Indigo - Beach Rotana, Abu Dhabi

Followers of my food journal (I am trying to sound educated by not using the word 'blog' - not working though) will know from my two posts on de Thali, that I believe you do not have to go upmarket to experience great Indian food. This belief was tested when I visited Indigo, an upscale Indian restaurant at Beach Rotana. My visit to Indigo was a real education, as I discovered that this 20 year old property boasts about 10 F&B outlets. That's right. 10! Impressive indeed. However, this post is all about Indigo and my education, or indeed re-education,  as far as Indian cuisine goes.

Indigo with its enchanting entrance

Very sensitive and understated decor. Nothing gaudy here.

India, as you know, may not have the most modern rail network in the world, but it has one of the most extensive. I was lucky to experience Indigo's week-long celebration of Railway Cuisine, under the expert hand of visiting Chef, Mohammad Qureshi. The warmth he exudes when you meet him is certainly manifested in his creations.

Indigo is a beautiful restaurant on first impressions. As you walk in you will be greeted by oversized ceramic vase-like ornaments lining the entrance. Seating options abound, with your usual table and chair set up to semi private dining areas with lace affording some privacy, to completely private rooms. As the cliche goes, something for everyone.

Plenty of seating options.

I ordered the Palace on Wheels set menu, one of three options available. Also on offer was the vegetarian option of The Mumbai Rajdhani and the Howrah Rajdhani. 

The highlight was the alookitikki. It consisted of potato, deep fried with tamarind sauce and fresh chili, ginger and onion on a bed of chick peas, topped with a mint sauce.  Oh my gosh. The biggest problem with this was that it was a starter. Absolutely beautiful. The fresh chili, ginger and onions were counterbalanced by the soft, but not mushy, potato. The wine paired with it was a South African sparkling wine made in the French Champagne tradition, the Klein Parys Estate Cap Classique. It was lively and refreshing. A good pairing.

The potato on a bed of chick peas.
Soup with silver leaf.
The next course, the Velvet of chicken soup, was exactly that: smooth like velvet. The chicken chunks were not overwhelming, so I did not feel bloated after the soup. The silver leaf generously served on top of the soup, I am told, is part of Indian cuisine and is believed to reduce cancer. So pretty!An unexpected pleasure was the black pepper grinds in the soup which gave it an unexpected and different type of zing.

As an added treat before our main courses, the chef surprised us with something off menu. The  lamb biryani, which had probably the softest rice I have had in a biryani. I am not sure how he did it. It was not noted for its fluffiness - something I believe is more akin to Japanese rice - but there was a softness that made me want to have serving after serving. The amazing thing is that it was not overcooked.

Unexpected off-menu surprise.

Exquisitely presented shrimp curry. 
The main course, the Daab Chingri was special - shrimp in coconut curry, served in a hollowed  coconut, continued my afternoon of perplexity. It was creamy, slightly sweet and had no hint of a hot spiciness. I felt it was a dish that my daughter would enjoy. So, when I looked at what I had eaten, I realized that the tastes had been so varied.

Of course, if it is Indian there needs to be something sweet. My rabrifalooda was exactly that: sweet. Condensed milk and vimicilli were the main players of a fitting end to a fabulous train ride.


The service was of the best I have experienced in Abu Dhabi. The head waiter, Andrews,  moved about the room with a quiet self-assuredness that was underpinned by a humility that make this such a rare combination. He confidently talked about the dishes and was equally at home on the wine front. I find that waiters often find it hard to balance small talk with walking away and leaving guests to dine a difficult one. Andrews, however, struck that balance. Exceptional service, it must be said.

So, am I as absolute in my conviction now that in Abu Dhabi you can experience great Indian food without venturing away from the tiny restaurants in the back alleys?  Is it necessary to experience an Indian restaurant in a top end hotel? I guess it is a case of Mozart and Beethoven: There is a place for both, certainly in my culinary journeys from now on.

Indigo has illustrated to me that at a restaurant like this a lot of attention is paid to the quality and freshness of the ingredients; the service has an edge to it; the chef, though schooled and highly professional, still has an earthiness that allows a  connection between his dishes and the diners. While my train journey trip ended, my culinary journey of re-education had not! And I hope it never ends. I am reminded of Tennyson's Ulysses again when he says:

Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough
Gleams that untravelled world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.

Through my Indigo experience I have learned that my preconceived ideas of Indian restaurants in the cit were extremely narrow. Now that my mind has opened, I look forward to similar dining experiences.

The low down:
North Indian Cuisine
Beach Rotana, Abu Dhabi
02 697 9000

Usual range
Appetisers 37Dhs-94Dhs
Mains 81Dhs-158Dhs
Desserts 40Dhs