of spice mixes and flavours used is underrated. Colour Me Flavour goes a step further by adding a twist on the traditional. As mentioned, their desserts in particular, wowed us. They would not be out of place in a fine dining restaurant. They intend to change their menu seasonally, based on what produce will be available and fresh. I’m sure there are more good things to come.
Price point: Starters $8 to $22. Mains (some for sharing) $23 to $59. Desserts $15.
Value: Very good for what you get. We went with a Dimmi deal, but you can still eat well at good cost.
Address: Shop 1, 12 Annerley Rd, Woolloongabba
Phone: 07 3108 3097
Website: Colour Me Flavour