There are places you can go for a curry where they’ll experiment and try to be creative with the Indian food, places like Asha’s at Wafi City for example. But it’s pricy and a bit fussy. And then there are many places that are cheap and authentic, but the surroundings are a little rough and ready and they are inevitably unlicensed. The fully-licensed, mid-range curry houses are in surprisingly short supply, but The Bombay, at the Marco Polo Hotel, seems to fit the bill.
The Marco Polo hotel is never going to be mistaken for The Royal Mirage and its location in deepest Deira doesn’t make it the easiest place to get to without traffic woes. But as Marco Polo himself would no doubt say if he were still with us, a little exploring can turn up some fantastic discoveries.
Even though the hotel itself it a little threadbare, The Bombay looks wonderful inside with décor that is more like something from one of the top hotels. The live band entertains without being a big distraction and there’s something rather warming about having authentic live music while you eat. And unlike many Lebanese restaurants, these guys know where the volume controls are and keep it background rather than belligerent.
After the conical poppadams and trays of dips were delivered and demolished, out came some of the best Indian food I’ve had in the city. Any city for that matter. My lahsooni fish tikka comprised of big chunks of fish, coated in a garlic marinade and finished off in the tandoor oven. It doesn’t sound like much, but it was one of the finest dishes I’ve had this year and as my bathroom scales increasingly illustrate, I’ve had more than a few. Fish isn’t always the best option with Indian food but this was exceptionally well done.
The person I was dining with had the prawn Malai curry which is a dish that’s done at many other places, but this stands up with the best of them. The prawns were plump and retained their flavour amid the sea of creamy curry sauce that was spiced at just the right level. The Jeera pulao rice was cumin laced and a grand accompaniment to the dishes, as were the requisite naan breads – one butter, one garlic, both big additions to the proceedings. As was the beer and wine. While alcohol is not essential by any means, if you want a pint with your curry (and many do) then you can have it here.
There’s no strictly set system of starters and mains, just a menu with everything, so after having started with big dishes we shared another with a side order of baby potatoes and tangy pickle. The menu explained that the Murgh lababdar we asked for was comprised of chicken chunks in gravy with garlic, ginger and cream, and indeed that’s what was brought out, but it could have translated as simply ‘a plate of awesome’. It would have been everything its translation suggested.
Crucially, the chicken was tender, light and fluffy rather than the stringy parts that some restaurants use, but with a price that would shame some of the fancy eateries. And there it ends, because if you can eat more than that between two of you then you’re not having a meal, you’re winning some sort of bet. You really can stuff yourself here for under Dhs200 and despite the perceived notion that desserts go into a different part of the stomach that no main course can fill, we just couldn’t eat more.
Looking around, we weren’t the only ones patting our stomach and shaking our heads at smiling waiters offering more. And the place was packed with Indians diners, which people tend say is always a good sign for a curry house, but I don’t think it really matters any more as Indian food is popular all over the world. However, there were no other Westerners. The previous time I visited we were the only non-Indians too. Perhaps the Westerners were too busy paying over the odds for their curries at five-star hotels, but here at The Bombay they get everything right and charge a reasonable amount for it. The biggest mystery is why they have so little competition in their range.
Given that such a high percentage of the population in the UAE is from India (including a burgeoning middle class) you’d thing that there would be more Indian restaurants like this. But for some reason there aren’t. It almost stands alone as the perfect mix of value and quality of any type of cuisine in the city. And if you head to the Fox & Hounds pub on the ground floor after you’ve finished eating, you get a weird and wonderful floor shows from some east-European ladies who change costumes more often than Madonna – don’t worry, it’s all in the best possible taste. In fact, everything about this evening was.
Verdict: The best quality-for-price curry house in the city
The bill came to Dhs181 (without alcohol)