The Snake Charmer, Unley


date of visit: Sunday 22 February 2014

Part of our grand plan when we headed to the Unley Ignite craft beer afternoon was to head out for an early dinner.

We are still at the point in the toddler’s life where an ‘early dinner’ means we sit down at 5:30pm (bed time is 7pm – he gets a bit of leeway if we go out!) and this generally limits our choice of venues. Many pubs don’t start serving dinner until 6pm which is just a bit late (especially if there’s a bit of travel involved) and generally I am thrown into some state of indecision – poring over the Entertainment Book, UrbanSpoon and blog reviews of restaurants. It’s ridiculous.

Fortunately, with Ignite being held on Unley Road there were plenty of options and we decided to wing it. One great thing about dining out at 5:30pm is that you do not need to worry about reservations!

As the natural accompaniment to beer is curry, we found ourselves headed to The Snake Charmer on Unley Road. It opens at 5:30pm and we were, literally, the first people through the door.

The interior decoration is quite dark and striking: bare brick walls and gold and black upholstery and certainly a lot smarter than I was expecting. We were greeted warmly, seated and we were so early we were given the Early Bird menu. If you arrive at opening and you can vacate your table by 7:15 pm then a cut down version of the menu sees entrées costing just $5.90 and main courses $9.90.

I duly asked the toddler what he wanted to eat to which he announced “BEEF!”. The beef options on the take away menu all fall into the ‘really spicy’ category (even I’m not stupid enough to feed vindaloo to a three year old!) so I chose the beef madras, Andy the rogan josh and our friend, Simon, the lamb saag. We also ordered entrées: onion bhaji for Andy, pakoras for me and samosas for the third party. To go with our main courses we ordered naan bread and rice. And, to start, we ‘shared’ pappadums (where ‘shared’ means that the toddler took possession of most of them).

Our entrées arrived quickly (no doubt helped by the encouragement from the toddler …. “where’s my fooooood?”). Andy’s onion bhaji arrived as individual onion rings (rather than clumped together patties) and they were very much enjoyed by his side of the table. My pakoras were excellent and the samosas seemed to go down well too. The entrées all scored big ticks and were very prettily presented.


It is, of course, very hard to make a curry look pretty … Our main courses arrived, the toddler took one look at what was on the table and announced that the rogan josh was his (a relief for me with my beef curry!). Poor Andy would have enjoyed his curry had he been allowed to eat more of it! Fortunately, Simon also shared some lamb saag with both Andy and a starving small child. My beef madras was suitably spicy. I think my one criticism would be that each curry was bulked out by at least one piece of potato.

Fortunately for us, the toddler refuses to eat bread, so we all got to try some naan and Simon, being a very hungry sort, was able to finish off any left over gravy.

Of course, on an early bird menu, the dinner was super cheap (even with beers it came to under $30 a head) so it definitely represented sensational value. On top of this the food was good and the service was friendly and efficient.

A definite thumbs up!

The Snake Charmer
60 Unley Road
Unley SA 5061
phone: 08 8272 2624

Snake Charmer on Urbanspoon

Prawn and Pumpkin Curry

curry – always ugly in a photo!

This recipe comes from the usually very reliable Curry. I chose this based purely on the fact that we had both pumpkin and prawns to use up. I was a bit concerned about both the lack of chilli and the coconut milk, as I know this is not one of Andy’s favourite ingredients.

But you never know, if you never give it a go. By our standards, this is a very mild curry. This would suit people who aren’t big on spice (whether that be chilli spice or just lots of different spices) and could easily be served as a vegetarian dish (or side) by omitting the prawns.

Personally I found it lacking in the heat department (rectified by some generous spoonfuls of a fearsome Chinese chilli chutney I have!). Also, as pumpkin doesn’t hold its shape well, if you overcook (like we did – the whole point of curry is cook ahead!) you end up with kind of a pumpkin sludge, rather than pumpkin. Finally, I used coconut cream, rather than milk because that is what was available. However, both coconut and pumpkin are very sweet and, without a serious spice backbone, for both Andy and me, this curry came out a little too sweet for our liking.

This is definitely a dish which has appeal but serve as part of a meal, rather than as the meal, and watch the cooking of the pumpkin.

A final note: I really recommend growing your own curry leaves. They’re fearsomely expensive here in Adelaide (if you can find/buy them at a supermarket) and a curry leaf plant is a very easy patio plant to deal with. No excuses!

Prawn and Pumpkin Curry


  • vegetable oil
  • ½ tsp black mustard seeds
  • cumin seeds (pinch, or to taste!)
  • curry leaves (10, or more if you love them)
  • inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced finely
  • three dried Kashmiri chillis, broken in half
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 150g pumpkin, cut into chunks
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • ½ tin coconut cream
  • 8 large green prawns, peeled & deveined, leave the tail section on for glamour, if you wish


  1. Heat the oil in a wok and add the mustard and cumin seeds. When they start popping, add the curry leaves, ginger, chillis and onion. Cook over a low - medium heat until the onions start turning golden.
  2. Add the pumpkin and turmeric, stir, and add the coconut cream and add water to cover the pumpkin. Stir and bring to the boil. Cook, covered, until the pumpkin begins to soften.
  3. When you're ready to eat, reduce the heat, add the prawns and cook until they are done.
  4. Serve immediately. We served over egg noodles for a change, but rice would work just as well.

Mitran da Dhaba

date of visit: Saturday 16 March 2013

No picture today, I’m afraid. Mitran da Dhaba is a tiny, almost nondescript restaurant that sits on Anzac Highway, opposite the bright lights of the Highway Hotel. We’d been over at the Highway’s Craft Beer Festival (write up to come) and needed some dinner. The options were to head home and order pizza or to try out this vegetarian curry house.

When we walked in, the restaurant was empty. It only has a handful of tables and it’s all quite basic. The room is, rather unfortunately, dominated by a massive television (during our visit, we were able to watch a good chunk of Antiques Roadshow …). That’s about the shiniest thing there: a couple of specials were written on a blackboard and a small counter sits at the far end of the room.

The menus were a bit tatty and the selection of dishes is, unlike many curry houses, quite limited. All the dishes are vegetarian so you don’t get the endless permutations you do elsewhere (chicken madras, beef madras, lamb madras, prawn madras – yes, we do get the idea!). The descriptions aren’t particularly wordy but if you’re not overly familiar with Indian vegetarian food the woman who served us was lovely and I’m sure would be happy to offer more detailed explanations.

Despite being an avowed omnivore, one thing I could do is be a vegetarian in India. Indian vegetarian food is not vegetarian food that’s trying to taste like meat (something I never get) and it’s not trying to replicate meat based dishes without the meat. It’s all about singing the praises of the raw ingredients and, I guess over centuries, it’s a style of cooking that’s very comfortable in its own skin. It shows.

I didn’t really need to think about what I was ordering: dahl makhani, my favourite dahl dish ever was on the menu. One of those, a plain naan and a mango lassi and I could have been back in Bradford or Leeds. Mitran da Dhaba isn’t licensed (I’m not sure about BYO – if you’re that bothered, ring in advance on that point) but there was a selection of Indian drinks as well as water on the table.

The dahl makhani was very good: spicy, hot, tasty and creamy. It’s been a while since I’ve had Shabab‘s version but I’d say that this came very close and that Plympton is a lot handier than Leeds! The naan bread was also good, served with lashings of butter.

Andy ordered the malai kofta which I’m sure is a dish I’ve tried somewhere before and decided isn’t quite my thing. The kofta are potato based and they are served in a rich, creamy, nutty sauce. The sauce was redolent with cardamom and had a slight sweetness to it thanks to sultanas. This is not a dish I would ever eat (I have issues with sultanas in savoury food, to start with) and while Andy enjoyed it, he did say that he thought I’d won.

The portion sizes are not huge. I finished my dahl, lassi and naan and still felt able to move, which I think is a good thing. Too often with a curry the table groans with dishes and you end up rolling out of the restaurant feeling vaguely like you never want to see food again. However, I would say that if you arrive at Mitran da Dhaba absolutely famished, you should probably order a side dish.

But don’t worry – because ordering that side dish won’t break the bank. Our meal cost just $24.

That’s right: $24 for two people, for dinner.

My tip: don’t be put off by the fact the restaurant may be empty when you arrive, don’t worry about the TV (though it will compel you to gawp at it) and don’t be put off by the fact that Mitran da Dhaba isn’t licensed. Just dive in and try a few curries you don’t see on every menu.

Mitran Da Dhaba on Urbanspoon