We were invited for an evening of fun Indian dining at Dabbawal. This is how we got on…
Before I started dating my husband, I never really ate Indian food. If I got a takeaway it would always be Chinese, and I’d never go to an Indian restaurant over an Italian restaurant. Now though, times have changed. He introduced me to Indian dining and I’ve never looked back. Although I’m a little bit of a spice wuss (pass me the yoghurt/sour cream!), I’m definitely much better than I used to be.
When we got the invite to visit Dabbawal, my husband was unable to come (final uni deadlines!) so my sister joined me for dinner. Dabbawal has two locations: one in Newcastle city centre and one in Jesmond. We went to the one in Newcastle, it’s really close to the Theatre Royal in Newcastle, and is just off Grey Street on a small street called High Bridge. They’ve just had a huge renovation, so I was excited to pop by.
Dabbawal is a popular street food Indian restaurant, and although you can go and just get a big bowl of curry and rice if you want to, they specialise in small ‘tapas’ dishes so you get to try a range of food in one sitting. Usually, I hate the word tapas. I hear it and I automatically think it equals small plates of overpriced food (which it mostly does), so was unsure what to expect, and what is Indian tapas anyway?
As we entered the restaurant I loved how bright and colourful it was, and the pockets of people sitting round tables. It was pretty busy for a Thursday evening. Good sign.
We took our seats and our waiter was quick to explain the menu to us. It’s split into two sections: Tapas and Starters and Big Eats. There was also a Chef’s Surprise Menu where the chef will choose a selection of dishes for you to try. I usually take ages to decide what to order, so I chose the Chef’s Surprise Menu so the decision would be made for me! My sister opted for the Tapas and Starters part of the menu which suggests you order three tapas dishes, plus one side dish. After a painful decision of what to choose, her choices were Sweet Potato Chaat (thanks Helen for the recommendation!), Jaffrani Salmon and Seekh Kebab Kybria (minced lamb with mixed spices), and a Peshwari Naan as her side dish. (We have a bit of a foodie love affair with peshwaris – anytime we go to an Indian restaurant we always order it).
The drinks menu was just as fun to look at as the main food menu. After my friend Laura raved about the Pistachio Lassi, I decided I had to order it. My sister joined me and got a Coconut and Lime Lassi. (Lassi is the Indian equivalent to a smoothie and is made from yoghurt and fruit).
While we waited for our dishes to arrive we ate poppadoms with dip and sipped on our drinks. After trying each other’s drinks, we admitted we liked each other’s more than our own – so gladly switched! The coconut and lime lassi tasted like a key lime pie in drink form, yum!
Now I know why this is a favourite and gets raved about all the time. (I could just eat some right now). The chutney was smoky and delicious, and barbecued sweet potato chunks are always going to be a winner!
The first dish from the surprise menu was Bombay Bombs. They were so fun and colourful, and the waiter repeatedly told me to ‘EAT IT ALL IN ONE GO’. It was a pretty big pastry parcel. How was I supposed to do it? I did what he said though – he’s the expert. As soon as I popped it into my mouth it immediately collapsed and was stuffed with mashed potato and spices. It was delicious. It would have been incredibly messy if I tried to bite it in half. Thanks to our waiter for the heads up!
My next surprise dish was the Adraki Champeen – a lamb chop marinated in ginger, paprika and black pepper and served with a pomegranate slaw and a delicious potato stack which was sandwiched with mashed sweet potato (genius!).
Can I just take a second to share my appreciation for how beautiful and colourful each dish is?
Next up were my sister’s remaining tapas dishes. On the left is the Seekh Kebab Kybria and on the right is the Jaffrani Salmon. We were impressed with the portion sizes, and the dipping sauce accompaniment kept the dish from being too dry.
As part of the surprise menu I received a selection of grill options – salmon, lamb chop and chicken tikka. I really liked the salmon and how it was seasoned, and appreciated the range of options so I got to taste a little bit of all the best dishes!
By this point I was feeling pretty full. I wondered what else I had ordered. I looked at the description for the Chef’s Surprise Menu and saw it mentioned curries and rice. With all the delicious tapas dishes I had forgotten that there were still more to come! I ordered another drink (a Bombay Lemonade – get it if you go, it was so refreshing!), and prepared for the next few courses.
Our curry dishes included a Lamb Rogan Josh (when I had ordered the Chef’s Surprise Menu the waiter had asked what my spice level was so that I would like all the dishes, so I knew I wasn’t about to get a vindaloo!), cauliflower vegetable curry, pilau rice and butter naan.
Each dish was delicious, the curry was rich and creamy without being too hot, and the baked cauliflower was absolutely lovely and unusual. I must admit though that I couldn’t finish it all, even though I wanted to. So the waiter kindly packed it all up for me to enjoy for lunch the next day (best lunch EVER!)
I think Dabbawal is perfect for a fun date night, dinner with friends or to celebrate a special occasion. The atmosphere was bustling and relaxed, and the service was excellent despite how busy it was. Also, I totally didn’t expect how much food I’d receive with the Chef’s Surprise Menu (I should have read the description more closely!) and think it’s a great option if you’re new to Indian cuisine and want to try a lot of different dishes to figure out what you like. It just goes to show that there’s a lot more to Indian food than a Chicken Korma (although you can order that if you want!) Also, for those wanting gluten-free options, most of the dishes available are gluten-free and the menu is clearly marked with dishes that contain gluten.
Have you been to Dabbawal before? What should we order next time we go?