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Andhra Bhavan review: I immediately added this Dublin 1 restaurant to my list of favourites

A delicious and nuanced taste of southern India for astonishingly good prices

Andhra Bhavan
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Address: 85 Marlborough Street, Dublin DO1 W207
Telephone: 01 5518742
Cuisine: Indian
Cost: €€

Tuesday clearly is an “anchor day”, one of the popular days to head into the office, neatly sidestepping Monday misery. The sun is shining in Marlborough Street in Dublin 1, and Andhra Bhavan is jammers at 6.30pm. There are one or two large tables, clearly regulars, with dishes winging their way over, a few families cover the generations, and there’s a spattering of newbies, like me, who are engrossed in the extensive menu. I’d spent a bit of time reviewing the list of dishes online and decided that the only way to do the menu any justice was to bring in the troops. There are four of us.

Bhavans are government-run centres that represent various Indian states, typically located in large cities. They are cultural and administrative hubs with an in-the-know bonus; their canteens, which offer regional dishes from their respective states, are phenomenal places to eat. One of the most famous is Andhra Bhavan in New Delhi.

I have Binge, an online food magazine written by my friend Vritti Bansal, to thank for this bit of intel, and spoiler alert, Vritti loves Andhra Bhavan. The thought of a canteen takes me back to a week I spent on campus in the Indian Institute of Management in Bengaluru, the capital of the state of Karnataka. Every morning we started with dosas in the canteen for breakfast. It was simple but wonderful. So Andhra Bhavan’s much-lauded gunpowder dosa (given a 10/10 score by Vritti) is immediately added to my must-order list.

Venkata Manthri, the head chef, cooks dishes from Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, neighbouring states of Karnataka in southern India. It is considerably more restaurant than canteen, not just in terms of repertoire, but in ambience in a buzzy room with murals on the walls.

We start with some street food dishes. Mirchi bajji (€8.99) are green chillies that have been deseeded, dipped in a spicy chickpea flour batter and deep-fried to a crunchy golden crust and dusted with peanuts. Dipped into the coconut chutney, they are perfect with a glass of Kingfisher beer (€4.99).

Gobi 65 (€8.99), is a snack that is derived from chicken 65 (created in 1965 at the Buhari Hotel restaurant in Chennai), which substitutes cauliflower for chicken. The florets are dipped in a mix of garam masala, ginger, garlic and black pepper, and then deep-fried so that they are crunchy with a soft interior. It is as delicious as it sounds.

Pani puri (€7.99) are six delicious, fried crispy shells (puri) filled with tamarind chutney, mashed potato, pickled red onions and topped with sev, the popular Indian snack made from broken pieces of crunchy chickpea flour noodles. They are divine bursts of flavour when filled with tangy mint, coriander and green chilli-flavoured water (pani) and eaten in one go.

Two vada pav (€9.99), crispy potato patties in a soft bun, have a nice cut of aromatics and acidity from a coriander and mint chutney. And then the gunpowder dosa arrives, golden, brittle and utterly delicious from the heat of the spicing, filled with potato chunks and served with coconut, peanut and ginger chutneys with a sambar, a gravy of lentils, vegetables and drumsticks (the young seed pods of the Moringa tree) to dip it in.

There are four thalis on the menu – veg, non-veg, breakfast and the Andhra Bhavan special thali (€34.99) – so we opt for the latter, a large platter with two types of rice in the middle – steamed and vegetable-covered with poppadoms, and encircled with 11 hexagonal dishes of dal, curries, sambal, and semiya payasam, a dessert made from vermicelli, sugar, ghee, milk and nuts, flavoured with cardamom pods. Flaky paratha comes in a basket.

Andra Bhavan is a restaurant I would go back to time and time again

It is a feast. Cabbage has been shredded and deep-fried, so that it is crispy and quite lovely with the raita. There’s a spicy lamb curry and a milder chicken dish with the pieces cut into chunks on the bone. The dal is made from creamy yellow lentils; chana chickpeas have a nice kick of spice, and the paneer is mellow, countered by spicy chunks of fish that I’d imagine have been cooked in a tandoor.

Andra Bhavan is a restaurant I would go back to time and time again. The food is delicious, nuanced with flavours that bring balance and complexity, and the textures bounce from crisp bites to fluffy interiors. It is a menu that merits plenty of exploring not just because it is remarkably good value for money; it is quite wonderful.

Dinner for four with four beers was €104.90.

The Verdict: Astonishing value for top-quality cooking

Music: Sonu Nigam and Indian pop.

Food provenance: NRG Indian Imports, Bakania International, Worldwide Foods and Musgraves.

Vegetarian options: Numerous and vegan dishes include idli, dosa, vada, chole batura, bhendi kurkure, gobi 65, mirchi bhajji, cut mirchi, vada pav and samosa chat.

Wheelchair access: Accessible room with no accessible toilet.

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