South Brisbane newcomer Kinara’s contemporary take on Indian regional specialties

As Australia’s infatuation with Indian cuisine continues to deepen, many local restaurants are electing to expand their offering far beyond the usual array of madras, korma and rogan josh. Kinara Restaurant in South Brisbane is one such eatery that is looking to introduce Brisbane diners to a broader spectrum of India’s regional specialties, from Rajasthani laal mass and Goan fish curry to pork vindaloo and nihari goat. Skip the butter chicken – Kinara has some equally delicious specialties you must try.

Feb 23, 2024, updated Feb 23, 2024

When husband-and-wife duo Ranbir and Harpreet first immersed themselves in Brisbane’s hospitality scene, they quickly learned that Indian cuisine was commonly delivered in one of two ways. The first closely resembled the authentic renditions of Indian specialties that the couple were used to, while the second (and more widespread) version was an interpretation that streamlined the diverse regional complexities of India’s cuisine for the Australian palate, favouring a north-western style.

Eventually, Ranbir and Harpreet began putting thought towards opening their own restaurant – one where showcasing a broader swathe of India’s culinary gems and deep history was a driving inspirational force. “We believe Indian food has rich history,” says Ranbir. “Our goal was to open a restaurant where we can represent real Indian food – how authentic food should actually be, rather than having two different sets of curries, spice levels and everything.”

In late January Ranbir and Harpreet opened Kinara, a love letter to their Indian heritage and celebration of the country’s gastronomic diversity. Perched on the corner of Manning Street and Russell Street (just across the road from Musgrave Park in the space formerly home to Greenhouse Canteen + Bar), Kinara boasts a spacious, light-filled dining room with a minimalist aesthetic. A colour scheme of sunset orange contrasts with the polished concrete floors, with a textured feature wall and a redbrick bar giving the restaurant a sense of earthy warmth.

Named after the Hindi term for the bank of a river, Kinara is both a place where water currents and inspirations converge. Ranbir (who runs the floor) and Harpreet (Kinara’s head chef) have spent the past few years researching the history of India’s cuisine, pairing their findings with their experiences working in local restaurants. “While we were working at different places, we’d try to gather information – what people like, what questions do they have,” recalls Ranbir. “So we’ve been accumulating feedback for the past five years to find out what we can present to the Brisbane community in a real authentic way.”

What results is a menu that traverses regions, from Ranbir’s home of Punjab down through Rajasthan, Haryana and Harpreet’s home state of Madhya Pradesh. Kinara’s menu showcases culturally and historically significant dishes alongside eats locals may be more familiar with. It all starts with snacks, or what the menu refers to as small wonders – we’re talking aloo tikki chaat (crispy deep-fried chickpea, lentil and potato patties), gol gappe (hollow bite-size chaat served with tangy mint water) and pyramid-shaped samosa chole chaat. From there, guests can nibble on street-food bites like fish pakoras (crispy fried cod pieces marinated in a special spice blend that’s ground in house) and the tandoori bird – masala-marinated chicken lovingly glazed in Kinara’s tandoor oven.

Next on the menu is Kinara’s Signature Secrets, a series of plates that Ranbir and Harpreet take particular pride in. These are Kinara’s specialties – dishes not commonly seen in Brisbane. In this section you’ll spy chicken makhani (slices of succulent marinated chicken breast swimming in a rich butter sauce infused with roasted kasuri methi), pork vindaloo (a take on the classic dish of India’s west, boasting slow-cooked pork in a white wine vinegar-based sauce), laal mass (a Rajasthan specialty boasting diced lamb cooked in house-made mathnia chilli paste and clarified butter), Goan fish curry and incredibly tender nihari goat.

The rest of Kinara’s menu is dedicated to various proteins, rice and naans. Yes, you’ll find butter chicken, korma, madras, rogan josh and paneers aplenty, but be sure to investigate the menu thoroughly for more unheralded specialties. Kinara’s beverage menu is flush with a collection of Indian-inspired cocktails, a broad wine list showcasing domestic and international drops that pair well with Indian cuisine, as well as a clutch of beers (including India’s own Kingfisher, Shepherd Neame India pale ale and Bombardier British Ale). Lassi lovers will also be stoked to hear that Kinara has three kinds on the menu – the classic mango, a rose-infused option and chaas, a slightly salty version with buttermilk.

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