Spice Mela - Rosewood Hotel, Abu Dhabi
The floor to ceiling windows allow for expansive views of the surrounding water. To give the guest maximum benefit, most of the tables are at the windows with only a sprinkling in the middle and one large room for bigger groups. The restaurant, while very spacious, seats around 54 diners, but I am told that during the cooler months they have terrace seating too. The openness allows for more privacy as tables are nicely spaced out.
|The entrance to Spice Mela|
|An Indian snack on arrival - fruit and vegetable crisps.|
|Very elegant place setting.|
The evening kicks off with lukmi, a classic Hyderabadi starter, which is a layered pastry stuffed with vegetables - the equivalent in a dinner course of the amuse bouche. It is lightly crispy and flavourful. By the time I am half way through my suggested wine pairing of Perrier-Jouet, the lamb on a stone is brought.The accompanying avocado chutney and coriander mix is well chosen to complement the lamb.
|The exquisitely presented Atlantic Scallops|
|The black cod - I fell in love with the cod this night.|
|Gorgeous flakiness of the cod.|
|Lamb and chicken on bamboo leaf.|
How do you end an evening that is a still a dish away from the dessert? How do you enhance an evening that has already wowed? Simple, go to biryani, an Indian staple. The kacche (raw) gosht (meat) ki biryani, one of the best Hyderabadi dishes and biryanis, promises much...and delivers. Basically, the rice is raw when it is cooked with the raw lamb, so the two grow into each other, mixing with the spices, together, becoming one dish. There are three accompanying classics: the raiti, so rich with pomegranate giving it a zesty quality, the butter chicken of course hitting all the right notes and the fabulicious Calcutta prawn curry. What stands out for me is that the prawn retains its natural taste. Nothing overpowering. Adrian, my waiter for the night, recommends I have the pride of India, Kingfisher beer, to accompany the curries. Very good call. Works so well.
|The saita, butter chicken and Calcutta prawn curry|
|Even the simple things are well done - naan|
Finally, as for service, my waiter Adrian ensured that the evening went flawlessly. His service is attentive, measured and when I engaged him in small talk, there was an effortlessness and naturalness about him - nothing rehearsed and soulless about him. Real, professional and warm.
At the end of the night, I felt I my education regarding Indian cuisine had gone on to a new level. I was able to imagine the imperial kitchens of the Mughal empire as a hive of activity, with dishes passing to and fro, spices and their aroma filling the air and very, very satisfied rulers indulging in these dishes. It was an evening that left me feeling so much wiser, but yearning for more. I was left in awe. In a little corner of Abu Dhabi, Chef Siddaharth, a Delhi-born and recent Londoner, has managed to make his guests feel privileged. It was an evening in which he equalized everything. It did not matter where we were from. It did not matter what our social status was. It was insignificant what brought us to Abu Dhabi. None of these things mattered. What matters most is that, for one night, we were all kings and queens.
The low down
Rosewood Hotel, Abu Dhabi
02 813 5573
Starters 55-75 Dhs
Mains 75-200 Dhs
Dessert 40-50 Dhs