489 Richardson Rd, Mt Roskill
WE CHOSE ROOPS because it advertised itself as a takeaway, and we were returning home to our semi-rural idyll after a big day in the city, so we felt like grabbing a bag of food for consumption in our own environment.
It was surprising to discover that, inside this hideaway (Roops is located down a side road called Penny Ave just off Richardson Rd) lurked an actual sit-down restaurant. It’s a smallish space, but big enough to fit four or five chunky table/chair sets, although, like most affordable vegetarian Indian eating-houses, the surroundings are rather less than romantic. But let’s get back to that.
When you enter there’s a sweets counter to the left (Indian sweets and dry snacks, that is), and facing the door is a cabinet containing entrée dishes like samosas and pakoras, and the counter itself. Behind that is a doorway that leads to the kitchen, but whatever went on in there was well hidden.
The service was slow, and rather desultory, although the older chap who took my order did respond with a few suggestions to my call for “best takeaway” recommendations from the menu.
Order placed, we sat down in the restaurant and waited, and observed. The atmosphere was anything but lively: no music to lighten the mood, a big family finishing off their lunch and dribbling slow out of the premises, and the only constant sound was the whirring and grinding of the Coke fridge that stood, unlovely, near the door to the toilet. We could see the staff fossicking around, climbing up to high shelves for unknown packages, both behind the counter and through the kitchen door – a bit disconcerting, but I guess that’s all part of the territory.
When we got home and ate our meal, we discovered that we’d been overcharged: we had ordered (and paid for) a thali called ‘One Meal’ and instead ended up with the lunch special, which was a couple of bucks cheaper and lacked the full complement of bread and salad. Let’s assume the overcharging was a simple mistake, but even at a mere $10, the ‘lunch special’ wasn’t very special. The rice was plain, the dhal watery, and the other curry (a cabbage mush) simply tasted old, although it was nicely spiced. The same applied to the raita – the yoghurt was a little too sweet, but more importantly, the cucumber was well past its best. The roti and poppadum were merely serviceable. Oh, and the other thing: for the price, the quantities were quite miserable.
Their other recommendation was the masala dosa, which was a better choice than the thali, but was rather flat… literally. All I can really say about it is that I’ve had my share of sensational masala dosa, and this wasn’t one of them.
I reckon that Roops has several fundamental problems, the main one being its appellation of ‘takeaways’. The thing is, takeaway thalis and masala dosa just doesn’t make sense. The thali has to be packaged in lots of wasteful plastic and paper contains, and when it all comes together again on your plate, it’s just not substantial enough. Masala dosa is a uniquely fermented creation that deserves to be made and eaten fresh, on the premises, and Roops’ takeaway compromise was to squish it right down so it resembled an Indian pizza, and in translation, it lost what made it special in the first place.
Roops should rename itself as an eat-in restaurant, considering the dishes it specialises in, or like some other cheap Indian restaurants, only do takeaways on single curry dishes.
As for the venue itself? It could be fine, with just a little attention to service and presentation, but given the stiff competition around Auckland, I felt little desire to revisit.
I always like to give an eating establishment the benefit of the doubt, however, so first, I’m going to review the sister Roops restaurant in Henderson, and then I’ll get back to the Mt Roskill branch for an eat-in that I hope will be a vast improvement on my experience to date. While its menu is much more limited than some of the bigger Indian vegetarian venues in Auckland, we’re keen to try out at least a few of the items we haven’t sampled. Who knows? GARY STEEL