Looking at the takeaway menu, you’d be forgiven for dismissing Student Biryani as a cheap KFC knock-off. And in many ways, it is – the menu is littered with chicken buckets and meal deals, though one suspects these items were added to Student Biryani’s repertoire in more recent years to satisfy the tastes of a younger Pakistani generation.

As the restaurant’s place mats will tell you, Student Biryani was founded in Pakistan back in the summer of ’69 (well, some time in ’69), specialising in – no prizes for guessing – biryani. The tasty dishes were a hit with students and the venue soon became a nationally recognised brand.

Such is Student Biryani’s popularity among Dubai’s Pakistani and Indian communities that the restaurant is easy to find – it’s likely that most Pakistani taxi drivers will know exactly where it is. Ours did, and dropped us right at the door – not a wrong turn taken. We could, of course, have ordered takeaway (Student Biryani delivers), but while the idea of biryani in a bucket sounded mighty appealing, we were curious to see what Pakistan’s answer to KFC actually looked like.

In truth, it was nothing special – a quirky combination of fast-food chain and run-of-the-mill Karama curry house. Happily, like the fast-food chains of yore, we were administered with plates, knives and forks and a colourful menu offering everything from the aforementioned chicken drumsticks to karhai and korma. We sidestepped the fried chicken and fries in favour of chicken handi, dal fry and, of course, biryani. As you’d expect from any fast-food restaurant, from any continent, our food was with us in no time – first the naan, then a plate piled high with biryani. Such was the spicy aroma, I could almost taste it before the first spoonful entered my mouth, though the smell couldn’t compare to the full flavours of the red and yellow mountain of rice that sat before me.

I’ve long bemoaned the fact that many of Dubai’s Indian and Pakistani restaurants are far too conservative with their spices, yet there’s no such danger at Student Biryani. The biryani, bristling with spice and full of energy, was by far the liveliest dish of its kind I’ve eaten in Dubai. The dal took me by surprise in that it was the spiciest of all the dishes we’d ordered. Happily, the spice invigorated rather than crippled our taste buds, and the soft chick peas provided a nice contrast to the crunchy chillies. The chicken handi was another triumph – a little greasy, maybe, but as authentic a curry as you’ll find anywhere in Karama.

Make no mistake: this is a takeaway joint, which means there’s less choice than there is at, say, Ravi’s. However, the dishes that do feature on Student Biryani’s menu are every bit as good.

The bill (for two)
1x Chicken biryani Dhs15
1x Dal fry Dhs10
1x Chicken handi Dhs20
2x Naan Dhs4
Total (excluding service) Dhs49