Yabba Dhabba Do
The Dhabba in Glasgow's Merchant City has a new menu, designed to look like a newspaper, to celebrate both 70 years of Indian independence and 15 years of The Dhabba (opened in 2002). It's also a rare menu change as we were told that this is the first time in 7 years and only the third time in 15 years that it's been amended, surely that's a testament to a winning formula?
The new newspaper design tells you that a dhabba is a family-run roadside diner where local delicacies with closely guarded recipes can be eaten. In this instance, The Dhabba is the glass-fronted restaurant at ground level on the corner of Bell St and Candleriggs, opposite Merchant Square where these flavours are brought to a Glasgow audience.
Inside, The Dhabba is non-cluttered, modern and minimalist, harking back to older times through the use of tiled pattern flooring and pillars, say a confluence of eastern and western styles perhaps? It's mainly hard surfaces, squares and right angles etc., so it could perhaps do with some plants to break it up a bit. But enough about the decor as we were here for the food!
Our waiter guided us through the menu (view them all here), making helpful suggestions as we had no idea what to have, as you see, The Dhabba specialises in authentic North Indian cuisine, so there's no chicken tikka masala for sale here!
We also ordered a bottle of Costa Vera Merlot from Chile (£18.95 bottle / £4.95 175ml / £6.75 250ml) which is a soft, sweet, fruity wine with light acidity and jammy flavour. Importantly it was a pleasantly easy to drink wine.
Mini poppadom crisps served with a sweet coriander (and mango?) chutney, and a kebab sauce were brought out while we waited for our food. This was a moreish snack but be warned that the heat sneaks up on you!
The Papdi Chatt (£4.95) was a gently spiced dish of potatoes and chickpeas. The flavours were light and refreshing. This was a welcome alternative to Pakora and this is vegetarian but contains gluten.
Our other starter was Bhel Puri (£5.95), a popular Indian street food, which we first tried in Babu Bombay Kitchen a few years back. This is a combination of puffed rice, sev (crunchy noodles made from chickpeas), potato and mango in a spicy tamarind dressing (it also included coriander, cucumber, pomegranate, nuts and fresh tomato). It is often hot and spicy...very hot and spicy sometimes! This version, while the spicier of our two starters, was quite moderate. This dish is also vegetarian but contains gluten and nuts.
Both starters were tasty and contrasted nicely.
Dum Pukht is a style of cooking that aims to retain the foods' natural flavours through slow cooking in a sealed pot. It is a Dhabba house specialty. We chose Bemmisal Handi (£16.95), a Dum Pukht dish of tandoori chicken, which is not marinated but instead cooked on skewers before going into a slow-cooked pot and finished with a smooth sweet sauce of tomato and fragrant cardamom. Mild and delicately flavoured, this would please any korma or tikka masala lover being light and creamy. You could also taste the flavours of turmeric, almond and cardamom. Note that this dish contains gluten, dairy and nuts.
Laal Maas (£14.95) is lamb cooked with chillies, sweetened with caramelised onions, and tamed with yoghurt. The result is a dish of tender lamb dish full of chilli flavour but although it was marked with two chillies on the menu, it's one that won’t blow your head off. This also contains dairy.
As accompaniments, we had a Lacchedar Paratha (£3.75), a whole-wheat (so contains gluten) and flaky bread which made a nice change from the ubiquitous naan, and a bowl of Jeera Chawal (£3.95), a cumin-spiced basmati rice, which managed to both look and taste great.
When it came to puddings we had to have the classic that is Gulab Jamun (£3.45) Two glistening syrup-soaked spheres accompanied by two matching spheres of ice cream. What can I say? The gulabs were hot and sweet, the ice cream contrastingly cold. Just the way it should be.
Our other pudding was a pretty tower of rich creamy Malai Kulfi (£3.45), which was light and simple dessert with a cardamom and pistachio taste and flaky halva consistency and mouthfeel.
The Dhabba provides something a bit different from the typical Indian restaurant in Glasgow as the dishes may not be ones you are familiar with, intentionally. This is not a place for "classic curries" but somewhere to recreate the flavours of the small Northern Indian eateries from which The Dhabba takes its name. The food was tamer than we were expecting, considering we had one of the dishes marked with two chillies, but extra spice can probably be added on request. The food was still aromatic and flavoursome so we both had a great meal and I enjoyed it a lot more than my first visit 8 whole years ago but I still feel that their sister restaurant, Dakhin, which specialises in South Indian cuisine, has the upper hand for its wonderful bread and multi-layered flavours but it's great to have a choice between authentic north and south Indian cuisine a one minute walk away from each other on the same street - it's not quite Brick Lane but Candleriggs and Albion Street on the other side of the block have some of the best Indian restaurants in Glasgow so if you're looking for an Indian meal in Glasgow and don't have a reservation then this is the area to head to!
Note that the Dhabba and Dakhin are both listed in the Michelin guide.
Service was impeccable with friendly chat and courses brought out in a timely manner. Toilets were checked and were very clean but the music was so loud I thought I'd walked into a nightclub!
+ Dishes that you might not find anywhere else in Glasgow
+ Top service
+ Nice wine for the price
+ Toilets clean
+ Great location
- Not quite as good as the Dakhin based on my visits
- Really loud music in the toilets
Monday to Friday: 12pm - 2pm & 5pm - 11pm
Saturday & Sunday: 1pm - 11pm
Telephone: 0141 553 1249
Dhabba, 44 Candleriggs, Merchant City, Glasgow G1 1LD
Both High Street (Queen Street low level) and Argyle Street (Central low-level) are a 5 min walk away. Queen St and Central are both just over 10 mins away.
A number of buses stop at the bottom of Candleriggs (e.g. First #2).
There is also a nextbike station around the corner on Bell St.
Disclaimer: We were invited to the Dhabba to try some dishes to celebrate the launch of their new menu. Fred sez that we iz good guys so you can trust our review.