Chef Helly Raichura’s cult private supper club, Enter Via Laundry, has re-emerged as a fully fledged – though still charmingly intimate – restaurant in Carlton North.
From this new, secret location, Helly’s team leads guests on a culinary tour of different regions of India, via a regularly changing menu.
Update: We delighted to say that Enter Via Laundry has been awarded its first Hat in The Age Good Food Guide Awards 2023. We’re sure there will be more to come!
Location: Disclosed on Booking, Nicholson St, Carlton North, VIC 3054
Why are there so few private supper clubs in Melbourne?
It’s a question I find myself asking, not for the first time, as I take a seat at Enter Via Laundry.
For those of you who don’t know, supper clubs – or secret restaurants, underground restaurants or pop-up restaurants, as they are variously called – basically serve a limited menu, prepared and eaten in the cooks home. Cities as diverse as New York, Singapore and Paris all have thriving supper club scenes. Yet in cool and trendy Melbourne, with its love of all things food? Nope.
So it’s good to see that after a hiatus, the one Melbourne supper club that broke cover and gained the attention of a wider audience – thanks partly to an appearance on Masterchef Australia – is back. And back with a fragrant, vibrant, delicious bang.
Enter Via Laundry – The Background
Whilst working in HR during the day, the dynamic Helly Raichura hosted meals for groups of 10 in her dining room in Box Hill.
Thus Enter Via Laundry, as it was called, grew from this modest start to be one of the hottest bookings in Melbourne.
And the quirky name? You came into the dining area through the laundry.
Now, settled in new premises in Carlton North, you no longer ‘enter via laundry’. But don’t worry – the soul of Helly’s original at-home supper club remains.
Intriguingly, the full address of the restaurant is only revealed just before the day of your reservation. And when you arrive at the venue, you slip down a back alley and then through an anonymous gate into a peaceful courtyard garden. From there staff invite you into a zen-like lounge and offer you drinks and addictive, spiced nuts – a hint of the treats to come.
The first incarnation of Enter Via Laundry placed random diners together, and this continues at the new version. A communal table runs the length of the main dining room. However, there are also a cluster of smaller tables seating up to 4 in the front of house. That said, the staff are still catering to small numbers and such intimate surrounds make you feel cosseted.
A native of Gujarat, Helly Raichura has a passion for the food of her birth country as a whole. And this is where the true brilliance of her vision lies.
The idea is for Enter Via Laundry to showcase the cuisine of a particular region of India a menu at a time. The reality is a carefully considered 20 course degustation menu that may focus on the delicacies of Bengal during winter and move on to Kashmir come the spring.
Happily, we experienced a glorious taste of the flavours of Bengal on the night we dined.
But this isn’t simply a recreation of traditional spice combinations given a fine dining update. It is a clever re-imagining of authentic dishes, made uniquely Australian through the kitchen’s incorporation of native Australian ingredients. And it really works.
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Enter Via Laundry – The Food
As we settled in the dining room, we received a quick explanation of the 20 courses we’d be enjoying.
Our hosts encouraged us to forgo cutlery and eat with our hands. As someone who spent quite a few childhood meals being told off for touching their food rather than using a knife and fork, my inner child rejoiced.
Our journey opened with four contrasting morsels, each elegantly presented.
All were delicious.
We opened with tiny discs of Posto Wattle Seeds Bora Mint (pictured above). The nutty, coffee notes of native wattle seeds gave depth to the coin-sized patties. What’s more, the presentation was beautiful with the nibbles set on a matt black stone surrounded by sage green wattle leaves and bright yellow flowers.
Arriving on what seemed to be an inverted stoneware cup, the Keema Doi Bora Davidson Plum was a spicy flavour bomb of minced lamb. It looked like a tiny Christmas pudding with its dollop of sweet/tart Davidson plum jam.
Next came Patra Poda “Burnt Leaf”, Nasturtium, Prawn, Coconut. This was a surprising plate of striking contrasts. Bitter nasturtium leaves, charred black over charcoal, enveloping sweet, firm prawn flesh. It was punchy and bold. The slightly acrid nasturtium leaves were brassica-strong against the subtle shellfish.
Lastly we had Luchi, Brista Chat, Moutain Pepper & Manjimup Truffle. A fabulous, soft, turmeric-tinted spoonful of mildly spicy comfort. The finishing touch coming with a generous shaving of truffle from our hostess.
Before I move on, I should mention that all of the wait staff were wonderful. Attentive and knowledgeable about the dishes, food was delivered and explained with the gentle flow of a well-rehearsed dance. Helly Raichura was hands-on throughout the meal – offering insights into the plates and answering questions.
Another stylish Indian venue serving a modern spin on much-loved classic is Atta Restaurant. Read our review here.
The following ten courses made up what is arguably the most refined thali you’ll ever have the pleasure of eating.
A burnished, shining platter appeared before each of us and a rolling selection of dishes began to gather around its edge. Cleverly, our feast moved through tastes and textures as the mounds of food multiplied.
So a take on the vegetable stew Shukto was our ‘something bitter’. With Papaya, Plantain, Panch Phorn & Bush Tomato, it was a great continuation of the Bengali tradition of opening a banquet with a bitter dish. Our ‘something mushy’ materialised as Jerusalem Artichoke, Whey, Mountain Pepper & Paperbark Bhorto. Meanwhile, ‘something cooked on a grill’ saw the return of charred vegetation and aquatic protein, with Kingfish cloaked in Mustard, enveloped in a smoky Banana Leaf. Truly memorable.
At Enter Via Laundry, even staples as humble as the legume are transformed into something special. Masoor Dal, sunny with Mustard Oil and Turmeric surprised with citrusy zaps of Finger Lime. Meanwhile, the Marron Malaikarri (representing ‘Creamy’) was sublime. A sweet, juicy WA marron adrift in a pool of coconut sauce, rich with the seductive notes Garam Moshla. It’s a knock-out dish.
As I wiped up the remaining dredges of the sauce with a pinch of rice, I marvelled at how obvious it seemed to serve a meal such as this in this particular format. Using the circular thali as a means to journey from bitter to sour, from mushy to creamy, seemed perfectly natural. Yet so much of this meal seemed intuitively right – usually a sign that a huge amount of work has gone on in the creation process.
Finally, our joyously messy platters were whisked away.
Our last savoury course saw a return to the Lamb and Davidson Plum pairing that had worked so well at the start of the meal. A single, warmly seasoned Lamb cutlet with Kohlrabi and Salt Bush, sweetened with Davidson Plum chutney. It’s a combination I intend to try at home.
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Desserts & More
After a kaleidoscope of mains, a change of direction beckoned.
However, at Enter Via Laundry, even a palate cleanser is a thing of beauty. We were treated to the lightest of yoghurts (house-made, of course) with Yuzu and the lemony scent of Geraldton Wax droplets. Its gentle perfume swept away the ferrous tang of the lamb and set us up for a Steamed Pudding, Blood Orange & Riberries and Strawberry Gum.
Following on from our pudding we enjoyed Mithai Sondesh and Chenna, flavoured with Tasmanian Leatherwood Honey and Rose.
We finished off with a couple of Indian classics – given a now familiar Aussie tweak. Enter Via Laundry’s incarnation of Pan included Coconut and Lilly Pillies, wrapped in the customary Betel Leaf. Meanwhile, the mouth-freshening Mukhwas brought us full circle with Wattle Seeds in amongst the Marigold and Sesame Seeds.
For a different kind of refined Indian dining experience in the CBD, read our review of Elchi
Enter Via Laundry – The Drinks
So, what about drinks? I hear you ask.
With such a finely honed menu, there can be a risk of over complicating things with too diverse a wine list.
Thankfully, the team at Enter Via Laundry avoid confusion by keeping the Wine List small. What’s more, everything on offer is in harmony with the dishes in the meal. After all, it would be a crime to blunt the flavours of the food with a poor choice of bottle.
Also, as someone who likes a gin to kick off a dinner, it was exciting to see an Indian brand on the menu.
Lastly, non-drinkers aren’t forgotten, with mocktails and other options.
Helly Raichura and her skilful team are picking up exactly where they left off in suburban Box Hill. Only now, they are in a tailored space of midnight walls, warm timber and zen-like ambience.
This is Indian food prepared, cooked and presented with a depth of love and understanding that comes through in very mouthful.
However, the real excitement comes from the play of traditional regional Indian dishes spiked with unique native Australian ingredients. Happily, these native Aussie twists not only work with the authentic flavour profiles, but enhance them.
It’s a bold statement from a chef who is challenging our perception of Indian food, whilst showing the upmost respect for the cooks who came before her.
Since February 2023, the kitchen at Enter Via Laundry have been embracing a Goan menu.
However, this is about to come to an end, and from 1 June 2023, the kitchen will be showcasing a Mughlai Menu. This winter menu will draw inspiration from recipes brought back to life by Salma Yusuf Hussain.
Furthermore, Enter Via Laundry will also be offering a short, 5 course menu ($122) on Thursdays and Sundays. It’s the first time the team have done this and it’s sure to be popular. But don’t panic if you’re yet to experience one of their Full Menus. Happily, this is still available at $212 a head.
Two words. Winter Truffles.
Apparently, the ever imaginative kitchen at Enter Via Laundry are making the most of the seasonal crop of truffles by shaving them on Jerusalem Artichoke Sheermal.
Of course, this is just one of the exciting dishes on the current menu. Another tantalising sounding offering is the Falooda. This is a magical concoction of Rosella Jelly, Vermicelli, Banana, Basil Seeds, Cream, Pistachio and more.
What more encouragement do you need to book a table?