Radhika and Rahul Thacker are passionate about high quality, authentic food. Their family-owned restaurant has been bringing diverse Indian flavours from Gujurat and beyond to the heart of Ballina since 2019.
Since opening, they have had to deal with natural disasters and COVID shut-downs. ‘It’s been a bit challenging!’ said Radhika, ‘But the local community is fantastic. And they’ve supported us, even when we didn’t have the dine-in option at all.’
Chef Rahul grinds and blends all the spices in-house. Like Radhika he is a hotel management graduate, he has also been working as a sous chef and then chef since 2004.
As Radhika explains, ‘Rahul travelled extensively during his work in India. He started off in the east in Kolkata, and worked a couple of years in Punjab, Ludhiana, as well as on the Andaman Islands. So he’s picked up his coastal curries, Eastern cuisine, as well as dishes from the north and south.’
As a result, the menu at Mumbai Masala covers tastes from multiple regions. ‘Yes, our menu is quite varied,’ said Radhika. ‘We cook a lot of North Indian curries and also coastal South Indian curries. Every time we change a menu we obviously can’t change the basic ones that people love – like Butter Chicken and Rogan Josh, we can’t take those off the menu! – but we like to change the other curries to bring in more regional flavours.’
Mumbai Masala uses many local ingredients, and has tasty options for vegans and vegetarians. ‘All our curries are gluten-free,’ says Radhika, ‘and a lot of the curries can be made vegan, if they’re not already.’
Popular dishes with Ballina locals include Andaman Fish Curry, Prawn Malabar, and Fish or Beef Nilgiri. As for entrees, ‘The lamb cutlets are a real hit,’ said Radhika. ‘So are the Jodhpuri Chilli Poppers. We do fish cooked on a griddle. That’s absolutely delicate and beautiful.’
Pre-COVID, the restaurant could accommodate 80 people, but with spaced tables that number is currently under 50.
‘We’ve got beautiful Richmond water views,’ said Radhika. ‘We’ve got outdoor dining, for summer and spring. It’s lovely to sit out on those high stools and overlook the sunset on the river. The ambience is lovely. The bar and the cocktails are fantastic. You should definitely try and come early. Get a Lychee Martini or Masala Mojito. And then you can enjoy dinner!’
Mumbai Masala is at 4 Martin Street, Ballina, near the Ramada Hotel, across the road from the courthouse.
The restaurant is open seven nights a week for dinner and five days a week for lunch (except Sunday and Monday). Their mouth-watering menu can be found on their website: www.mumbaimasala-indian.com.au, and they also do deliveries.