What to do? Fortunately, my luncheon guest was more than familiar with the neighbourhood’s many and varied Indian-flavoured delicacies and suggested we visit a nearby Kerelan restaurant, which was, he assured me, ‘just round the corner’. Twenty minutes and a few, shall we say, unsure turnings later, the signage for Calicut Paragon reared up in front of us like a much-needed mirage – the time spent in the asphalt-enhanced heat had turned us into sweat-induced puddles of our former selves. We slumped gratefully into our chairs in the packed upstairs dining room and ordered two very large bottles of water.
All discomfort was swiftly forgotten, however, when the food arrived. Deciding to keep it simple, we opted for the fish curry and chicken biryani – both of which were lunchtime specials – and both of which were, to sum it up in a word, spectacular. The fish curry may have comprised of only a small serving (one piece to be precise) of generic white flesh infused in a delicately spiced and infinitely flavourful sauce, but it came with enough accompaniments to feed a small, hungry army. Two equally fragrant vegetable curries arrived with the dish, alongside a selection of chutneys and pouring sauces – one a light stock, the other buttermilk – served with both long and short-grain rice. And for those with appetites of truly epic proportions, there are refills of all the curries available, topped up by a dedicated waiter from a large, mobile vat.
On the other side of the table, meanwhile, I moved in to break the perfect dome of my biryani – pure white on top (Calicut biryanis don’t incorporate turmeric) it broke through to a layer of delicately spiced raisins and vegetables over slow-cooked fall-off-the-bone meat. The flavour was deep but light, and despite already having fully sampled the delights of my partner’s meal, tasty enough for me to pause before agreeing to let him do the same (I was tempted to stick a flag in it and declare it mine, all mine!). But truly, food this good really is made to share, so how could I honestly say no?
Our tasty feast was washed down with a duo of fresh juices – watermelon and mint for him and a lassi-like mint/pineapple/yoghurt combo for me – and topped off with a complimentary rice pudding. It, like everything else set before us, hit the spot perfectly and on a tidal wave of cheering (not in our honour, sadly – a birthday was being celebrated meerily behind us) – we were thrust back into the asphalt jungle, sated and satisfied. Calicut Paragon, we salute you.
The Bill (for two)
1x Fish curry meals Dhs10
1x Chicken biriyani Dhs12
1x Watermelon juice Dhs10
1x Pineapple juice Dhs10
2x Mineral water Dhs6
Total (including service) Dhs48