When Taj Indian Sweets opened in Harris Park in 2003 it was the only restaurant in the neighbourhood. Now, the suburb and its surrounds go by the name Little India. The main street is lined, almost door to door, with regionally-specialised restaurants, street-food inspired snack bars and sweet shops with displays more colourful than a carnival parade. And they’re not just serving korma and tikka masala anymore, either – there’s a dizzying number of regional cuisines and styles across Sydney's best Indian restaurants, but Harris Park and Parramatta are the spots that really fly the flag. Whether you’re in for Hyderabadi layered biryani, Mumbai street food, Punjabi-style kebabs or a spicy butter chicken, these restaurants are the best of the best.
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The best Indian restaurants in Harris Park and Parramatta
This is the most popular Indian restaurant in Sydney, according to Indians. The hype, queues and Friday evening bustle are due to the fact that Chatkazz serves street food as it’s done in Mumbai, and they were the first in Sydney to do so. Expect to find soft white bread rolls buttered to high-heaven and plated up with rich chickpea stews, puffy flat breads crisped on a hot grill and samosas. Or maybe just bits of fried dough, smashed and splattered with yoghurt and tamarind syrup.
For a restaurant chain with the tag line ‘Pioneers of Dosa culture’, there’s not a lot of dosa being eaten. Most table real estate belongs to hefty bowls of Hyderbadi pressure-cooked biryani, and the mysteriously named chicken 65, a chilli sauce-smothered fried chicken reminiscent of old-school Chinese diners. You can get it in a dosa, but for variety’s sake, order the chef’s special, which comes with seven thali-style side plates, including a peanut and yoghurt dip and spicy minced goat.
This menu has everything: truck-stop street food, biryani, South Indian snacks, dosa, pilau, Punjabi curries, kebabs – it’s the entire Indian spread. Usually that’d be a warning sign, but there’s precision in the cooking here. The samosa chole, a mess of smashed samosas drowning in chickpea curry, is textural and punchy, and the biryani is deeply savoury, laced with spice but not the burning kind.
Disclaimer: Saravanaa Bhavan is a chain, a global 100-store South Indian conglomerate. Don’t let that dissuade you – this is less McDonald’s and more Chennai street-inspired dining. Peek in the back of the restaurant, and you’ll see it yourself: huge plumes of steam erupting from a grill preparing fermented millet-dough dosas the length of your arm; deep fryers crisping flat breads and battered onion bhajis; and another grill stir-frying shredded roti with spices and curry gravy. All of it is immensely hearty, vegetarian and under $15.
This is definitely the best biryani in Parramatta. The best biryani in Sydney, probably. The Hyderabad House secret (a tradition from the central Indian city) is to cook all the rice, meat and spices layered in a pressure cooker. The result is a more aromatic and less punch-you-in-the-face savoury hit. It takes a while to make, so orders start at 12.30pm. If you come earlier, try the $16 all-you-can-eat buffet (regular biryani inclusive) or the popular chicken 65.
Forget the name, curry is exactly what you should be ordering. Butter chicken, specifically. This slightly upmarket diner does two versions of the increasingly uncool crimson curry; one regular, everyday Aus-Indian version, and another Bombay-style rendition that pumps with acidity, heat and spice. Use it as a dip for a layered, crisp-edged lacha paratha, or ladle it onto a heap of biryani heavy peppered with garam masala and gravy.
There’s a lot going on here: leather seats, neon lighting, a long bar that shakes up some seriously spiced cocktails and a fit-out that wouldn't be out of place in a '90s action film. The lengthy menu combines both neighbourhood takeaway North Indian vibes with old fashioned Punjabi specialities. One ancient recipe is a papaya, pineapple and lamb kebab designed for a toothless king; so soft it literally falls apart in your mouth. Get it with a buttery biryani and the rarity that is a freshly made lassi.
This is a Mumbai street-food experience on the streets of Sydney – total chaos. Expect fried, cheese-filled flatbreads with sides of viscous eggplant curry and preposterously savoury dhal, which you eat off a plastic thali plate next to the counter. Crunchy samosas come mashed onto a plate and smothered in chickpea curry by the guy taking your order. If you’re lucky enough to get a seat, it’ll likely be by the window, the one that sells single one-buck cigarettes, Indian breath mints and pistachio kulfi.
There’s no guarantee on whether it will be open, what they’ll be serving, or if they’ll have any left, but if you get lucky on all three fronts you’ll be eating some of the best homestyle South Indian cooking in Sydney. We say homestyle because this operation, often run by Velsha and Velsha only, is nothing fancy. It’s biryani, dosa, sambal and vada (like an Indian doughnut) cooked the same way it would be in an Indian home, and served in an austere dining room no bigger than a two-car garage.
You pay extra here for a more demure experience, and a refined iteration of Mughlai-influenced North Indian, a cuisine influenced by Central Asian and Persian traditions. Profess your spice tolerance and the waitstaff will steer you towards a goat champ masala, a couple of goat cutlets drowned in a rich, savoury gravy. If you’re spice-shy, then order the darbari – a butter chicken-like tart and creamy curry. Nab one of the two outdoor tables, and you’ll get a soundtrack of Indian folk music and slideshow of the suburb’s street life.
The one that started it all is now is a Western Sydney institution. Everyone in the area knows Taj, and everyone knows what it’s good at. They’ve got one of the biggest ranges of sweets in Australia, plus a menu of all-vegetarian curries and snacks, and they do breakfast. The best of the latter is the chana bathura, a deep-fried flat bread puffed into a sphere served with a soupy dhal and mango pickle, or a simple cauliflower-stuffed paratha.
It’s the second offering from Harris Park’s OG Indian joint, Taj Indian Sweets. This one came to be simply because the original didn’t have enough space for the entirety of its loyal customer base. Expect a larger range of veg-only North Indian curries and flatbreads from Taj up the road, but dished out in a brightly coloured and glaringly-lit restaurant that looks like the flagship for an upmarket fresh juice chain.
One of the area’s oldest restaurants is the one with the least amount of surprises. All the popular Aus-Indian takeaway classics are here, and most of them are done exactly as you’d expect. The eponymous owner will tell you the tandoori chicken is the go-to: it’s tart from a 24-hour yoghurt marinade and smoky from the tandoor flames. If you want the spicy Kashmiri red-pepper version, you need to ask for it.