After an unsuccessful attempt to eat at Chin Chin on Valentine’s Day, we came across Tonka whose cheeky sign peeked out from the alley behind Papa Goose. To be exact, Tonka is located at 20 Duckboard Place which is off Flinder’s Lane, and YES you can make a booking at this restaurant! (Thankfully!)
I had known about Tonka from eating at CODA– a restaurant favourite & also Tonka’s sister restaurant. I was always curious to try their ‘Indian inspired’ cuisine, so this was a great opportunity to start.
Walking through the graffiti filled alley à la Melbourne’s other infamous Hosier Lane, you are greeted with Tonka’s neon lights above 2 giant open doors. I can see how Tonka is purposely placed against this setting to act as that ‘hidden gem’ vibe that Melbournians seem to flock to. That day was not surprisingly, super busy & since we made no reservations, we were seated at the bar to have our meal.
To be honest, I didn’t really feel a warm or friendly atmosphere from the beginning. After we were seated, we were handed 3 different menus each which was quite overwhelming. One was the wine list, then there was the bar/‘Thali’ menu & THEN the actual menu. The wine list didn’t include the cocktails & after flipping here & there thinking I had lost my mind, the bartender pointed out to one of the other menus… actually now I had forgotten which one it was!
We ordered our drinks with one of the waitresses (Lulu?) she didn’t write anything down & walked away after we said we needed more time to decide on the menu. But after some time, no drinks came…in fact no one came at all after that. Luckily, being seated right in front of the bartenders, he made the drinks for us instead. He tried to grab the attention of that same waitress by calling out her name several times without sounding ‘out of place’ & finally she came back to take our order. (And that’s how we knew her name)
For Entrees, we got the soft shell crab, quail & the lamb chops. I decided to try Quail for the very first time & am very delighted to say, it was really yummy & juicy with lots of flavour. So A+ on that! Didn’t eat the soft shell crab but G said they were very nice & the lamb chops were average. The night became progressively better. We were enjoying watching the bartenders make different cocktails. The food also arrived on time & we were made our drinks very quickly. Empty dishes were also cleared out immediately by the bartender which contributed to our food coming on time- I guess these were the highlights of sitting at the bar.
For the Mains, we ordered the Barramundi with prawns & mussels in curry sauce & the Bavette, accompanied with some side dishes of fried cauliflower & roti. The curry was very nice & full of flavour. However after the first main, that was when things went awry. G started feeling sick, nauseous & had cold sweat. By the time the bavette arrived, he couldn’t eat it & had to go to the bathroom several times where he mentioned later that he almost blacked out. We left immediately after I scoffed down the bavette & that was the end to our short & bittersweet experience in Tonka.
Overall, I give Tonka a 6.5/10!
I hope you guys will have a better experience at Tonka , though it certainly wouldn’t be the last time for us there