Pushing through the front door to a tantalising aroma of toasted spices wafting around appetite stimulating hues of orange and gold, Ruchi could easily set an atmosphere of ravenous hunger for someone not even the slightest bit inclined to partake in a meal. Ruchi South Indian restaurant in Belconnen certainly seems to have established a cult following and it’s not difficult to see why.

The family friendly menu carries an expansive array of both familiar and unconventional options. Regardless of whether you’re seeking mild, spicy, authentic, fun, carnivorous, vegetarian, something to share around the table or just keep all to yourself, there really is something here for all tastes.

The beverage list is concise and straight to the point, offering quality brands and variety to match the intensely enjoyable flavours of the food. A crisp and fruited Clare Valley Riesling seemed appropriate to accompany entrees of Mushroom Manchurian and the Chicken 65, dishes which took much deliberation considering the range of dishes on the menu.

The Mushroom Manchurian is all about exposing the humble fungi for its wonderfully flavoursome and versatile taste-meets-texture profile. Consisting of sautéed mushrooms, green chilli, spices and a hint of soy, the earthy taste of mushroom still remained but transcended gently towards spiced savoury territory. The addition of textural integrity bordering on a lightly crisped exterior with the inclusion of fresh herbs and spritely leaves of rocket and spinach had me conclusive to happily forego meat for the remainder of the evening in favour of vegetarian options as exciting as this.

That resolve was never going to last at Ruchi however, with the second entree – Chicken 65 – just as thrilling as the first. Tender chicken pieces tossed with ginger, garlic, curry leaves and a whole host of Indian spices manifested into a vibrant, eye-popping spice sensation. A brilliant red sauce encompassing the chicken hits bold intensity, providing a lingering tingle to the lips to induce the amusing reflex of an involuntary pucker.

For the mains we ordered the Tandoori Chicken Dosai, Sizzling Prawns and Lamb Gongura. The Dosai was a pioneering experience and holds an impressive, table dominating presence. Think of the biggest pancake you’ve ever seen, now multiply that by 100, use it as gift wrap to swaddle juicy snippets of tandoori chicken and fold it into a neat but colossal triangle. Voila! – Dosai. If you’re dining with kids or as a group, one of these (there is an extensive range of fillings) would be great fun to rip into and share.

Off the specials board, the sizzling prawns arrived tableside as a literal interpretation. Hissing, sizzling, crackling and cradled in a viridian lettuce Gondola, the impressive display was accentuated by the fiery flavour and tantalising spice embedded in the bright, coral-hued prawn coating sauce. Also off the specials board was the Gongura Lamb and, matched with the suggested Grant Burge Cabinet Sauvignon proved to be my favourite of the night. Although not the prettiest manifestation of lamb and spice I’ve ever come across, it proves that age old saying about not judging a book by its cover. The substantial chunks of medium rare meat were still oozing flavoursome juices, melting into the thick, dark and moreish paste which coagulated completely around knife, fork, Naan and mouth. If you are a bit of a newbie to spiced food, a little side order of cooling minted yoghurt acts as a magnificent counter balance to any residual heat.

Desert is something I recommend you either leave or make room for. We were lucky enough to have a taste of Gulab Jamoon with Badam Kulfi, which translates deliciously to fluffy milk dumplings deep-fried in a sweet, sticky cardamom infused sugar syrup with home-made pistachio and almond ice-cream. The hot-cold, sweet-savoury, soft-sticky contrasts tick all the right boxes and, lets’ face it, dessert just keeps all those little endorphins nice and happy.

For a comfortable night out with family or friends, it’s hard to go wrong with 17 years of experience and glowing endorsement from regular customers. Ruchi provides authentic Indian food at a wonderful price point.

Photography by Chris Whitfield