Kulcha’d brings a taste of northern-Indian street food to West End
Roti, chapati, naan, paratha and dosa – when it comes to flatbread, Indian cuisine is king. The culinary staple is prevalent in some shape and form in every corner of the country, though over here in Australia we are largely unaware of dozens of regional varieties that are cornerstones of local culinary practice. When Zach Dexter visited the northern-Indian city of Mohali in 2019, he encountered kulcha – a form of leavened and crispy tandoor-baked flatbread filled with chilli, spices and a variety of mouth-watering ingredients. It was love at first bite and since then Zach, his brother Calvin and their family have worked towards raising the profile of kulcha in Brisbane. After a few months of gradual work hindered by lockdown, Zach and Calvin’s north-Indian street-food concept Kulcha’d quietly opened for takeaway, delivery and limited dine-in in West End last week – serving a condensed menu of kulcha and snacks made using authentic techniques and recipes, offering a salivation-worthy taste of what’s to come post restrictions.
When the World Health Organisation declared a worldwide pandemic at the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, Zach and Calvin Dexter were six days into a two-and-a-half-week trip through northern India from Delhi to Amritsar. The two were on a research mission, returning to the country for a culinary tour to discover new recipes and learn more about the generations-old art of kulcha from the locals who had perfected it. This was all to help actualise their own street-food concept Kulcha’d, which the brothers had announced in February – an eatery with a menu based around crispy and authentic Amritsari-style flatbreads, which was set to open in West End by April or May. The idea for Kulcha’d (and Zach’s own kulcha obsession) was born in early 2019 when Zach first encountered the dish while based in Mohali to work on a software-development project. He returned later in the year with his brother Calvin (a trained chef) in tow for an intensive two-week training holiday, learning the techniques from a team of local chefs who taught the brothers the basics using a tandoor oven placed on the roof of their AirBnB. After Kulcha’d made a successful trial-by-fire debut Woodfood Folk Festival over the New Year period, the team (which now included the boys’ mum Mandy and her partner Rebecca) decided to open a bricks-and-mortar spot on Boundary Street. The brothers set off on that aforementioned research trip through northern India, during which, the pandemic hit. The duo managed to head home a few days before the borders closed, finding that Brisbane’s dining scene had effectively shut down. Daunted but not disheartened, the Dexter family elected to slowly chip away at the renovations of their West End space (the former home of The French Bistrot), keeping their eye on the local scene and biding their time until they could officially open.
Not long after the Queensland government eased restrictions in mid-May to allow for dine-in service (capped to ten patrons at a time), the Kulcha’d team decided to quietly open the doors. The kitchen’s tandoor oven was fired up and the crew unveiled its streamlined debut menu, kicking off with a handful of tasty street treats and three kinds of authentic kulcha. The debut selection includes a traditional aloo gobi variety (kulcha stuffed with tandoor-baked potato, onion and spices), another boasting a 50/50 mix of cauliflower and potato, and a cheesy mushroom-and-paneer kulcha. Each flatbread can be ordered with a side of rich chickpea curry and some tangy onion, mango and chilli dipping sauce. As for the snacks, Kulcha’d serves kathi roll – a house-made wrap stuffed with spices, Sichuan mayo, vegetables and your choice of filling (vegan protein, egg, paneer and chicken) – masala fries, curry fries and Indian desserts including jalebi and kulfi. Much of the Kulcha’d menu is vegetarian, with meat available as an add-on for select items. The Kulcha’d team is currently awaiting approval for a liquor licence, but until then the restaurant is serving cold homemade chai, mango lassi, Somersault Soda, cold-pressed juices from HRVST ST, kombucha from The Probiotic Kitchen, non-alcoholic G&T from Monday Distillery and coffee from Bellissimo. The family elected to keep the fit-out functional, with street dining available alongside interior seating in the front room. This is by no means the be-all and end-all of Kulcha’d’s offering – the Dexter family is keen to see the restaurant become a valued contributor to West End’s dining scene and nightlife. Expect the menu and the interior to grow in the coming months, with more kulcha varieties added (including a sweet option) and new snacks put on the menu – not to mention an enhanced drinks selection boasting local craft beer, cocktails and whiskies once the licence is obtained. The team is slowly chipping away at the remaining renovations, which will include a bar, more interior dining space and a patio section at the rear. For now, Kulcha’d is open for takeaway, dine-in and delivery via Ride On Australia and Uber Eats. For operating hours, head to the Stumble Guide.
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