x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

A touch of spice

Kababs & Kurries offers a large choice of dishes in sleek, colourful surroundings.

Kababs & Kurries is a sleek, smart-looking place, tucked away in a corner at The Souk at Central Market.__________________________________________________ RESTAURANT REVIEW POINTER

The restaurant occupies a small space, which feels pleasantly compact rather than cramped. The lighting is warm and subtle, green and red napkins add splashes of colour and a glass wall offers a view into the kitchen.

 

The restaurant was empty when we visited early one Wednesday evening. This is never ideal, but equally it doesn't have to be a problem. It did seem odd, though, that the staff seemed unprepared when we arrived: the air conditioning was set to arctic, background music only struck up midway through the starters and, soon after that, someone walked straight through the middle of the restaurant, mop and bucket in hand.

After we were seated and given a menu, the manager disappeared behind a counter, leaving us alone for quite some time. After 10 minutes or so, my friend approached him and asked if we could order a bottle of water and a few poppadoms.

The menu is lengthy and as the name suggests, the main courses are divided into sections (kebabs and curries), with a good selection of vegetarian dishes. We began by sharing the dahi ke kabab - spiced vegetable and hung curd (yoghurt) patties. These were nice - pleasantly charred, vibrant-green discs, crusty on the outside, soft, smooth and flavoursome in the centre. Had they been served with a raita or chutney accompaniment, they would have been even better. As it was, the dish was rather dry, even after we made good use of a wedge of lemon. Our second starter, murg adraki was nowhere near as good. Chicken drumsticks had been battered and deep-fried and although golden and crisp, both the meat and batter were bland. What made them rather unpleasant to eat, though, was the layer of chicken skin between the batter and the flesh. It was flabby and puckered and I'm still baffled as to why the chef didn't remove it before cooking.

I'm afraid that the service, which was awkward and inconsistent, also hindered our enjoyment of the meal. We were the only diners and for much of the meal, we were closely watched by five members of staff (including two men dressed in chefs' uniforms) who positioned themselves in a cluster at the opposite side of the room, which didn't exactly make for a relaxed dining experience. What surprised me even more, though, was that after delivering our food, at no point during the meal did anyone return to the table to check on us. After we finished our starters, the table was only half cleared, with a bowl containing a pile of clearly discarded chicken bones left to linger in the middle.

For her main course my friend ordered the Hyderabadi biryani, which was served in a clay pot. The rice was speckled with soft, golden onions and was nicely spiced, with hints of cinnamon and saffron and the thin gravy that was served on the side was fragrant with a faint buttery richness to it. The hunks of meat that were hidden within weren't particularly succulent, though, and while it was a passable dish, it certainly wasn't a biryani to remember (you know the type - the moment the pastry seal is cut, the air is immediately filled with the aroma of exotic spices and you know you're on to something special).

I plumped for the lamb boti kebab and was disappointed to find that despite the menu stating that it had been marinated in yoghurt and spices for 24 hours, the meat was tough, really rather chewy and not particularly tasty. The spice paste coating, meanwhile, had a very astringent aftertaste, which I think was due to an excess of coriander powder. A side order of garlic naan was fine, if a little on the heavy side and not particularly warm.

The dessert menu wasn't initially offered to us. We asked to look at it and planned to order kulfi and gulab jamun. However, as the minutes ticked by and the table remained littered with main course debris, we began to feel abandoned and eventually decided to cut our losses, seek out the manager and ask for the bill. This was a frustrating end to an edible, if not particularly memorable, meal.

A meal for two at Kababs & Kurries, The Souk at Central Market, Abu Dhabi costs Dh245 (not including dessert). To book call 02 628 2522. Reviewed meals are paid for by The National and reviews are conducted incognito.