Last week Hector was contacted by Julia from Hotels PR inviting me to return to The Dhabba (44 Candleriggs, Glasgow, G1 1LE) and review their – New Menu. Hector is always happy to accept such invitations. Previous visits to The Dhabba have not particularly impressed, Curry-Heute describes a not too pleasant food experience on my last visit. That was three years ago.
A table was arranged on my behalf for two at 20.00. Marg and Hector were punctual, finding a parking spot in the Merchant City was not a problem on a Monday evening. The Calling Card was presented to the Waitress who greeted us then passed it up the chain until it reached the top. We were escorted to a table mid room adjacent to the Bar. The Newspaper-style Menus were already on the table.
Drinks were taken care of first, a litre Bottle of Sparkling Water (£4.95) would be sufficient. This is our standard refreshment, there was no temptation to stray from this despite being here – By Invitation.
Mein Host, Pete (Peet?), introduced himself then withdrew. I suggested to Marg that we order two Starters and share, one from the Starters section and one from the Chaat Pakodi. Pete approached once again, I asked what Dishes were new to the Menu. I would need to have videoed the following moments to be accurate here. He did state that there will be a re-print of the Menu imminently, perhaps Marg and Hector had accepted our invitation too timeously? I noted the seductively described Raan-e-Sikandra (£21.95) was still there, the ill-fated Achari Gosht had been dropped. One day I will have the Raan-e-Sikandra – Leg of Lamb cooked with dark rum, herbs and spices. We would take our time to study the descriptions of the Dishes, Bhuna Gosht (£14.95) was the only Mainstream Curry at first glance. By bringing Marg this evening, I knew she would either choose a Dish I would never consider, or else she would have – what I nearly had.
When we were ready Mein Host took our Order, no pen, paper or electronic device employed here. To begin the Tawa Macchi (£7.95) – Pan-fried fillet of sea bass with subtle hints of carom. Fresh and enlightening. Carom (Ajwain) was a new Seed to encounter. To accompany this, we would commemorate our first ever Lunch in India served at the Maidens Hotel (New Delhi) – Dahi Bhalla (£5.95) – Spheres of lentils stacked in well-spiced sweet yoghurt. Savoury fresh and tantalising. This was a Cold selection from the Chaat Pakodi.
We had five Lamb Dishes to choose from, my eyes were drawn to Diwani Handi (£14.95) – Lamb on the bone, with aromatics & spices. Slow and fulfilling. A Handi, on-the-bone, served north of the river. This had to the Hector Curry. I noted the – one chilli – rating then wondered if Marg had noticed the Methi Murg (£13.95), not that she has ever lowered herself to ordering a – Chicken Curry, but – Methi? Mmmmm. Had this been available in – Lamb – then it may have tempted. Dhania Gosht (£14.95) – Lamb simmered with coriander. Fragrant, smooth and silky. Actually, how would Marg resist – Coriander?
Pete had drawn our attention earlier to Bhoora Chawal (£4.45) – Steamed brown rice. Full of fibre. We have never been served Brown Rice in an Indian Restaurant before. I occasionally resort to this at home when Basmati does not inspire. Finally, the one thing that almost impressed on my last visit to The Dhabba – Lacchedar Paratha (£3.75) – Whole-wheat, buttery, flaky, multi-layered.
I gave my usual caveat:
Can you please ensure that no Capsicum appears anywhere at any time?
Mein Host confirmed that Peppers were not in our chosen Dishes, indeed the Bhuna Gosht is the only Dish that specifically mentions them, but one never knows.
Moments later he returned to ask if I was allergic to – Bell Peppers.
No, I just cannot stand them in Curry.
I’m a great, big, persistent, old Hector.
The front page of the Menu has a footer: Complimentary Poppadoms – Poppadoms and dips are served with all à la carte orders. These arrived moments after our Order had been given. The size of the Poppadoms amused, these – Microdoms – impressed. Cumin Seeds were embedded, Standard across Europe, but rare in the UK and so much more Flavour than Plain Poppadoms. Mango Chutney and a Yoghurt Dip accompanied, Tamarind would have completed the reminiscences of Euro-Curry.
Starters – Chaat Pakodi
Marg took about a Quarter of the Sea Bass which was just as well, I would not have been left with much otherwise. I have quoted prices so far, without comment. Had I been expected to pay Eight Quid for this I might have had something to say. Hector recognises that at Yadgar across the river, The Company are spoiled when when we present ourselves – to be fed. The Scottish Haddock / Salmon served to us there is Substantial, sets a Standard, and is Virtually Inclusive. In comparison, this Tawa Macchi was but a Soupçon. The Merchant City, pay more, get less?
The first taste took me surprise, almost a sense of – not quite right. The Carom, something new. Hector is till learning. A subtle – Smoky Flavour – came across, then the Spice kicked in, getting better.
Marg’s initial reaction was – too much Yoghurt. When she cut open a Lentil Sphere she remembered our first meal last year in New Delhi. By the time I had helped myself, the Yoghurt Quantity looked appropriate. Cold and Wet, this is not our Normal Fayre, something happened. We both realised that the combination we had brought together on our plate had acquired a certain – Synergy. Yoghurt and Fish, who would have thought? This was Superb.
In terms of Quantity, we had also consumed enough to leave space for whatever would follow.
Mein Host cleared the table.
How was it? – he asked.
Our pleasure was related and the fact that the Dahi Bhalla was our first Dish on Indian soil.
Did it look the same? – he asked. Judge for yourself.
There was a suitable gap. I counted twenty fellow diners this Monday evening, two were Solo. The linear nature of the Restaurant is such that people do not have to sit on top of each other. Marg spotted another area on the far side of the Bar, The Dhabba is an L-shaped room. Founded in 2002, this venue gives off the vibe of being a Contemporary Restaurant. There are no tablecloths, of course, the Menu is different. Open Monday – Friday: 12.00 – 14.00 & 17.00 – 23.00; Saturday & Sunday: 13.00 – 23.00. The early evening – Half-price Mains – offer appears to have been replaced by an – Early Diner’s – Teaser Menu (£11.95). I might never experience Raan-e-Sikandari.
Hot plates suggested food was about to arrive. The Waiter announced each of the Meat Dishes. The Masala in the Dhania Gosht had a definite – Green Hue, the Diwani Handi more like Tomato Soup.
The Bhoora Chawal was – white. This puzzled, how long does one have to cook Brown Rice to get it this colour? It was appreciably different from the ubiquitous Basmati. Marg helped herself and left what she thought was enough for Hector. We had enough to share, just.
Last time my Lacchedar Paratha was served – halved, tonight it came quartered. I must employ my own script and remind myself to ask for Bread to be served – whole.
I have observed in recent months more and more venues making Parathas from Whole-wheat Flour and not the Lighter Flour I have become used to. One knows these Parathas will eventually turn to – Crisp. On tearing a piece apart I could see the hoped for Layering and sense of Flakiness. As anticipated the Flakes turned slightly Crispy as our meal progressed. Still, this was better than many.
Handi – can be anything Chef desires, one is therefore at his mercy. It can be the – Standout Dish – on the Menu.
The Meat count was nine, every piece was on-the-bone. The Masala was Standard, Blended, and not Excessive. Soup – this was not. Having carefully arranged the Meat and some Masala over the Rice it was time to Dip some Paratha. Oh!
There was an attack of Flavour on the palate, and not the one I expected. Cinnamon – came to mind first, then a slight Smokiness. This was – North Indian Cuisine? I would have placed this much further south in the Subcontinent.
Meanwhile across the table…
There had been no skimping on the Herbs here, the Masala was exactly what Hector seeks, a Herb-rich Masala, not a Mass of Herbs masquerading as a Masala. I dipped a piece of Paratha into Marg’s Dish…. I know this! The Outstanding Flavour was identical to the Handi Gosht served across the river at Ambala Deli Bar. (Someone should create a – Family Tree – of Chefs’ movements around the City.)
I’m getting more Meat than you are – was Marg’s first observation; this was self evident. Marg was then worried that since the Curry was served in crockery rather than the customary metal, it would cool too quickly. No more was said on this as Marg made great progress, she was hungry.
Mine is excellent! – was the following remark.
One could not deny this, she had copious Tender Lamb in a Herb-rich Masala pitched at a sensible, Medium Spice Level. Marg also found the Paratha to be complementing her Dhania Gosht more than the Rice. Having witnessed many a crime committed in the name of Paratha, she appreciated the – Layering – and found tonight’s to be much – Lighter – in Texture than many we have encountered. Hector still seeks – Soft & Flaky.
Marg ate all but one piece of Meat, this was for me, later. Marg was finished, Hector was still taking care with the Diwandi Handi.
Diwani Handi – continued
Here comes my only criticism of our visit this evening, a warning possibly: Splinters. Meat on-the-bone is always recommended over – Boneless, the extra Flavour is Significant even when, as in this evening, one receives visibly less Meat than the Boneless counterpart. I had to take special care this evening, there were many small fragments of bone, Splinters that one could only discern once they were – in the mouth. Once you know they are present it’s not a huge issue, but one could be taken by surprise and do damage. I believe this was why Hari at Punjabi Charing Cross abandoned Venison Curry. I have never experienced this in Lamb before to this extent. I will always order Lamb Curry on-the-bone when available, regardless.
I alternated between Rice and Masala, Paratha dipped in Masala, and Lamb on-the-bone. Fingers had to be employed. One Green Cardamom was encountered then two small dark red solids – Anise! Cancel – Cinnamon. Usually it is Cloves which give the dominant aromatic Flavour, this was definitely Aniseed. I shall be putting more of this in Hector’s Home-cooked Curry in future. The – single chilli – rating on the Menu was justified. Marg commented that we had not been asked about Spice Level. The Menu had set this with the graphics. The Seasoning was at a level one would hope for, through this and the Lamb on-the-bone, we had a Rich Melange of Flavour. Regular Readers will know how often I report on Curry that has nothing distinctive to offer whatsoever, then there’s the Big Spice Hits, the Mono-Flavour venues…. the Diwani Handi at The Dhabba was full of Flavours, as Curry should be, just not the ones I was expecting!
In the midst of the above Mein Host was across to engage us.
Blindfolded, I would have picked the Dhania as the Handi – I informed him. The Curry on-the-bone tastes as if it came from The South.
How far south? – Pete asked. Marg and Hector have been to the North of India plus Sri Lanka. Goa / Tamil Nadu next time. One day I may answer this question precisely.
You have just missed Marg describing her Curry as – Excellent – I informed him. If she says it, it is.
I then had to mention Ambala. I can no longer describe the – Ambala Taste – as unique.
Finally, I ate the last piece of Boneless Lamb with a scrape of the Dhania Masala. I will certainly come back for this.
Was that alright? – asked the waiter who cleared the table.
It was much better than – alright.
We were offered Dessert but declined, the Curryspondents will know both reasons:
If I had room for Dessert I would have eaten more Curry.
I wish to depart with a lingering Savoury Flavour on the palate, not Sweet.
Two White Coffees were arranged – as Hot as you can make them.
The Super-Hot Coffee completed Marg’s night, almost; Marg still had another duty to perform. The ritual photos had to be taken, the discussion with Mein Host continued.
Do you like Spicy Curry? I was asked.
I told the story of how I came to eat Curry from an early age and so can manage whatever is served up.
Medium with a Kick – is the Spice Level I seek to embrace.
Pete told me he likes to bite into a whole Green Chilli and let the sensation hit his palate, one which lasts for a few mouthfuls, then repeat. I described the bowls of Fresh Coriander and Chopped Green Chillies in the Manchester Curry Cafes where one can help oneself, thus regulate the Spice Intensity of what one eats. We finished by listing the non-Indian Curry Dishes which appear on British Menus: Vindaloo, Balti, South Indian Chilli whatever.… ironically, these British Dishes are appearing on Menus in Restaurants…in India.
Our thanks to all concerned with making tonight possible. Who’s next?