If you haven’t been to Foreign Return yet, you really ought to.
Everything about this Surry Hills restaurant had me in awe. From the moment I stepped into Foreign Return, I was greeted with warm and attentive customer service, backed up by a beautifully decorated interior and homely atmosphere.
The two-level eatery has a vintage edge to its design. On one wall, brass-framed mirrors, grandfather clocks and antique phones fill up every nook of space. On another, a mesmerising mural stretches from one end to the next. Every detail is meticulously curated, and that doesn’t stop at the decor.
When you take your seat on the plush cushioned seating and scan the QR code for their menu, you’re instantly spoiled for choice. The menu is really quite a journey in itself. Every single dish, every single cocktail, everything you can order to your table tells a story. Just knowing the time and effort it would have taken to conceptialise this menu — right down to the descriptive blurbs that define each item — makes the experience that much more special. Especially for someone with an appreciation for great marketing such as myself.
Foreign Return’s co-owner Gaurang Gahoi looked after us all night and there’s no denying he’s a knowledgeable restauranteur. It’s clear he’s passionate about the concept and has spent many hours perfecting the minute details, delivering an experience that is unmistakably memorable.
He begins by explaining his goal; to stamp out the preexisting notions that we Australians have about Indian food. It’s not just all curry and butter chicken. Not everything’s crazy hot spicy. Not everything is heavy on the stomach. Yes, you can have Indian for brunch and for lunch. Foreign Return challenges each of these common-held beliefs with its refreshing take on Indian cuisine in Australia.
Dinner kicked off with a round of five courses in the lead-up to our mains. In order, they were the Raj Kachori, Prawn Koliwada, Chicken Changezi, Beef Pepper Fry, and Malai Broccoli. The Raj Kachori was our first and my favourite of the five, featuring a crispy semolina shell filled with spiced yoghurt, chickpea and chutney. The best way to describe it? A bomb of delicious flavour and texture. It was also quite a light and refreshing way to ease in the palate for more heavier dishes to come.
Both the Raj Kachori and Prawn Koliwada are signature dishes that remain on the menu from the day Foreign Return opened. It’s not hard to figure out why. I feel like both of these dishes do a great job of addressing those previously mentioned notions, showcasing that Indian food can be so much lighter and more versatile than many of us think.
Naturally, I was quite excited about the main event. As I watched the waiters approach us with a very decadent spread of curries, my nostrils were pleasantly bombarded with smells of spices; some I recognised, others I did not. We were treated to a selection of three different choices: the Dilli Ka Butter Chicken, Bihari Goat Curry and Malabar Fish Curry. To go with them, we enjoyed cheese and garlic naan and some basmati rice.
Now, I know the whole concept of Foreign Return is to try new Indian dishes, but I do have to say that butter chicken was phenomenal. Best I’ve had in a while! It was buttery and rich, with tender chicken pieces that simply melt in your mouth. The fish curry was equally melt-in-your-mouth-worthy, made with coastal spices, coconut and hints of tamarind. As for the secret recipe that made up the goat curry, it was the more heavier of the three, with a cosy feel and lovely mild heat that made it perfect to our end dinner on.
However, the tastebud tour didn’t stop just there. Of course, we had to wrap up on sweets, and our dessert of choice was the signature pick: Ghewar. Invented in Rajasthan in 1961, this age-old dish features spongey golden cakes soaked in sweet sugar syrup. Foreign Return’s version is made with fennel, chikki and saffron cream. It’s completely addictive.
As well as all the amazing food, FR do a killer cocktail menu that’ll have you boozing up pretty quick. In fact, you may even want to visit just for the drinks if you’re seeking some interesting cocktails in a classy setting. My favourites were the Curry Colada and the Marigold Sour, dedicated to Asia’s largest flower market Mullik Ghat. I’d also like to make special mention of the dinnerwear and fancy embossed goblets that Foreign Return use to serve their goods. The dishes are actually handmade and personally customised in Delhi, simply adding to the authenticity of the whole experience.
If this article had you drooling, or you’re looking to try somewhere new in Sydney, then make your next outing one to remember with Foreign Return. To find out more about the restaurant or to book online, follow the link here.