While many consider the Balti (that is, British) creation Chicken tikka masala to be the curry to beat all curries, we think the aromatic, complex flavours of Northern India are the true culinary treasures. Grilled meats cooked tenderly over a slow flame, an elegantly restrained combination of both ground and whole spices and a blend of Persian and regional Indian influences all add up to make this distinct cuisine fit for kings (and it was developed by the royal chefs during the Mughal Empire from the 1500s, so it actually is fit for a king). And there's no better place to sample these regal flavours in Dubai than at Gazebo.
We stopped by the brand new Mirdif City Centre eatery of the eight-branch institution last week to get our spice fix. The large space still feels intimate thanks to the fact it's tucked away in the Oasis Restaurants area of the mammoth mall, and has a classy vibe because of the awnings, booths and elegant art dotted throughout. Tucking straight into the many-paged menu, we ohhed and ahhed over grill options such as Lobster zaitooni - lobster pieces cooked with chopped olives, cream and chicken mince - but to start we settled on (with the help of the waiter) Mahi tikka lasooni, or delicately cooked chunks of hammour with a tang of mustard and a punch of flavour thanks to touches of chargrill. It was so moreish and fresh that we could literally eat this, covered in lemon juice with a touch of raita, every day for the rest of our lives - delicious (and totally diet friendly!)
When it came time for the main event, we had a much trickier time choosing, what with the menu being like a short novel of fish, chicken, mutton and biryani options. But, given that Gazebo is famous for its biryani, we knew we had to have one of those, and of the 20 options we chose Murgh Bombay biryani, a warming basmati rice cooked with a rich gravy and pieces of chicken marinated Mumbai-style. The opulent rice dish came out in a clay Handi, with a flatbread acting as the pot's lid. Wow - the flavours had permeated throughout the whole dish, the chicken was tender in that slow-cooked kind of way and the flatbread was the perfect accompaniment.
It was now time for our curry, and after much deliberation - the prawn options certainly caught our attention - we opted for Handi ka gosht, aka Lamb escallops cooked in a saffron-tinted sauce of yoghurt, coconut milk, caramelised onions and cashew. We have no qualms in saying this is the best curry we've eaten all year. The rich but not overly sweet or spicy gravy was so good that we even broke our no-carbs-after-7pm rule and asked for some extra Naan and Taftan bread just so we could mop up the punchy yet sweet sauce.
There was truly no room left for dessert after Handi ka gosht, and so we set off for some post-dinner shopping, happy in the knowledge that we'd discovered what has to be one of the best Indian eateries in Dubai, in a city that dishes up an abundance of the cuisine.
Location Mirdif City Centre (also in DIFC, DIC, Mankhool, Rashidiya, Mizhar and Sharjah)Timing Open 10am-midnight, daily
Tel 04 255 9960
Tasty trio: Mirdif City Centre
The Dubai-outlet of this Beirut stalwart serves what could only be described as Lebanese soul food. Spearheaded by a woman called, well, Leila, who learnt how to cook from her grandma, the girly eatery has a focus on family recipes. We love the Armenian dish, Manci, which is kofta dumplings in a fresh tomato sauce with lashings of yoghurt. Defo save room for desserts, though, as they serve cotton candy stuffed with ice cream - delish.
Location Central Galleria
Timing Open 9.30am-11pm, Sun-Weds; 9.30am-midnight, Thu-Sat
Tel 04 251 5161
Mango Tree Bistro
If you crave some astringent yet sweet spice, you can't do better than this upmarket spot. The little sister of the excellent Souq Al Bahar eatery cooks all the Thai classics - the curries are delish, the noodles fresh, the steamed fish juicy and the range of salads mouthwatering. Perfect for a spot of Saturday lunch.
Location Central Gallery
Timing Open 11am-10.30pm, Sun-Weds; 11am-12.30am, Thu-Sat
Tel 04 284 3635
With a tome of a menu, this classic Chinese restaurant serves up high-quailty but unfussy classics from across the vast country. The Dim sum are delicious, the Peking duck is second to none and the Stir fries have a great balance of flavour. This is the kind of place you should visit with a group, so you can order big and then share.
Location Near Debenhams
Timing Open 11.30am-11pm, daily
Tel 04 284 3050