Located just across the road from Flinders Street Station, Flora is a good option for cheap and tasty food in the heart of the city.
Probably the most important feature of the food here is that it is always fresh. The turnover is fast from the bain-marie and other dishes such as the tandoori chicken and naan bread are cooked to order.
The highlight of the food for me are the vegetable samosas. I often find these are like bricks in some places with dried out fillings, but the ones at Flora are crisp on the outside, with tender and moist vegetables in the middle. They go really well with the sweetish dipping sauces served on the side. While these are a little above average in price at $2.50, they are bigger than normal so that one is probably sufficient as a starter. And for some strange reason they remind me of the Gao'uld spaceships from the Stargate TV series. I guess that’s just my inner geek showing through.
The marsala dosa meal, served with vada and iddly (the fried 'donut to the right of the photo and the white disc on the left) and kheer (the sweet, desert like dish at the back left) is probably not my favourite in the city. I prefer that at Goldan Fork, which also offers a wider selection of dosas. However the dosa here is still good, thin and crispy, and on a wet and cold night I'd certainly be happy to pop in here rather than tramp all the way down Elizabeth Street.
The major problem with the goat biryani was the meat. While it looked and smelled good, the meat was a bit tough, and half gristle or bone. I'd give it another go just to see if I was unlucky with my serve, but otherwise would stick with the other mains.
The tandoori chicken is much better. In most cheap places I have tried this in Melbourne it has been over cooked and dry. That at Flora could be a little moister, but is far from dry. The chicken itself tastes very good, and with two pieces for $8.50 is generously priced. The rice on the side is light and fluffy and not the afterthought you often seem to get with this dish.
Finally the bain-marie selections. Providing an option with two pieces of naan is more generous than some places. The curries are fresh, assisted by the fast turnover, and the meat tender. In fact, the goat curry served at the bain-marie was much better than that with the biryani. At $11.50 it’s more expensive than some places but the quality is better too.
Conveniently located and priced, well worth the visit. Sit towards the back of the restaurant where there is a lot more room, the lighting is brighter and the tables less crowded. The naan is good value, particularly the garlic naan, and a couple of unusual flavours of lassi are available in the fridge that I am still yet to try. Because so many things are cooked to order you may have to wait a few minutes for your food but the wait is never long.
Ambience - 6.5
Service - 6.5
Food - 7
Price - 7.5
238 Flinders Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Tel: (03) 9663 1212