I entered Flames hoping to find a convenient dinner spot on a weekday evening and was met by something rather unusual: staff that seemed genuinely pleased to see me. I took a seat and, before the menu arrived, occupied myself with the pictorial story of the restaurant, laid out on the place mats.

There was something charmingly personal about Flames. The concept, I learned, had travelled from India, where the owner’s grandparents were born, to Kenya, where they began serving Indian food influenced by the locale. It then moved to Britain, where his parents continued the tradition, opening a Brit-style curry house, before finally setting their sights on Dubai. Neat.

The menu arrived: in keeping with the concept, it was divided between authentic Indian cooking, British-style Indian curries and Kenyan-inspired dishes. Long before I’d had a chance to read the menu and learn this for myself, the waitress was over to check on me and guide me through. For a causal venue this size, the waitress had a refreshing knowledge of the menu and recipes and was able to explain them without being prompted.

I took her recommendations and opted for the Kenyan-style mutton shish kebab, followed by Brit-style prawn balti and a romali roti. The shish kebab was shockingly, meltingly tender. The wonderful meat was coated in a delightfully thick, flavoursome marinade that offered a little mouth-tingling heat, a touch of sourness, a touch of sweetness and even a little nuttiness too. Excellent.

The prawn balti sauce had a creamy, tomatoey quality, which excited me far less than the kebab had done. I’m British – as Flames bills this dish – so perhaps it was little surprise. Yet the curry had a noticeably grease-free, light and home-made quality: the prawns were well prepared, and the plentiful slivers of green pepper and onion were caramel-soft. Among the waitress’s many nuggets of knowledge, I learned that ‘romali’, the variety of roti she recommended, means ‘handkerchief’, and is made in a similar wide, thin sheet. It was a great accompaniment to the balti: soft and doughy, yet crisp at the same time.

The restaurant had been fairly quiet when I arrived (it was a week night, after all), but at some stage there was a noticeable flow of customers, either dining in or picking up takeaway orders. Evidently it wasn’t just me making the manager smile: most of the guests were greeted like old friends, with much hand-shaking and an inference that these were repeat customers. And with food this good, it’s no surprise.

The bill (for one)
1x mutton shish kebab Dhs30
1x prawn balti Dhs35
1x romali roti Dhs4
1x large water Dhs6
1x lassi Dhs10
1x masala chai Dhs5
Total (excluding service) Dhs90