Monday, 11 February 2013

Flora Indian Restaurant and Cafe

238, Flinders Street, Melbourne, VIC 3000

Flora Indian Restaurant & Cafe on Urbanspoon

This is a canteen style no frills place to eat. It scored 78% on Urbanspoon, with lots of favourable reviews and some disgruntled punters because of their inconsistencies and service. You get a selection from the bain-marie and it's quick and easy. However, if you are there as a group, and some of you are orderding from the ala carte menu while others are ordering from the pre-prepared meal - don't expect to start your meals (or finish) at the same time.

The Place
To me, this is equivalent to a fast food joint. It's a pretty large space that could accommodate groups. The only ambience you can expect is that of an air-conditined cafetaria at a Senior College. It is situated across from Flinders Street Station and is easy to get to in you are already in the area. (For those new to Melbourne - this means there's no parking here.) If you are in a hurry, say before a move at ACMI (Australian Centre for the Moving Image) and are looking for Indian - this is the place.

Things to do nearby: You are essentially in the heart of the city, surrounded by the shopping precinct, Federation Square and the Arts Centre and Southbank is but 5 minutes away. Heaps to do.

The Food
The food is not bad for this style of restaurant. A testament to this is the number of Indian punters that are usually eating here. One thing I have to say though, it's not very spicy, so if you are into really hot foods - you are better off ordering from the menu (and expect to wait in that situation).

They have the usual range of Indian fare from Vindaloo, to Rogan Josh, to Korma, to Madras style, and of course, butter chicken - all ready to be spooned on to a waiting thali. So, they are generally reliable but do not expect to quality food for it is essentially off the bain-marie. One advice I would give you is to NOT order the dish that looks like it's about to finish and only the dregs are left. Just DON'T. There's usually plenty of others to pick from.

Two things to note; The vegetarian fare is usually rather disappointing here, in my humble opinion, but if they are serving goat on the day you visit (and you like goat) - go for it - but expect it to be on the bone.

You can order a range of different things including biryani and dosai too, but will have to wait.

The Service
This is where it gets a bit challenging. :) The servers are there to scoop up food for you and collect your money. It's essentially self-service, but for what you are paying for, please do not expect a red carpet and over friendly interest in you as another human being. They are not into relationship building, if I might put it delicately.

Some people see this as downright rude - I see it as the most basic of service. They are not rude at all, but they might not smile all the time, and be a bit 'matter of fact' about their jobs.  Their role is to facilitate me getting access to the food, that's it. It's that kind of place. If you want good service with a smile - you need to go to a more expensive proper restaurant. I would have complained if they were actually rude, but I sincerely have never encountered that.

I have said this before - it is what it is - a fast food joint, where you go in, feed, and get out relatively satisfied. It can get rowdy sometimes if a lot of students are in. I go there as an old reliable if I am in a hurry around Flinders Street.

Cultural Moment
Thali literally means plate. In this case - more of a platter with various dishes on it. In some parts of India, it's almost a big round tray and the various dishes are served in small bowls (katori), whereas in other parts of India and in Nepal, a thali is a big plate with different 'compartments' for the different dishes. It usually comes with rice or chapatis (bread/roti) as a main staple, with all the other accompaniments.


  1. I quite like Flora for a cheap meal. Masala dosa and a mango lassi for under $10...pretty good if you've been trooping around the city and want a quick lunch or dinner! And their dosas are good! I rarely come out of one without a spill or two down my front, but tasty nonetheless.

  2. "They are not into relationship building, if I might put it delicately." Nicely put! But I definitely don't equate smiles with a higher price tag. These people are surly. There's stacks of cheap eats, Asian, Indian and otherwise, where warmth and a smile are just part of what you get.