On Tuesday, 30 October, ISH made its mark on Gertrude Street with a contemporary Indian offering, enchanting the Fitzroy culinary precinct with sophisticated cuisine that dances across the palate.

The restaurant’s ethos is rooted in the liminal: its inspirations both traditional and modern, its flavours both familiar and surprising, its spirit both global and local. It serves to represent, through food, the dynamism that so defines modern-day India. ISH is Indian-ish, but also Australian; modern-ish, but also classic. It delivers what owner Ganeev Bains describes as ‘unexpected India.’
“Indian cuisine is continually evolving and at ISH, we’re hoping to bring this same energy and passion to the table, but with an understanding of how Melburnians like to dine,” says Bains.An experienced hospitality operator in his Northern Indian hometown of Chandigarh, Bains consulted celebrated Indian chef Sainyam Kapoor (The Park New DelhiFarzi Cafe) to craft a menu reflecting the cutting-edge of cookery in his home country, to be executed by Sous Chef Himank Bhardwaj (Barbeque Nation, Taj Group of Hotels).

Marrying the traditional and forward-thinking to create something new, menu highlights include:

  • ISH free range chicken tikka, caramelised onions, roasted garlic ‘burrani’ yoghurt
  • Tempura eggplant, capsicum chhonka, tamarind peanut salad
  • Slow-cooked home-style Kerala beef curry, malabari parantha
  • Butter-poached scallops, South Indian coconut ‘moillee’ curry
  • Saffron sago pearl pudding, jaggery praline, mixed nuts

Presenting design that brings together two halves of a whole and unifies old and new, renowned Indian interior designer – and mother of Ganeev – Annu Bains collaborated with Studio Round to imagine an identity for ISH that conveys a sleek and dynamic Melbourne aesthetic with the luxuriant warmth of India.

Split across two levels, the interiors are composed entirely of bespoke fittings and furnishings from India. Downstairs, intimate leather banquette seating wraps the front windows with tables of two for smaller groups. High timber tables for four line an exposed brick wall, with a generous communal table with black and white-striped pews servicing larger parties.

Upstairs, forest green banquettes line one wall, with brass and leather seating at round tables in a dining room warmed with brass accents, custom prints and original photographs taken by Annu.

The music, too, reflects the eclectic spirit of 21st century India: interspersed with current global hits is music by a slew of contemporary Indian artists ranging from alternative/indie musician Dualist Inquiry to electro-funk duo Madboy/Mink to folk singer-songwriter Prateek Kuhad. Again, the objective is to introduce Melburnians to a side of India perhaps unfamiliar to them, but very much reflective of its mosaic-like state of being.


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