Sunday, 1 April 2012

Review: Dabbawal, Highbridge Street, Newcastle

I don't know much about Indian food. Up until the age of around 16 I stuck to the idea that I didn't like it with a childish stubbornness, much to annoyance of my brother who loved nothing better than a fiery curry. He left home and a few weeks later I decided it wasn't all that bad, how irritating siblings can be. My developing taste for curry came with the realisation that just because something is flavoured with spices, doesn't necessarily mean it has to be spicy.

It is still one of the types of food that I know least about and I cook it infrequently. It seems daunting. I know it shouldn't, but unless I was buying a paste from a jar and a can of coconut milk, I have no idea where to start.

This is why going out for Indian is the best. I get to eat things I would never make at home. And at Dabbawal it just got even better.

Located on Highbridge Street, just down from Monument and the Theatre Royal, Dabbawal is an absolute gem of a restaurant. Although it still offers traditional Indian food, the restaurant is contemporary and labels itself a street food kitchen. Given that the name is taken from the 'Dabbawalas', the lunch box delivery men of Mumbai, it seems very fitting.

As it was date night (and pay day) the meal was started with cocktails. There was an interesting range on the menu - many adapted with Indian ingredients. I love a Tom Collins, so when I saw a Lemon Grass Collins I couldn't resist. It was cool and refreshing but had a kick thanks to the ginger beer. I can't find their drinks menu online but think the cocktails were around £6.50.

The other half got a very stylish Margarita. He response was 'good' but he says that about most things which are made of strong liquour.

Dabbawal Menu, Highbridge Street, Newcastle

The menu has small tapas style street food dishes and grills plus a selection curries you'd expect to find. This didn't feel the sort of place to come and have a starter + main combo, I wanted to pick, try new flavours and get a little bit of everything. We went for the street food dishes, according to our waiter around 5 plus a compliment is a good amount between 2. We only got 4 and probably should have followed this advice.

Of course we went for some poppadoms to start, which came with 3 delicious homemade chutneys (£1.25). I once said I thought poppadoms were the best part of an Indian meal, this is laughably stupid but they were very good and obviously freshly made. No one likes a stale poppadom. The orangey coloured dip at the back was sweet and tangy with a developing hotness, I couldn't stop eating it. When the waiter took it away without asking, I had to ask for more.

The tapas dishes are split into 4 sections, Soups & Salads, Chaats, Street Classics and Tandoori. Choosing one from each of these was a great way of sampling a whole range of interesting food.

Dabbawal Signature Salad, £4.50
If you name a dish after your restaurant you're basically saying it's one of the best things you do, so the Dabbawal Signature Salad (£4.50) was a must. A sticky blend of mango, peanuts, spring onions and honey. We've had some serious peanut butter urges going on recently and this salad was a bowl of nutty sweetness. 

Crispy Lamb Samosa Parcels, £3.95, Dabbawal
From the street classics we got Lamb Samosas (£3.95), very artfully presented and much tastier (and I imagine healthier) than the ones sold in buckets at the corner shop. The coating was crisp and lightly fried without any greasiness. 

Bhel Puri, £4.25, Dabbawal

This is a Chaat, the menu told me that 'street food doesn't get more authentic than this' (said in my head in a Masterchef voice) and we opted for the Bhel Puri (£4.25) which was puffed rice and pomegranate in a tamarind sauce. This was like posh bombay mix and rice crispies, it was very nice and not at all what I was expecting. Although honestly I had no idea what to expect and that's half of what made this meal so fantastic. 

Dabbawal Mixed Grill, £8.50

And the Dabbawal Grill, a little bit of everything from their Tandoori menu. There was salmon & chicken tikka, a sublime but tiny lamb chop, a flavoursome seekh kebab and one lonely citrus prawn. This was surprisingly my least favourite dish as it didn't offer me any surprises. All very well done, beautiful smokey charing, I could have eaten about 10 of those lamb chops but I did think more than one prawn would have been nice. 

The Keema Naan, filled with spicy minced lamb, was obviously made by someone who knows how to make proper Indian bread.

That sums up the whole meal really, it felt like it was made with knowledge of what proper authentic Indian food should be like and was full of amazing, light, fresh and lovely spicy flavours.

With two cocktails, a large bottle of beer, 4 mains, Naan and Poppadoms the bill came to £46 which seems very reasonable. My only quibble was with the staffing, all polite but slightly frustrating to be asked by 4 different waiters if we'd like to order drinks when we were waiting for our cocktails to arrive.

This is definitely somewhere to try out, and if you need more convincing or a bit tight on cash the lunch menu offers up the same dishes we had here but all a couple of pounds cheaper.

I'm going as soon as I can and getting a plate of those gorgeous tandoori lamb chops all to myself.

Dabbawal is located on Highbridge Street, Newcastle, 0191 232 5133, and is open 12-2.30pm lunch and 5-10.30pm for dinner. You can visit their website here

1 comment:

  1. Now is this an Indian restaurant or a Bangladeshi as most in Newcastle are?

    It looks fair, if a little overpriced. Two samosas, a handful of green stuff, with something that looks like raspberry sauce which has been squirted from a height from one of those plastic bottles you see on the front of butty vans, for 5p short of £4, seems like a nice earner if you can get it!

    If you want the Rolls Royce of samosas, go to the Madina Food Stores on the corner of Nun's Moor Road and Wingrove Road in Fenham. Fazals sweet Centre in Hadrian Road are good and there is a place in Stanhope Street too.

    Pakistani food - Khans in Heaton used to be the place, Curry Connection in Edinburgh makes the finest Bangladeshi Biryani (two days notice reqd.) Aneesa's (George Street) in South Shields is quite excellent and for £11-95, eat as much as you like is outstanding value.

    Otherwise there is a load of normal Bangladeshi blandness, engineered for the bland English taste, with a couple of spoons of added curry powder for exoticness and daring. remember, Balti is an English invention. It hailed from Wolverhampton.


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