Location Dum Pukht
Beating off strong competition from its neighbours on the Trade Centre Road (see p30 for a full rundown), Dum scrapes into the top 20 thanks to its model chicken biriani. Expect a large golden bowl of fierily-spiced meat with immaculately rendered basmati, a gratifyingly tasty dish rendered doubly delicious by a side helping of their signature orange ginger curry.
Dum Pukht, Trade Centre Road (04 337 1782) Taxi: Next to President Hotel. Open 12 noon-4pm, 7.30pm-1am daily. All major credit cards accepted. Average price of meal for two with soft drinks: under Dhs100.
Location India Palace
Ostentatious décor, somewhat vague service and a sensational jeenga maharaja await visitors to India Palace. The jeenga is a juicy explosion of Gulf prawns immersed in a light and intriguingly-named ‘labrador’ sauce, a rich cashew base lifted with refreshing suggestions of coriander. Throw in a lassi, a roti and lashings of saffron rice and you’re good to go.
India Palace, Garhoud (04 286 9600). Taxi: Garhoud Road, opp. Fuddruckers. Open 12 noon-4pm, 7pm-12 midnight daily. All major credit cards accepted. Average price of meal for two with soft drinks: Dhs100-200.
Location The Spice Club
This recently-opened Garhoud restaurant has introduced a minor twist to the Indian meal – the customer selects either a veg or non-veg set menu and new dishes arrive every few minutes until you’ve had enough. The curries at The Spice Club are perfectly good but it’s the kebabs and breads that steal the show. Ask for some murgh malai tikka kebabs – tender slices of boneless chicken with a tinge of cardamom – and wrap them up in wonderfully light and creamy nan bread.
The Spice Club, Le Meridien Fairway Hotel (04 283 3000). Taxi: Le Meridien Fairway, Garhoud. Open 12.30pm-3.30pm, 7.30pm-12 midnight daily. All major credit cards accepted. Average price of meal for two with glass of house wine: Dhs100-200.
Location Bombay Brasserie
This smartly turned-out joint is causing ripples among Deira’s spiceophiles with its good-value, high-impact dishes. The Brasserie raises currying lamb to an art form with its adraki panje, a rack of tangy chops steeped in ginger, infused with cream cheese and fired in the tandoor. This textural beauty is best enjoyed with a fruit and nutty kashmiri pilau and a glass or two of Varanasian milk and almond thandai.
Bombay Brasserie, Marco Polo Hotel, Deira (04 272 0000). Taxi: Al Muteena St. Open 6.30pm-2am Sat-Thurs, 6.30pm-3am Fridays. All major credit cards accepted. Average price of meal for two with glass of house wine: Dhs100-200.
Dakshin’s offerings span the subcontinent but place a special focus on southern India. The best dish, however, is not even on the menu – ask your waiter nicely and the chef will whip up a cauliflower and broccoli milagu peratti, involving plenty of piquant peppercorns sautéed with mustard seeds and fresh curry leaves. For a sharp flavour contrast you’ll also need a banana dosa, a deliciously sweet, tangy and sticky fritter. Dakshin comes highly recommended although it’s not for those who are sensitive to noise: the in-house sitar band are graduates of the ‘more is more’ school of volume control.
Dakshin, Lotus Hotel, (04 227 8888) Taxi: Al Rigga Road, Deira. Open 12 noon-3pm, 7pm-12 midnight. All major credit cards accepted. Average price of meal for two with glass of house wine: Dhs200-300.
Location Bombay Chowpatty
Bombay do a great line in laughably large cone-like dosas, crammed to the gills with fluffy potato and chickpeas which swim in a butter masala sauce. They’re enough in themselves for a swift lunch, but if you’re looking for accompaniments we recommend an onion and tomato uttapam, whose light, omelettey texture is beautifully complemented by a brace of coconut and mint chutneys. If you’re really hungry, order a spicy chola bhatura soup as well, and wash the whole lot down with a glass of freshly-squeezed lychee juice.
Bombay Chowpatty, Bur Dubai (04 396 4937). Taxi: Karama St behind Ministry of Health. Open 8am-1.30pm, 5pm-12midnight Sat-Thurs, 8am-11.30am, 5pm-12.30am Fridays. Credit cards not accepted. Average price of meal for two with soft drinks: under Dhs100.
With Al Nasr’s grotty bowling alley on one side, and the dubious nocturnal pleasures of Cyclones on the other, it’s easy to miss Sanjeev Kapoor’s Khazana restaurant. Despite the low key location the celebrity Indian chef has created a sprawling menu packed with classic dishes with a twist. The highlight is the sarson saag gosht, a toothsome mutton curry marinaded in tangy mustard gravy and cooked in fresh spinach leaves. Definitely worth wandering into the heart of old Dubai for.
Khazana, Al Nasr Leisureland (04 336 0061).Taxi: Al Nasr Leisureland, Karama. Open 12.30pm-2.30pm, 7-11.30pm. All major credit cards accepted. Average price of meal for two with glass of house wine: Dhs200-300.
Location Mumtaz Mahal
There are many reasons to visit the windtower-topped neighbourhood Bastakia, but perhaps the finest is the mouth-watering dhaktra jhinga on sale at Mumtaz Mahal. At Dhs70 it’s not cheap, but the giant shrimps – served on a hot plate and accompanied by deliciously sweet red onions – are teasingly tinged with cumin and then flambéed to perfection. If you’re looking for a meaty side-dish, we heartily recommend the chilli and pepper-stuffed bati kebab, a crispy minced lamb treat.
Mumtaz Mahal, Arabian Court Hotel (04 351 9111). Taxi: Arabian Court Hotel, opposite Dubai Museum, Bastakia. Open 12 noon-3pm,7pm-2am daily. All major credit cards accepted. Average price of a meal for two with glass of house wine: Dhs300-400.
Location Karachi Darbar
In that crazy part of Karama so emblazoned with neon it could be dubbed Dubai’s Little Tokyo, you can smell Karachi Darbar’s Pakistani food before you reach the restaurant. The place is always jammed with people but the service is fast and the waiters provide free translation of their extensive menu. For the adventurous vegetarian, the bhindi masala is an unexpected escapade. The tomato-based curry is rich, chock-a-block with lady’s fingers and made especially for those who like it real hot. The chilli charges in fast and strong, but can be deftly reined in by a steady and sensible aloo paratha.
Karachi Darbar (04 334 7434) Taxi: Karachi Darbar, Karama. Open 4am-12 midnight daily. All major credit cards accepted. Average price of a meal for two with soft drinks: under Dhs100.
If you like your curry with a side helping of high-energy Indian cabaret, then be sure to investigate Ghunghat’s frenetic stage show of dancers, crooners and slamming bhangra beats. Culinary treats include a devilishly rich fish curry with coconut and sesame, perhaps followed up with a coriander-infused lamb dish (dubbed ‘the street food of Punjab’) and some gorgeously sweet cheese dumplings.
Ghunghat, Chelsea Hotel (04 398 8840). Taxi: Chelsea Hotel, Bur Dubai. Open 8pm-3am daily. All major credit cards accepted. Average price of meal for two with glass of wine: Dhs100-200.
Few things catch the eye of the gastro-explorer better than a tandoori lobster, and Asha’s version is good enough to earn a place in the top ten. Culinary adventurers who put their Dhs99 where their mouth is will receive this gourmet crustacean garnish-free on a silver platter. The tender, marinaded flesh is shot through with pepper, seared off with lashings of masala, and best accompanied by an icy lemonade laced with mint and cucumber.
Asha’s, Wafi Pyramids (04 324 0000). Taxi: Wafi Pyramids. Open 12.30pm-3.30pm, 7.30pm-2am daily. All major credit cards accepted. Average price of meal for two with glass of house wine: Dhs300-400.
Location Antique Bazaar
Financial institutions aside, Bank Street’s two proudest creations are its kooky backgammon parlours and the Dhs57 vegetarian thali at Antique Bazaar. Expect perfectly soft, garlicky yellow lentils; cubes of potatoes pan-fried with chillies and cumin and garnished with chopped coriander; salty spinach paneer with brackish onions, and peas in buttery, smoky sauce with star anise. The thali comes with rice, yoghurt, roti and an excellent condensed milk dessert garnished with flaked pistachios.
Antique Bazaar, Four Points Sheraton (04 397 7444). Taxi: Bank Street. Open 12 noon-3pm, 7pm-3am Sat-Thu, 7pm-3am Fri. All major credit cards accepted. Average price of meal for two with glass of house wine: Dhs100-200.
Nina is a rarity in Dubai: a restaurant that offers a cosy, independent atmosphere in the confines of a hotel. Its low lighting, chilled background beats and modern décor create an environment more romantic than a moonlit stroll around the Taj Mahal. But Nina’s aesthetics don’t outdo its stunning fusion menu. The duck masala with orange and radish is one of the finest dishes this side of Mumbai, while their array of petite appetisers and substantial desserts, including a spicy chocolate tart, put the competition to shame.
Nina, Royal Mirage (04 399 9999).Taxi: Royal Mirage, Al Sufouh Road. Open 7pm-12 midnight, Sat-Thu. All major credit cards accepted. Average price of meal for two with glass of house wine: Dhs400-500.
Hidden behind the rest of the Trade Centre Road curry crew, Govinda’s may be tricky to find but word of mouth is picking up and a restaurant that was completely empty on our inaugural visit a year ago is now full of large groups enjoying exquisite Indian food. The vegetarian dishes (it’s run by Hare Krishnas so there’s strictly no meat) are among the best we’ve tasted in Dubai – try the stuffed tomatoes filled with cheese, vegetables and spices and surrounded by a creamy, nutty sauce. As a novel sideline, Govinda’s also run an ice cream parlour – we can’t get enough of their crunchy roast almond version.
Govinda’s, Karama (04 396 0088). Taxi: Behind Regent Palace Hotel. Open 12 noon-3pm, 7pm-12 midnight daily. All major credit cards (except AmEx) accepted. Average price of meal for two with soft drinks: under Dhs100.
This charming and exotic restaurant has improved greatly over recent years to establish itself as one of Dubai’s finest choices for top-end Indian cuisine. Waiters heap classic curries onto plates with deft neatness and customers scoop them up with scrunchy balls of gloriously good nan bread. The macchi ka salan is the standout curry, comprising tender and juicy chunks of hammour in a sauce that resonates with coconut and melon. Make sure you book seats in the smoking section regardless of your nicotine preferences, in order to ensure your seats have a view of the stage.
Ashiana, Sheraton Dubai Creek (04 207 1733). Taxi: Baniyas Road. Open 12.30pm-3.30pm, 7.30pm-1.30am Sat-Thurs, 7.30pm-1.30am Fri. All major credit cards accepted. Average price of meal for two with glass of wine: Dhs300-400.
Location Coconut Grove
Despite the Grove’s frequent bouts of lunacy – on our most recent trip a member of staff informed us that a giant cartoon fox on a stage was Mickey Mouse – and habit of hard selling, its (largely Keralite and Goan) food is always exquisite. Remain disciplined when you receive your bowl of furiously moreish broken poppadoms so you have room for the Dhs90 pokrissan curry, crammed full of juicy pieces of lobster in a spicy sauce tempered and sweetened by coconut milk. Book a table in advance of your visit to guarantee you sit by the window for a great view over the city.
Coconut Grove, Rydges Plaza (04 398 3800). Taxi: Rydges Plaza, Satwa roundabout. Open 12 noon-3pm, 7pm-12 midnight daily. All major credit cards accepted. Average price of meal for two with glass of house wine: Dhs100-200.
Even with the stiff competition on Trade Centre Road (see opposite), Gazebo is special enough to stand out in the crowd and you can expect to queue for a seat if you visit on a Thursday night. The menu is the most comprehensive in Dubai – with everything from spinach-stuffed mushroom biriani to lobster filled with olives, cream and minced chicken – and there isn’t a single dud among them. Time Out always insists the Dhs16 baghare baingan is on the table – deliciously soft and tender fried baby aubergines with coconut, onions and coriander.
Gazebo, Trade Centre Road (04 397 9930). Taxi: Opposite Spinney’s. Open 12 noon-3.15pm, 7pm-11.45pm Sat-Thurs, 1.30pm-3.30pm, 7pm-11.45pm Fri. All major credit cards accepted. Average price of meal for two with soft drinks: under Dhs100.
Elbowing its way into the top three comes brash new upstart Indego. Happily, the food at the city’s plushest (and most expensive) Indian restaurant lives up to the hype. The dishes are curiously mild, disappointing serious pepperheads, but fitting in nicely with Indego’s fine dining ethos. Pick of the bunch is the coconut and chilli masala, a great example of chef Vineet Bhatia’s contemporary Indian cuisine, composed of meaty king prawns in a sauce packed with flavour but with minimal heat.
Indego, Grosvenor House (04 399 8444). Taxi: West Marina Beach. Open 7.30pm-12 midnight Fri-Wed, 7.30pm-1am Thurs. All major credit cards accepted. Average price of meal for two with glass of house wine: Dhs500-600.
We’re not going to lie to you: Ravi’s is a strip-lit, lowbrow Pakistani canteen where you are likely to find the detritus of the previous meal still scattered around your table. But the curry here is sublime. It’s a favourite with Dubai’s cabby fraternity and the menu is packed with culinary gems including a wonderful sweet vegetable masala, a creamy mutton biriani and a light tandoori chicken. The standout dish, however, has to be the beef nihari, a chilli curry full of tender chunks of meat and crunchy vegetables. It might not be the most salubrious of locations, but you’ll be hard pushed to find finer Pakistani fare this side of the Indian Ocean.
Ravi’s (04 331 5353). Taxi: Satwa Street, opposite Rydges Plaza. Open 5am-3am Sat-Thurs, 5am-12 noon, 1.30pm-3am Fri. Credit cards not accepted. Average price of meal for two with soft drinks: under Dhs100.
Although we’re slightly intimidated by Handi’s towering velvet pews and overwhelming service we can’t get enough of their gloriously good curries. From a menu crammed with traditional dishes, the gosht korma awadhi (boneless lamb, cashew nuts and almonds in a spicy onion gravy) sprints over the line to become our proud curry champion. Let’s be clear: this is no wimpy, yellowy, over-creamy korma for kids. This is an awadhi dish – a style of Indian cooking originating in the city of Lucknow, where the Nawabs of Awadh once ruled and took their food very seriously indeed – so the sauce is lively and fiery, only mellowed slightly by the sweetness of the nuts. The meat, meanwhile, is tender and juicy, perfect with a side helping of nan bread. It’s the best curry in Dubai.
Handi, Taj Palace Hotel (04 223 2222). Taxi: Taj Palace Hotel, Deira. Open 12 noon-3pm, 7pm-12 midnight. All major credit cards accepted. Average price of meal for two with soft drinks: Dhs200-300.