We review the entire country and culture of New Zealand, one thing at a time. Today, Alice Neville leads a team of taste-testers in sampling the latest string to Indian culinary powerhouse Paradise’s bow.
Paradise Indian Food, if you didn’t know, is kind of a big deal. Taking up an impressive amount of space in a small block in Sandringham, the epicentre of Auckland’s South Asian community, its three branches comprise the restaurant proper, a buffet and a takeaway joint. And now, to the excitement of its many fans (257 comments and counting on the Facebook post announcing its opening), there’s a bakery too.
Contained within the takeaway shop, the bakery is basically a cabinet full of elaborate gateaux-esque cakes plus a trio of triple-tier pie warmers laden with alluring and crazily cheap (opening specials, whoop!) pastries. You order and pay at the counter then grab the tongs and fill your boots (or brown paper bags, as it were).
For $11, I got a vegetable puff, a Mughlai chicken puff, a dilpasand, “bread cake”, and something that looked like a palmier but I think was labelled a sweet biscuit.
After hot-tailing it back to the office I presented the bounty to my gluttonous colleagues, who tore at the paper bags like rabid dogs who hadn’t eaten in a week.
The vegetable puff was a delight; a delicately spiced curry surrounded by flaky puff pastry. “Practically like eating a pie!” said Tina Tiller. “Cornish pasty meets samosa meets my tum tum,” was Josie Adams’ review. “Like a samosa but light, airy, flaky,” added Alice Webb-Liddall. “Give me five or six. I will eat them all. Dip it in a tea maybe?”
The mughlai chicken puff impressed Matthew McAuley, who penned a novel:
“As a confirmed Paradise Stan, I eat roughly three kilograms each week of the truly perfect foodstuff that is their harabhara chicken. Just sweet enough and very spicy, it’s perfect with rice, naan, and straight out of the fridge as a probably ill-advised breakfast-on-the-go, but my absolute favourite leftover preparation is thus: microwaved extremely hot, served in the centre of an extremely fresh croissant from Point Chevalier’s similarly beloved Daily Bread.”
All right mate, get to the point.
“With the pastry less buttery and the filling less intense, the Mughlai chicken puff isn’t quite on that basically perfect level, but it’s a great many levels above any gas station curry pie I’ve ever eaten and, all going to plan, I will eat three to five per week for the next ~15 years.”
Don Rowe was similarly eloquent: “Yum.”
Next we moved to the sweets, starting with dilpasand, which the internet describes as “tutti frutti stuffed bread”, which I think you’ll agree is a delightful phrase. At $2 for half a dinner-plate-sized piece, it was a helluva bargain and tasty to boot. The filling appeared to be grated carrot but on closer inspection was a coconut mix redolent with cardamom and tinged orange by something that may or may not have been saffron.
“There were some spices in this that I’ve not come across before, and it was quite yum!” said Webb-Liddall. “Not a huge fan of the texture, but the flava flav was 100. Dip it in a tea maybe?”
Next up was the mysterious bread cake. A Paradise staff member told me it was “bread stuffed with a filling of some sort”, which was pretty damn spot-on TBH.
The filling of some sort was delish. “It’s bread filled with bread? But one of them has flavour? I don’t care, it’s yum. Dip it in a tea maybe?” said Webb-Liddall.
I concurred. The filling was super moist and dark and rich with spices but yes, somehow still bread. BUZZY. Adams wasn’t such a fan, saying, “It reminds me of Christmas but I would not like this as a gift. Bread cake is not better than the sum of its parts.” Harsh.
The sweet biscuity thing prompted bouts of Proustian reminiscing from our intrepid tasters. “It reminds me of something I wasn’t fond of enough to remember properly. Pretty good with a coffee though,” said Adams. “Like one of those sugar-crystal-coated shortbreads from the tin but it’s pastry. Yum. Dip it in a tea maybe?” added Webb-Liddall.
Verdict: We didn’t think Paradise could get any better but hoooo boy it just did.
Good or bad? Good.
The Bulletin is The Spinoff’s acclaimed daily digest of New Zealand’s most important stories, delivered directly to your inbox each morning.