22 bargain curries, grills and biryanis

Cut-price dishes from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka to try

Absolute Barbecues
This casual dining spot started off in India, before setting up on Sheikh Zayed Road. It’s based around a “DIY grilling concept”, where you can barbecue your own starters at the table. Move on to the giant buffet for mains and desserts. The buffet comes in at Dhs75 for dinner Sunday to Wednesday and Dhs85 on Friday and Saturday. It includes salads, soups, main courses and desserts (think chilli paneer, chicken keema masala and mango cheesecake). What a winner.
Open daily noon-3.30pm, 6.30pm-midnight. Sheikh Zayed Road (600 577 776).

Al Farwania Café
This miniscule little spot is easy to miss, though if you see a queue of Nissan Patrols waiting outside for karak you’re on the right track. Don’t expect a menu (or even air-conditioning, for that matter), but a meal here will barely cost you Dhs20, for more food than you can finish. What’s on offer changes daily, but you can invariably expect some sort of chicken curry and dhal, along with rice, biryani and moreishly buttery parathas, plus plates of salad, to be washed down with a cup of masala chai. It’s almost always busy, especially around lunchtime, and if you visit a couple of times, you’ll be on first-name terms with the extra-friendly folk who run the place.
Open daily 6am-midnight. Jumeirah Beach Road, next to Samba bank, opposite Dubai Public Library (04 348 7451).

Aryaas

If you’re counting the dirhams, you’re in luck, as you’ll struggle to find a dish priced at more than Dhs20 in this South Indian eatery. It’s not fancy, but the food is tasty. Winner in the Best Budget category at the 2012 Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards, this is certainly one for your shortlist. We love the wide range of veggie dishes on offer (and there’s an excellent range of breads for Dhs6 and under), but for a treat, try the paneer butter masala at Dhs16 (we said cheap, not calorie-free).
Open Sat-Thu 7.30a,-11.30pm, Fri 7.50am-11.30am, 1pm-midnight. Kuwait Street, Karama (04 335 5776).

Ayubowan
 

This ambient Sri Lankan restaurant has an air of elegance and finesse to it, which defy the very affordable prices. The curries are truly authentic – no watering down of spices takes place here. So if you’re new to Sri Lankan cuisine, ask for help – staff are only too happy to oblige. Upmarket dishes such as hot butter prawns and fresh crab, come in at a surprisingly wallet-friendly Dhs40. A serious budget option where you’ll get truly great food, and a worthy Highly Commended in the 2017 Restaurant Awards Budget category.
Open daily 8am-11pm. Cluster N, JLT (04 452 1007).

Biryani Pot
 

If it’s Indian comfort food you’re after, then you’ve come to the right place at Biryani Pot. As the name suggests, this restaurant specialises in biryani, and it’s spot on. Tender chicken, delicate flavours and perfectly cooked rice make this one moreish budget dish. Servings are pretty big, so you might want to share (however, this is by no means compulsory) but at just Dhs41 it’s a good deal, regardless of how many of you are digging into it.
Open Sun-Wed 11am-midnight; Fri-Sat 11am-2am. Umm Suqeim (04 338 2277).

Bu Qtair

The winner of the Budget category at the 2016 Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards and set close to the beach near the Burj Al Arab, Bu Qtair is a simple concept, and there’s no menu. Choose from what’s been caught that day (fish, prawns etc) and it’ll be whipped up with an aromatic curry sauce and served with rice or paratha, starting from Dhs40. Simple, yet effective. And well worth the inevitable queuing time.
Open daily 6am-11.30pm. Street 4D, Umm Suqeim (055 705 2130).

Calicut Paragon

With a branch in Kerala as well as in the UAE, you know you’re getting authentic food at Calicut Paragon. Set up in India back in 1939, the restaurant prides itself on claypot specials and biryanis. Highly Commended in the Budget category at last year’s Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards, the Keralan food at this eatery is delicious, and it’s a brilliant choice for cheap eats, with most main courses ringing in at around Dhs25.
Open daily 7am-12.30pm. Karama (04 335 8700).

Claypot
This cheap and cheerful restaurant offers a wide range of dishes including a live chaat counter (Dhs25). The eatery underwent a refurbishment last summer, with the menu also getting an overhaul. Although it’s a fairly basic setting, it’s surprisingly great. The menu features everything you’d expect – tandoori and curries of lamb, chicken, seafood and vegetables – and the flavours are generally spot on. Dishes are a fusion of North and South Indian, and there are sharing platters to dig into with a group. There’s also a great value Friday brunch, which comes to Dhs69 for soft drinks and a full North Indian buffet. Sounds like a bargain to us.
Open daily noon-3pm; Sat-Wed 7pm-midnight; Fri-Sat 7pm-1am. Citymax Hotels Bur Dubai (04 407 8000).

Chawlas2
Part of a large and well-known wallet-friendly Indian chain, there are more than 100 outlets around the world. Dishes here are traditional Punjabi, with the speciality being cream chicken (Dhs37). The setting is cute and charming, while the menu is large, with mains averaging at around Dhs35.
Open Sun 12.30-pm-11pm; Mon-Wed noon-11pm; Thu noon-midnight; Fri 12.30pm-midnight; Sat 12.30pm-9.30pm. Cluster M, JLT (04 514 9271).

Maharaja Bhog

This Karama eatery is part of a chain that also has four branches in Mumbai and one in Texas in the US. This spot has a daily-changing set thali menu with authentic Rajasthani and Gujrati dishes (with up to 900 different dishes throughout a month). You’ll get veggies, dhal, rice, sweets and a welcome drink, all for a special price of Dhs40. It’s not as cheap as some of the other options in this list, but when you get a full meal for under Dhs50 we’re not complaining. Kids also dine half-price, making it an ideal budget choice for the entire family.
Open Sun-Thu noon-3.30pm, 7pm-11.30pm; Fri-Sat noon-4pm, 7.30pm-11.30pm. Karama (04 396 4744).

Moti Roti
This popular Pakistani eatery started off as one of the first food trucks in Dubai and is one of the city’s favourites. Based around roti (Pakistani tortillas) the menu also has street food such as aloo tikki sliders (spiced potato patty on a slider bun) or a sweet potato samosas. It prides itself on “recipes ripped from mum’s cookbook”, for an authentic, homely taste. Opt for the spicy chick roti, which is packed full of, as expected spicy chicken (warning, it’s not lying, it’s on the hot side) all rolled up in a floury, soft, delicious roti. Perfecto.
Open daily 11am-11pm. Cluster J, JLT (04 243 2943).

New Sind Punjab
This petit Karama eatery specialises in, as expected, Punjabi food, and has plenty of choice when it comes to tandoori dishes, plus a barbecue outside. The classic butter chicken at Dhs24 is a steady option, but there are heaps to choose from here.
Open daily 7am-1am. Karama (04 337 5535).

Pind Da Dhaba


This rustic Dhaba-style eatery (a traditional truck stop found in India and Pakistan) has modern décor and Punjabi cuisine. Dishes are rich and creamy with plenty of naans and corn flour rotis (starting at just Dhs3). From salads and starters to curries and grills the menu is extensive. Tandoori chicken is a favourite and this authentic restaurant specialises in it, plus it costs just Dhs34. Nothing rings in at more than Dhs40 and there’s a huge choice of veggie and non-veggie items, so everyone is catered for.
Open daily noon-3pm, 7pm-midnight. Karama (04 388 5333).

Punjabi by Nature

This contemporary and quirky Indian restaurant is worth stopping in at if you’re in Oud Metha and fancy a hearty, tasty Indian meal in a casual setting. The food comes in massive portions (which makes this all the better value). We’d recommend the “must-try” bhuna ghosht – tender lamb chunks with caramelised onions (Dhs37) – and the aloo lababdar – baby potatoes in a rich, onion-tomato gravy (Dhs30). Having said that, you can’t go far wrong with anything on the substantially sized menu.
Open daily 11.30am-3.30pm, 7pm-11.30pm. Oud Metha (04 550 9181).

Raju Omlet
Another Indian eatery on the Highly Commended Budget list at the 2017 Restaurant Awards, this picked up a gong for good reason. As you’d imagine, the speciality here is eggs (in every manner you could imagine) and flavoured with plenty of traditional spices (think boiled eggs with masala, a steal at just Dhs5). There are plenty of curries, such as paneer tikka masala and Patiala chicken on the menu, too (starting from Dhs14) but it’s the breakfast dishes that you really want to visit for.
Open daily 8am-11.30pm. 9a Street, Al Quoz (04 388 355).

Rangoli
 

Based in Bur Dubai, this hideaway is basic veggie Indian food served with no fuss. It’s not fancy, with large tables and bright lighting upstairs and you’ll be expected to eat with your hands in a traditional style (although cutlery is on offer). Opt for the thali and you won’t be disappointed. Everything is fresh and tasty (and on the spicy side), but you’ll get three veggie curries, one dhal, chapathis, rice, pickles and curd for a bargainous Dhs22. Did we mention it was unlimited, too? Winner.
Open daily 8.30am-11.30pm. Bur Dubai (04 351 5873).

Ravi Restaurant

If you’ve been in Dubai for more than a week you’ll certainly have heard of, if not visited, Ravi and its vibrant green and white signage. A Dubai institution in Satwa, here you’ll find affordable, authentic Pakistani food. Forget the menu, go on the recommendations of the staff, and you can’t go far wrong. Breakfast, lunch or dinner the choice is excellent. The biryanis are especially popular (Dhs14), as are the chicken or lamb Peshawaris (Dhs25) and you’ll leave with change from Dhs50.
Open daily 5am-3am, Satwa (04 331 5353).

Saravanaa Bhavan
This chain of restaurants has a growing number of branches across the city and around the world, thanks to the popularity of its cheap and cheerful, but extremely tasty vegetarian food. The huge menu runs from classic Indian curries and fries to a huge range of dosas (don’t miss these, they’re some of the best you’ll find in the city and start off at just Dhs8) to Chinese food (including interesting fusion dishes such as paneer fried rice), but stick to the dishes that this place does best, such as aloo stuffed parathas, paneer butter masala and dhal makhani.
Opening hours vary. Various locations including Karama, Bur Dubai, Deira and Al Barsha, www.saravanabhavan.com.

Spice & Ice
Not strictly “budget” but you can certainly get a good deal here. Dine on a Monday and opt for three-courses from the à la carte menu (average mains are around Dhs50) and you’ll get two hours of free house beverages. Your bill will be around Dhs150 for three courses and drinks, so we think that’s a pretty good reason to visit. Plus, with molecular gastromony and some delightful veggie and non-veggie dishes (we love the chilli cheese toast at Dhs30 and modern take on chicken korma at Dhs56), it’s worth heading to.
Open Sat-Wed 4pm-1am; Thu 4pm-3am; Fri noon-3am. Cluster A, JLT (04 275 9088).

SpiceKlub
This restaurant doesn’t serve up your average Indian dishes (think spinach-infused water served in test tubes, tamarind sauce in a syringe and a chocolate cake in the shape of a bar of soap). Wacky molecular gastronomy is created at SpiceKlub. Brought to Bur Dubai by way of Mumbai, it has kitsch, fun décor, but the food lives up to expectations. It’s all veggie and we love the paneer tikka masala at Dhs45. It’s upbeat, fun and something entirely different. Plus, there’s a super business lunch deal with a two-course set menu, with rice, bread and dhal for just Dhs39.
Open daily noon-3.30pm, 6.30pm-11.30pm. Bur Dubai (04 448 9590).

The Meating Room
A new spot in Karama, this is, as the name suggests, not a veggie restaurant like many others on this list. In fact, it prides itself on its barbecue dishes. It’s a small space, which is usually packed out, so it’s worth going early to get a table. Enjoy the buzzing ambience thanks to the open kitchen and friendly staff, and check out the extremely varied menu, from naan bread pizzas (naanza, Dhs20) to cheese covered in crunchy papad kernals with burnt garlic mayo (Dhs18). There’s also “ol’ school chicken tikka” (Dhs28) and paneer on a stick (Dhs26). Funky, upbeat and modern. One to get down to, quicksmart.
Open daily 12.30pm-11.30pm. Karama (04 453 5200).

Viva Goa
This traditional Goan restaurant has vibrant décor and an upbeat, fun atmosphere, thanks to live music and large family gatherings. The menu isn’t exhaustive, but there is still a decent range of veggie and meat options, including a tasty vegetable korma (Dhs26) and traditional chicken xacutti – chicken cooked with Goan masala and coconut (Dhs29). Plus there’s breads, rice and all the extras you’d expect.
Open Sun-Wed 7pm-1am, 7pm-3am. Al Nasr Leisureland, Oud Metha (04 337 1234).

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