Dhaba By Claridges, as I am sure everyone knows by now, is a new funked up franchise of the very popular Claridges Hotel. I say funked up coz the interiors have taken the essence of a roadside Dhaba and added the colour of a Karan Johar movie and the coolth of a Tarantino flick. I mean coloured cutting chai glasses as chandeliers, ‘theka’ styled steel grills hiding single malts, the interiors itself are worth the price of admission.
Over to the menu now and at first glance it seems like any other North Indian restaurant however Corporate Chef Ravi Saxena, who very graciously accompanied us, told how each dish has been carefully thought of, keeping actual roadside ‘dhabas’ in mind. Like authentic dhaba food, dishes here are freshly prepared and served and certain dishes once finished, will not be prepared again in true dhaba style.
You cannot visit this place without trying their cocktails that are named after desi ‘tharras’. They come in brilliant little ‘tharra’ bottles along with salt and spice laced glasses to pour your drink in and are they delicious or what! I had almost all of them and I would highly recommend the ‘Santari’, ‘Toofan’ and ‘Narangi’ (although all others were equally brilliant). If you want to know what is in these drinks, go try for yourself.
Coming to the food, we started with a mix of veg and non veg fare like Veg galouti kebabs, Tandoori Bhune Aloo, Dhaba Murgh roast, Dhaba Prawns and Tawa Mutton.
Veg galouti was absolutely sublime and as the Chef said it did not contain any of the traditional ingredients (like rajma) used elsewhere for galoutis. Just everyday vegetables mixed with the right kind of spices.
Tandoori Bhune Aloo were a revelation because they were so perfectly roasted. It reminded me of top London Restaurants serving fantastic roast potatoes cooked in goose fat. They came with a saunth chutney and more importantly that sprinkling of fresh onions and tomatoes, Dhaba style.
Dhaba murgh roast and the Prawns were again great but the best starter was Tawa Mutton. Fantastic pieces of perfectly cooked mutton and an amazingly light (uncommon for meat dishes) and flavourful curry. This dish was truly the work of a master chef.
In between the starters and the mains, the Dhaba staff did a jig on ‘Badtameez Dil’ and I was just one ‘Santari’ shy of joining them. Much to everyone’s relief I did not.
The mains included Butter Chicken, Dal Dhaba, Amritsari Chole , Balti Meat, Kanastari Baingan Bharta (Chef’s specal recommendations) and a magnificent Chicken Pulao.
Now, the Butter chicken and Daal were expectedly great but the Baingan ka Bharta was drool-worthy. It was the best I’ve ever had (Sorry mom) and its genius lies in its simplicity.
The Balti meat was again great and a special mention has to be given to the amount of meat that this dish has. A carnivores wet dream I say (Hows that for a South Indian reference).
I really loved the Chole too especially that tamarind water accompaniment, which elevated it to greatness.
This is one of those few places where I categorically did not miss non vegetarian food at all and I never thought it will be possible.
My stomach still had space for desserts, (not kidding) and they did not disappoint. The phirni was wow!. It might be a tad sweeter than most places but I like that more (Sorry Karims). The Badam Halwa was outstanding and so were the Gulab Jamuns but I genuinely think I had great Rasmalai after aeons. Soft, ‘chenadaar’ and subtly sweet, I was a bite away from a proposal (No really!!).
Finally our meal was topped of with a ‘Panditji’ ka special meetha paan, reminding us of the restaurant’s roots.
There is also a very cool weighing machine at the entrance that gives away your fortune by placing coins in it ( Don’t worry the coins are provided by the restaurant).
I think Dhaba by Claridges is a phenomenal restaurant where food, ambience and mood create a very unique blend. It is a place you are going to go repeatedly and puts a smile on your face. When was the last time you visited a restaurant like that?
Review by: Mayank
Photo Credit: Team Shivangi Reviews