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A Thali with a twist at Indego

Vineet Bhatia, the Michelin master of spice, has reinvented the humble lunch platter to dazzling effect

  • Vineet Bhatia
    The menus at Indego by Vineet change every three days so that regular diners need never be bored. Image Credit: Supplied picture
  • Vineet Bhatia
    Vineet Bhatia. Image Credit: Supplied picture

Indego by Vineet
Translating from Hindi to literally mean ‘plate’, a thali is an Indian lunch institution that means one meal made up of many small components (and often served on a steel tray). And, like the true culinary wizard he is, London-based Indian chef, Vineet Bhatia, – who helms Dubai dining stalwart Indego By Vineet – has taken it upon himself to reinvent and elevate the tradition.

The first Indian chef to receive a Michelin star (for his London eatery, Rasoi), Vineet is a spice crusader and is passionate about infusing authentic ingredients and creating subtle (rather than spicy smack in the face) flavour with his food, which is beautifully evident in his new thali lunch.

Sitting down in the regal, plum and burgundy-hued dining room of Indego, our knowledgeable and passionate waiter talked us through the concept. We’d soon receive a glass tower of salads, a bread basket, a selection of curries and some bite-sized mains, which could be eaten leisurely over a few hours, or within 45-minutes for a business lunch – and, the best news, it’s all bottomless, so we could just keep ordering our favourites over and over again (which we sooo did).

We began our bottomless lunch with the fresh and tangy glass tower of salads and raita – which looked like a sculptural, modern tiffin box, and we were blown away by the tamarind and goat’s-cheese-packed salad. Next up were the curries, which were made up of a tangy and delectably creamy Chicken tikka makhani (best mopped up with the mint-sprinkled Pudina naan), an earthy and smoothly textured Dal tadka and herby Methi potatoes. And while these were some of the most subtly spiced and yet flavour-packed concoctions we’ve ever tried, it was the mini versions of Indego’s mains that stole the thali show.

The set menus change every three days so that regular diners need never be bored, and on the day we visited they were offering Vineet’s signature Home-smoked tandoori salmon, a Lamb shammi and a saffron-infused almond rice on the main plate. The Lamb shammi was a tender patty of beautifully seasoned meat with a Beetroot yoghurt adding punch on top; and the mound of rice was a saffron lover’s dream. But it was the Home-smoked tandoori salmon that will linger with us the longest – a exceptionally tender, spice-infused piece of fish with a depth of flavour quite unlike any salmon we’ve ever had before (we ordered about three top-ups of this).

Finishing off our lunch on Indego’s Marina-facing terrace with a refreshing Coconut and lime lassi, a pot of tea, some luxury chocolates and a gold-dusted, saffron flavoured Pistachio gulab jamun rose kheer, we discussed how much the lunch had changed our perspective on a thali. The humble food court option will never taste the same again…

Tasty trio: Set lunches

Hakkasan Dubai
The artful food at Hakkasan is, with good reason, on the pricey side. But visit on a weekday and sample three delicious courses as well as bespoke teas for just Dh120. Starters include steamed dim sum or vegetarian dim sum, while our fave main is the Spicy prawn with lily bulbs and almonds.
Location Jumeirah Emirates Towers Boulevard, Dubai
Timing 12pm-3pm, Saturday-Thursday
Tel 04 384 8484

Cho Gao
This trendy Abu Dhabi eatery serves one of the most affordable set meals in town. A set lunch costs just Dh50 (or pay an extra Dh10 for unlimited soft drinks or iced tea). When we went they served us up a delicious stir-fried beef and eggplant dish with a seafood soup. Delish.
Location Crowne Plaza, Hamdan Street, Abu Dhabi
Timing 12pm-4pm, Sun-Thurs
Tel 02 616 6166

This black and white-tiled deli/eatery now serves a quick two or three-course Milanese lunch that’s served rapido. The menu changes every day, but the Beef lasagne with Parmesan fondue’s amazing. You can opt for two courses for Dh130, or three for Dh160.
Location Armani Hotel, Downtown Burj Khalifa, Dubai 
Timing Lunch 12pm-3pm, Saturday-Thursday
Tel 04 888 3444