REVIEW: The Funky Indian, Borough Road, Sunderland

The Funky Indian restaurant
The Funky Indian restaurant
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As the old adage goes “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” and diners who liked the first Funky Indian will be pleased to hear the fun and flair of the original remains at its new site.

While the flavour of this Indian tapas restaurant – which originally opened at the nearby Tavistock Place – remains, its new site means it’s a flavour dished up in a bigger, brighter fashion.

Prior to the Funky Indian the site on Borough Road, formerly Cosa Nostra, had stood empty for five years and it’s great to see new life being breathed into such a prominent venue in such a vibrant way.

“What makes this Indian funky?” you may ask. The answer begins with the decor. As you enter on ground floor level you’re met by kaleidoscopic images of India and half a rickshaw bursting through the wall. This floor’s a substantial bar area where people are welcome to go for drinks, regardless of whether they’re dining.

Descend the spiral staircase and the dining area, though at basement level, is light and capacious. Retro Bollywood posters peppering the walls, rich Indian fabrics for chair covers, an elaborate bicycle rickshaw festooned with sunflowers and an authentic Indian street food stall at the bar help to add some shimmer to what could have been a dark, subterranean setting.

Hard to imagine it in its former guise as Cosa Nostra, even more so because the smell which was often associated with that venue has disappeared thanks to a new drainage system.

The Funky Indian restaurant

The Funky Indian restaurant

There was a fair few covers for a Friday night, but we visited in the venue’s very first days. Staff were eager to shout about the menu and our waiter was knowledgeable in helping us navigate the choices.

I’ll admit to not being the biggest fan of the type of cuisine usually associated with Indian restaurants, but there’s not a whiff of overly-dyed Korma here.

Dishes are made with little, if any, oil and ghee which makes for a lighter dining experience from this corner of the globe.

But though the dishes are served tapas, street food style, that’s not to say you won’t be full.

The Funky Indian bar area

The Funky Indian bar area

Our waiter advised us to choose seven dishes between us, which will set you back £26.95 in total or five for £20.95. Alternatively, you can just buy dishes individually.

It’s a well-designed menu which indicates whether dishes are vegetarian, fish, hot or cold with a code system and Cobra bottle tops to mark off your choices as you go.

We chose the galouti sliders, the chilli tikka poppers, the pork vindaloo arepas, the beef burritos, the haryali paneer, the Benhali malai curry and the sufiyani machli.

Tough to pick a favourite, but the pork Vindaloo arepas pipped the others to the post thanks to its melt-in-the-mouth tender Goanese-style pulled pork. The vindaloo flavouring added a faint kick tempered by tangy pomegranate, served in Latin American-style buns – this is a melting pot of flavours from around the globe. The only problem is, in a group of two, fighting over who’ll have the third slider.

The paneer dish – often a bland option in run-of-the-mill Indian restaurants – also offered layers of flavours. The springy cheese cubes were served swimming in a pool of creamy spring onion, spinach and fenugreek (a plant often used Indian cooking) gravy.

Meanwhile, the punchy chilli poppers were bite-sized snack perfection. The latter is even better than I remembered at the original site – The Funky Indian mark II is proving twice as nice.