It must be said that the Highland Hotel doesn’t exactly fill one with a sense of confidence. The building’s industrial look evokes rundown American steel towns and the seedy-seeming bar inside (dubbed ‘Rock City’) adds little to the atmosphere. But once you step into Kebab Korner, the decor becomes more tasteful, and the steaming smell of spiced meat is inviting enough to make up for the Highland’s otherwise lack of charm.

A swirl of waiters – polite to the point of overbearing – ushered me and my date to our seats. In many parts of the world that aren’t India or Dubai, Mughlai cuisine is what’s available, should you have an itch for eats from the Subcontinent. In Dubai, however, food from the north often takes a backseat to its southern counterpart. As a result, Kebab Korner’s menu, with its promise of sweaty skewers and hefty curries, was a welcome (if weighty) reprieve. It was also refreshing to see a menu shy away from the staples that tend to stereotype the cuisine. No, this menu didn’t stoop to include any kormas or sag paneers. This was a kebab affair.

The staff – made doubly eager as we were among the only customers – rushed us over some amuse bouche – a mini consommé that tasted heavily of liquid meat and a salty paneer (cheese) topped with yoghurt and sweet tamarind sauce – which we were loathe to taste twice. More successful at bringing out the appetite was an order of Amritsari paneer pakora – light fritters of paneer with a thin, crisp chickpea batter coating that gave way to an airy cheese interior. We were finally ready to move on to the main event, namely, kebabs.

We found a kakori kebab, which read so tantalisingly on the menu (minced mutton mixed with saffron, rose and cardamom and cooked on a skewer), was too intense for our palates its texture was dense and grainy, and its flavour the raw essence of smoke. An order of murg malai tikka, however, was utterly beguiling. These thin slices of lemon-kissed chicken drooled garlicky puddles and proved helplessly tender under the weight of my teeth. A dum aloo bhojpuri, a curry of paneer-stuffed potatoes, broke up the monotony of all the dry fare on our plates. The dish was a creamy, nutty concoction that had an old-school, homespun feel (as if the recipe had been passed down via grandma).

We left before dessert (the casualty of a cuisine as heavy as Mughlai), and just as the live musicians were warming up. On exiting the restaurant, we were once again presented with the jarring interior of the Highland. Unfortunately, the restaurant’s outer ambience proves a bit of a barrier for actually giving the place a try, which is a shame, because the food is actually pretty good.

The bill (for two)
1x Large water Dhs15
1x Amritsari paneer pakoda Dhs30
1x Kakori Kebab Dhs50
1x Murg malai tikka Dhs50
1x Dum aloo bhopuri Dhs30
1x Butter naan Dhs8
1x Rice Dhs18
Total (including service) Dhs201