When I heard there was going to be a licensed, British curryhouse opening soon, I knew I had to go check it out, so I headed down to the Palm with a buddy, to see if Arjee Bhajee (oh, the hilarity!) could deliver on its promise to bring an authentic experience.
It wasn’t what I was expecting inside at all. It looked quite bare, the main features being a few curry puns on the wall, some painted bulldogs and a British pool table in the centre. None of this was a major issue issue for me – but from going to countless restaurants and bar openings over the last year, it’s strange to see a place that’s so low-key visually (but in fairness, what British curryhouses are fitted out immaculately anyway?).
I didn’t get the standard greeting at the door, so after waiting a few moments I wandered inside to the heart of the restaurant where the barman called out to me and got someone to take me outside, where they have a large seating area.
The first thing that struck me when I looked at the menu was the pricing. 30 AED for a beer is extremely good value, especially for The Palm. I remember a few weeks ago, having a dig at an Italian restaurant for not serving any Italian beers with their brunch offering, but these guys have got it spot on with Kingfisher on tap – a perfect, Indian lager to accompany a curry! They also have a range of signature cocktails which range from 30-40 AED. Again, for The Palm, I don’t think you’ll find drinks this reasonably priced anywhere else. If the money they save by not fitting out a restaurant expensively is transferred to the customer, then I’m happy with that!
We kicked off with a couple of starters – the chicken tikka and the samosas. Whilst waiting, we were brought a stack of poppadoms and the standards dips (your chutneys, pickles and raitas) which brought a smile to my face as it’s exactly like I’d get in my local in the UK. The chicken tikka arrived and was tender with a delicious charcoal taste, the samosas were excellent too, they had a crunch, were packed with spice and we both enjoyed dipping them into the raita.
After trying some cocktails (the “Spiced Mojito” and “Spring Fisher” both excellent, the “Vodka Lassi” nauseating) it was curry time! We kept it traditional and opted for a Chicken Tikka Masala (which in hindsight I don’t know why we ordered as we had Chicken Tikka starter!), the Lamb Rogan Josh with sides of Naan Bread, Aloo Gobi and Basmati Rice. I’d have liked to see a few more options on the menu if I’m being critical though, as I do love a good “Pasanda” and “Bhuna”!
The curries arrived in copper pots, placed on top of candle heaters on the table which again, gave it a nice, authentic British curryhouse touch. The naans came plated and the rice came in a sharing pot in the center.
The main difference between a traditional British curry to an Indian curry is that the former tend to be thicker, creamier and sweeter and this was definitely on show in the dishes. The Lamb Rogan Josh had a pungent, spicy aroma and a beautiful taste, the lamb fell apart in my mouth, the sauce was sweet, spicy and thick and it really was an accurate representation of what you’d expect from a UK joint. The Chicken Tikka Masala followed suit – again, rich, creamy and delicious. The Aloo Gobi was also very tasty, the cauliflower retaining a perfect amount of crunch and the dish containing good levels of flavour and spice.
My only disappointment with the dinner was the naan bread. I’m not sure if they’re made in-house as they looked a little too small and perfectly-shaped, they also were quite dense inside. My favourite curryhouse at home, Akbar’s serves their naans like this and it would be epic if they could do something similar (although my wife disagrees about hanging food!):
We didn’t fancy dessert so we settled up, both really happy with our experience. The price point is fantastic for an area notoriously expensive like The Palm so the fact that they serve a decent, authentic, British curry alongside 30 AED, refreshing Indian lager means I’m sure that when the word gets out, it’s going to be a firm favourite for Brits in the vicinity to drop down with their partners / friends for a cheap, but good-quality, authentic meal.
Chicken Tikka: 25 AED
Vegetable Samosa (5): 20 AED
Lamb Rogan Josh: 50 AED
Chicken Tikka Masala: 50 AED
Aloo Gobi: 15 AED
Naan: (I can’t remember but was around 10/15) AED
4 x Kingfishers: 120 AED
2 x Cocktails: 70 AED
TOTAL: 365 ish.
FOOD: 13.5/15 – For the price point and its promise to offer an authentic British Curry experience, the food was excellent. Flavoursome, all the meat perfectly cooked. Only losing marks for the naan.
SERVICE: 10/15 – A little inattentive at times to say the place was quiet (sat with empty drinks a couple of times with nobody around), but staff were polite enough and the food was brought out at a good pace.
DRINKS SELECTION: 4/5 – They do a very well priced, good Indian lager that goes down well with curries and for the kind of place it is and the fact they have signature cocktails and 30 AED wines too, I think it’s good!
AMBIANCE: 2.5/5 – Sadly, it was very quiet (although it was a Monday night). They have some decent British music playing in the background to cut through the silence, but they need to get more people through the door to give atmosphere.
DESIGN: 3/5 – It’s no frills, but I’d much rather see the costs saved on not having an expensive fit-out be translated to the menu prices – which they are. So for what they’ve done with the place, it’s functional and does the job.
VALUE: 5/5 – You really can’t go wrong with the pricing for the location. It’s a stones throw away from Club Vista Mare where I’d expect to pay more than double for the same sort of offering.
TOTAL: 38/50 – It’s not the finished article by any means, but my guest and I were both pleasantly surprised at the quality of the food and the authenticity of the whole experience. It’s fantastic value for money and a perfect place for a midweek curry and a couple of well-priced beers after work, or a great place to meet to catch up with a group of mates. I think other Brits like me will love it!