25 Degrees North Restaurant

Adding to Dubai’s regional Indian eateries, 25 Degrees North opened in TECOM late last year, specialising in cooking from the northern provinces of the country. First impressions as my companion and I walked through the door weren’t that promising: the greeting from staff was reasonably welcoming, although the aroma that greeted us at the door wasn’t. ‘Curry makes people sweat,’ my friend charitably pointed out. In fairness, we did become less aware of it as the evening rolled on. The restaurant itself was modestly sized, with an unusually asymmetric – and therefore interesting – shape. Classical columns in sandy shades and large chandelier-like black light fittings seemed a little ostentatious, and hinted at an ambition towards a more fine-dining standard of decoration. The back wall of the restaurant was attractively clad in stone and dedicated to an almost open kitchen, with a long thin window allowing diners to spy on the chefs. Behind us, the wall was decorated with imitation stone reliefs of famous monuments of the owner’s home town, Delhi – my friend, who had visited the city, instantly recognised them, though they looked a little tacky up close. Overall, the decor suggested that the restaurant was attempting to punch slightly above its weight. An elegant-looking menu arrived, and I was surprised to find that most of the dishes on offer were the usual suspects at most Indian restaurants. Only very few of the dishes were mentioned as specialities from the north. However, despite the fancy aspirations of the surroundings, I was pleasantly surprised to find the food was entirely affordable, averaging about Dhs30 per dish. We decided to start with the jal jeera, a north Indian lemonade made with mint and cumin. We were, however, dissuaded by the waiter who, in a thoughtful display of great service, explained that while Indians thoroughly enjoyed this drink, he was concerned it wouldn’t be to our taste and offered us a small sample first. He was right: the drink was far too peppery and strong for our palates, so we opted for a plain sweet lassi each, which were good. We started with the murgh saffrani tikka (chicken marinated in saffron yoghurt), one of the extensive list of kebab dishes which – granted – were very northern. In the meantime we happily munched on poppadoms and the selection of fruit chutneys that arrived at the table. The kebab followed swiftly and was an enjoyable dish of juicy, moist chicken with a subtle yet clear saffron flavour. We also tried the ghara gosht, a curry of large, tender chunks of lamb in a thick and pleasant but not overly inspiring gravy. The dal makhani was made with a mix of black lentils and beans, which gave it a very interesting and distinct flavour, both buttery and nutty, with a taste akin to wild rice. Sadly, I wasn’t keen on the sauce, which had a sweet, ketchup-like edge. The palak paneer (cottage cheese cooked in spinach) had a vibrant appearance, with the appetising mix of clean white and minty green colours. It was creamy, classic and the better dish of the three. The impression is that 25 Degrees North envisions itself as an above-average (perhaps even elegant) and specialist northern Indian restaurant; it’s actually a pleasant and affordable neighbourhood Indian. If you go expecting the latter, you’ll be in for a nice meal indeed. The bill (for two) 1x chicken saffron kebab Dhs36 1x palak paneer Dhs33 1x dal makhani Dhs29 1x ghara gosht Dhs42 1x plain naan Dhs6 1x romali roti Dhs6 1x steam rice Dhs15 2x lassi Dhs24 1x large water Dhs10 Total (excluding service) Dhs201

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