We booked for a Friday night, and by the time our reservation time rolled around, I was starving.
Perth people might recognise this restaurant, though you may have never been in – it’s instantly recognisable along the drive down Scarborough Beach Road toward Scarborough Beach. The exterior of the restaurant looks a little like it was modelled around a temple, with trompe l’oeil arches on the exterior and a big dome in the centre of the building.
J had a Kingfisher beer to start, and Jac and I both had mango lassis. I thought it was a little too sweet – it’s the wrong season for fresh mangoes, so there was a distinctly ‘canned’ fruit flavour to this, but I still enjoyed it all the same.
We quickly made a bee-line for the buffet line.
There were lots of side options available – Potato pakoras (dipped in gram flour and fried till crispy), plain naan, papadums (which I neglected to try … there were too many other things!), plain basmati rice, biriyani, and also a whole range of pickles, chutneys and raitas.
The meat curries on offer this evening were – butter chicken, beef vindaloo and Agni’s goat curry. While butter chicken may not be the kind of curry you get in India, I really enjoyed Agni’s version. The chicken pieces were really moist and tender. I’ve recently become a bit of a vindaloo fan. I’m not always sure of my chili eating abilities, but I found this one was reasonable (no crazy mouth numbness or crying) – the beef was also very flavoursome, and tasted quite strongly of vinegar, which I love, because it sort of cuts through the overall richness of the meal. Agni’s goat curry had a great flavour, but I wasn’t too keen on it, as I found the little bone fragments in the curry quite tiresome. There’s nothing more annoying than biting into what you think is a nice piece of meat and hearing that crunch as your teeth grind against bone.
Also featured in the photo above is a tandoori chicken wingette – a shrewd move, as they’re a much cheaper cut than breast or thigh fillets, and they stay moist for longer too. Agni’s take on this classic was tasty, but not the most flavoursome I’ve ever had.
I have to say I would be horrified to sample bad dhal in an Indian restaurant. Luckily, Agni’s version was lovely. Nicely spiced with a great texture – perfectly soft lentils with a thickened sauce from long simmering.
Also good was the Zeera Aloo – potato curry, which was perfectly spicy and yet mild all at the same time. I could probably have eaten a lot more of this if it didn’t mean compromising on stomach space!
I usually know my limits when it comes to eating, but this time it was definitely a case of my eyes being bigger than my stomach.
I went back for a second round, to sample the Goan fish curry in particular. While I was there, I also grabbed some more of the other items I really enjoyed (pakoras, naan, butter chicken, dhal and cucumber-mint raita). It might have been a bad idea though, because half way through I found myself unable to eat another thing. I’d hit the wall, and hit it hard.
The Goan fish curry was nice. The sauce was thick and fragrant with coconut milk, with subtle spices which I would ordinarily really enjoy. Not too sure about the origins of the fish – which J commented had a ‘weird’ texture (I thought it was fine, if a little bland. I wondered if it might have been frozen.)
There was kheer, creme caramel, fresh fruit, carrot halva and what I think was semolina halva. I was a bit sad that my favourite gulab jamun were absent from the buffet (especially as they are mentioned in the menu online)
I really wasn’t able to enjoy these – I was far too full. And I would have liked to try the kheer – but bizarrely, there were no bowls laid out. Not one to be beaten when there’s kheer available, Jac asked the waitstaff for a bowl. It appeared she was the only one – there was a huge copper pot of kheer sitting untouched.
Overall, I really enjoyed the food on offer, and the staff were all very friendly and quite efficient. But I did think there could be improvements made to the overall set up of the buffet. We all noticed there were a few items that were placed annoyingly out of reach – it was a little funny to watch other patrons struggling to reach the papaddums and fruit, but it was clear it just didn’t quite work, especially when it was your turn. And the lack of bowls for dessert was really annoying. You just can’t eat rice pudding off a plate (though lots of people tried).
The restaurant was only about half full that Friday evening. As a result, there wasn’t a huge turn over of some of the food – I was a little unsettled when Jac said she noticed some of the burners beneath the buffet trays had gone out.
While I know it’s not really in the restaurant’s interest to serve smaller buffet dishes – I do think that they would have had a much more amazing result, had there been more turn over of dishes. Of course, I know that’s probably never going to happen, as the need for kitchen staff to keep refilling trays would just be unworkable on a busy night.
I’m glad I tried the buffet from Agni – mostly because now I can say I did it. I love a good buffet. I just wish they took care of the minor details – because I think they could be on to a good thing, especially when there’s not many buffet options of this kind in Perth.
Read the write up of this meal at The Food Pornographer