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Antidote Kitchen ‘rocks the world’ with a new take on Indian Street Food

Paul Dowling

Rupesh Agrawal is one of those charmingly modest Indian men. Quietly spoken, the award-winning chef is not prone to overstatement.
So when, in a brief, unguarded moment, he lets slip his latest food venture is here to “rock the world”, we are instantly intrigued.
Agrawal, former head chef at renowned Indian restaurant, Indii of Clare, and its Adelaide off-shoot, Indii Flavours, has teamed with his former Indii colleague, the omnipresent Clare hospitality “guru”, Sunny Mehrok, to form Antidote Kitchen, a pop-up food business which has just taken its first tentative steps into the crowded Clare Valley food scene.
Antidote once was to be the name of Mehrok’s now-abandoned wine venture but he has happily applied it to his new business.
“We’re your antidote to everything,” he says boldly.
“The antidote to your worries, your stress, your hunger. We’re here for you at the end of a long day or week.”
And while that play on words might be a little awkward, the food Mehrok and Agrawal are creating most certainly is not.
Agrawal’s cooking and Mehrok’s front-of-house skills helped elevate Indii of Clare to revered status and were instrumental in it claiming a Restaurant and Catering award for South Australia’s best Indian restaurant.

But Antidote Kitchen’s food bears little resemblance to that served at Indii.
There, Agrawal created magnificent curry dishes, but his new kitchen focuses unapologetically on the more humble food from the streets of the pair’s home country.
“People can’t necessarily go to India, so we will bring India to the people,” Agrawal says. “We want to change the perception of Indian food – it’s much more than curry, rice and naan bread.
So we will serve authentic, Indian street food in a modern way, fused with various other cuisines.”
Mehrok has always preferred India’s street food to that of its many opulent restaurants and hotels.
“In a five-star Indian hotel you’ll be served all the butter chickens and masalas, and in a nice way, but I can’t honestly say that is truly delicious Indian food,” he says.

“The freshest, most wonderful food is out on the street – that’s where you find the real flavours.”
Antidote Kitchen made its debut last month on a warm, late-winter Saturday in the spectacular Skillogalee Valley.
The venue was Jeanneret Wines and Clare Valley Brewing Company, and, while that popular cellar door regularly calls on pop-up food companies to supplement its wine and beer offerings, the atmosphere on this day seemed different.
Chatter about the new food vendors had started on social media and was continuing in the car park. Further up the hill, at the cellar door’s idyllic surrounds, every visitor was supplementing their crisp rieslings, full bodied reds or craft beers with snacks from the little kitchen that had popped up in the
Antidote’s opening-day dishes included Chicken Kathi Rolls, Bombay Sliders, Salmon Kofta and Palak Paneer Baguettes and, while the flavours were rich and powerful, there was certainly a modest, rustic quality to it all.
“If I served 100 different types of street food every day it would take me ten years to get through all the different dishes – it’s a huge market,” Agrawal says, with a promise the Antidote Kitchen menu will constantly evolve.
“And it’s perfect for this cellar door environment. Simple, handy, easy to eat. Swirl your wine in one hand with Indian street food in the other.”
While this food has its origins in the loud, bustling, chaotic streets of India, there is something about Clare’s rugged bushland and sprawling vineyards that suit it too. Expect to see plenty more of Antidote Kitchen in the coming months, with dates at Greg Cooley
Wines, Seven Hill Cellars and a return to Jeanneret already booked. And, later, there are plans for a permanent shop front in the Clare Valley.
“We’re fresh, people don’t know exactly what we’re doing yet,” Mehrok says.
“But there’s a bit of heat in the market, people are very interested in what we’re doing. We’re very excited. This is our future. It’s been a long time coming.”
Agrawal agrees. “When Sunny and I worked together at Indii we had a great relationship,” he says.
“He always had my back and I had his. So, we had this idea of let’s come back together and rock the world!”


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