A journal, inspired by my love for my daughter, that embraces quality food, service and experiences which make life worth living. In the words of Tennyson's Ulysses, " I cannot rest from travel. I will drink life to the lees." Seeking that incredible dining or hotel experience and writing about it. Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
Royal Biryani for upmarket Indian cuisine - Al Seef Village Mall, Abu DHabi
Al Seef Village Mall, next to Al Seef Resort & Spa by Andalus, is a small mall that is easy to navigate. It has the usual casual American and fast food outlets synonymous with the Gulf but also has a few genuine restaurants. On a recent stay at the hotel, I decided to have dinner at Royal Biryani, a high-end Indian restaurant. The moment I step inside, I feel the upmarket nature the restaurant - a charming hostess at the door guides guests to their tables, low light immediately creates ambience while surprisingly contemporary upbeat music which belies a very traditional menu of Indian dishes. Seating options abound, with booths particularly popular with families. On the night, the restaurant has a steady flow of diners, with the majority of guests local Emiratis.
As I sit down to look at a menu, I notice the innovative way they do the menu here. There is a traditional menu in keeping with the upmarket venue, but there is also a menu that consists of cards with brightly coloured photographs of dishes with descriptions on the flip side - at a time when people are becoming more responsive to the visual, this is very clever and ultimately means guests will be less intimidated and less likely to keep ordering the same dishes. Nice.
As is customary at a good Indian restaurant, I am served pappadums and a selection of three sauces - mango chutney, mint and tartar. It is uncomplicated and just perfect as I wait for my starters. Nowadays, guests are looking for added value when they visit a restaurant and this is just the sort of thing that they want.
An interesting starter that I find particularly refreshing is the Hare patto ki katori - a leafy salad rich in garlic, olive oil and yoghurt dressing. It is an atypical Indian dish but a welcome one - it is not often that I can have a leafy salad in an Indian restaurant.
Easily my favourite dish early on is the Kheema potli, lamb dumplings. It is quite a hearty dish and would easily fill me up as a quick lunch. Minced lamb is married with generously used coriander, chilli and ginger. Aware, though, that I have main courses in the offing, I resist finishing all three. But so delicious.
I have found that when I visit an Indian restaurant, I want to try both the vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes because some restaurants do them equally well. In that light, I start with the Dawat E Tandoor, a selection of grilled vegetarian kebabs. The thing about a tandoor is that it infuses whatever you put in their with intense flavour and the vegetarian platter is no different. The creamed broccoli and cheese tikka are especially flavoursome.
Soon after, I try the non-vegetarian dishes - the Lamb rogan josh, a staple Kashmiri dish with some classic Indian ingredients such as yoghurt, garlic, chilli and ginger. The rest of the flavours depend on a balance of onions and tomatoes - it is the latter that lends a mild sweetness to balance out the spice in this dish. This is one of those dishes that you must have because it is so faithfully prepared.
As my evening comes to an end, I pass up dessert for what is such a clichéd reason - I want to keep those Indian spices on my palate.
Royal Biryani is perfectly situated as a venue in a mall offering diners a high-end dining experience, surrounded as it is by very casual restaurants that you can find in most malls in the city. Dishes are still value for money with large portions typical of the restaurant. All they need to do add is some traditional karak chai to bring a very traditional end to a traditional experience in an elegant setting!
The Essentials Royal Biryani, Al Seef Village Mall, Next to Al Seef Resort & Spa, Abu Dhabi +971 4 4488556 Average price for 2 - 250AED