24 January 2024

A restaurant's expansion into Yass Valley brings benefits to more than your tastebuds

| Claire Sams
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A new restaurant recently moved across the border from the ACT into Yass Valley, and co-owner Rajesh Malhotra says there is something for everyone. Photo: Spice Affair Indian Cuisine.

After building a steady stream of regulars in Canberra, Spice Affair Indian Cuisine has added a new restaurant in Yass Valley.

Head chef and co-owner Rajesh Malhotra said deciding to open the new venture was an easy decision.

“At our Canberra restaurant, we have had people coming in from the Murrumbateman and Yass areas because they worked in Canberra or were visiting,” he said.

“They were asking, ‘Why don’t you open a store here, so we don’t have to travel to Canberra?'”

They considered opening the new restaurant in Murrumbateman, Mr Malhotra said, but settled on the site of the former Liberty Cafe in Yass.

“It is a little bit further from Canberra, but it is more central in the Valley,” he said.

“We thought it would be better placed for people coming from the surrounding towns.”

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Mr Malhotra said the restaurant worked to offer fresh, quality Indian cuisine to patrons.

“We cook everything fresh – we do everything from scratch, so people can taste the freshness in the food,” he said.

“We accommodate dietary requirements and can adjust dishes for people who are allergic to ginger, onions, dairy or garlic.

“The majority of our menu is also gluten-free.”

The butter chicken is the “crowd favourite”, but Mr Malhotra said Chicken Chettinad, Andhra Chicken and mutton curries were also proving popular.

And while there are some dishes with a bit of a kick, he said there were options for those who preferred a milder meal.

The restaurant’s menu draws from India’s long history and diverse culinary traditions. Photo: Spice Affair/Facebook.

The restaurant’s menu includes wines from Canberra district wineries, as well as wines from France, Spain and Argentina, he said.

But before they could start serving customers, Mr Malhotra said it took them months of behind-the-scenes work to prepare the new location.

“It took about seven or eight months to do the construction and the set-up of the inside of the restaurant,” he said.

“We had to demolish the old walls, install a new air-conditioning unit and seating, renovate the bathrooms and add new flooring.”

Mr Malhotra said he hoped the new Yass location would be as successful as their first location in Canberra. Photo: Spice Affair/Facebook.

Mr Malhotra said he wanted to provide another food alternative to Yass residents, as well as those visiting the town.

“There’s a few pubs in the area and other restaurants, but we wanted to offer something unique.”

Since they opened the new restaurant, Mr Malhotra said the community had been quick to support them.

“We’ve had a phenomenal response from the entire Yass Valley region,” he said.

“People have been very lovely and friendly.”

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The decision to expand into Yass Valley followed a successful store in Casey, a suburb of Canberra, that they opened several years ago.

“I was friends with Amit Gupta – who is now my business partner – and we were thinking of opening something ourselves,” Mr Malhotra said.

“I have a background in hospitality and he has a background in customer service.

“We looked at a few different places before choosing the Casey location.”

Spice Affair Indian Cuisine is located at 171 Comur Street in Yass and at 8/15 Kingsland Parade in Casey, Canberra.

In Yass, the restaurant is open for lunch from Wednesday to Sunday (noon to 2 pm) and for dinner from Tuesday to Sunday (5 pm to 8:30 pm), with the menu available online.

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