Affectionately known as the “Curry Queen”, Manpreet Sekhon is the woman behind the Indian restaurants Masti (in Fitzroy) and Eastern Spice (in Geelong). But now the chef has left her mark on the CBD, breathing new life into the former Press Club home on Flinders Street with her new venture, Elchi. It offers a rotating and seasonal menu of Indian dishes from several regions.
“I’ve always wanted a restaurant on Flinders Street,” says Sekhon Large format of Elchi, which translates to “ambassador”. “It’s a casual dining place, but the food is both traditional and modernized.”
Expect flavors from the Punjab region of northwest India, where Sekhon was born, with a twist of contemporary flair. Her favorite is the extravagant 24-karat gold chicken mussallam; it revolves around a tender chicken leg cooked in garam musala and cashew paste, then served with delicate gold leaf.
She also recommends another signature: Crispy Whole Amritsari Fish, a massive 2.5-kilo snapper made for sharing. Among the classics on the menu are the Charcoal Butter Chicken ‘a la Masti’ (a nod to Fitzroy’s restaurant) and a fish curry from Kovalam, a small coastal town in southern India. Traditional desserts are also offered; try the apple jalebi – fried apple rings covered in honey dipped in fragrant spices.
“It’s a small menu because we will change it regularly and seasonally,” says Sekhon. “Whatever dishes we offer, they are popular back home in India, with vegetarian and gluten-free options as well. We have covered all aspects.
As for drinks, the cocktail that bears the restaurant’s name is composed of ruby port, Dark Matter rum, grapefruit and cardamom bitters, while the Pink City is a flowery mix of gin, hibiscus, pomegranate and lemon.
The intimate 60-seat space retains most of the Press Club fixtures, including curved leather booths and dramatic gold ceiling lights. “I haven’t changed much,” says Sekhon. “The interior matched my food perfectly…it is so beautiful and elegantly designed. I also wanted to pay tribute to the legacy of the Press Club.
“When I opened Elchi, I really wanted people to try dishes they had never heard of before,” she adds. “People love it – it’s had great feedback since we opened.”