Featured image: my favourite dish from the menu, the Bombay Bomb. Credit: Dabbawal
For the new year, I’ve decided to branch out from exclusively travel writing because as a university student I am unsurprisingly not doing that much travelling currently. UK travel (to Newcastle, which is down the road from me) is as good is it’s going to get. I could probably do with writing about something, anyway. So here goes, my first restaurant review…
Overall experience: 9
Veggie friendliness: 8
Our order: Poppadoms, followed by (in no particular order) Bhel Puri, Ragda Pattice, Bombay Bomb, Vegetable Samosa Chaat, Sweet Potato Chaat, Vada Pao, and Lentil Battered Okra. I had a sweet mango lassi on the side, and we shared a bottle of Pinot Grigio.
I’m just going to come right out and say it: Dabbawal is probably one of my favourite restaurants that I’ve ever been to.
That might be significantly influenced by the fact that it is essentially an Indian streetfood restaurant, and Indian streetfood is my favourite kind of food, so as long as they did what it says on the tin then it was always going to be up there. However, credit to them for doing what it says on the tin so very, very well. They won the accolade of UK’s Best Casual Dining Restaurant at the 2015 British Curry Awards, and all credit to them for doing so.
I was taken to this restaurant last term as a surprise birthday treat by my boyfriend (who got a lot of boyfriend points for doing so), and judging by how busy it was I would definitely recommend booking if you’ve got your heart set on going there. We were shown to our table very quickly, and talked through the menu by our waiter. The tables felt a little bit cramped together, probably to cope with the high level of demand, but this is quickly forgotten once the food begins to arrive.
Dabbawal does a range of different options. You can just treat it as a regular Indian restaurant and order curry or tandoor, which friends have said is also incredible, but what we did is ordered exclusively from the tapas menu. I would really recommend this.
They suggest getting 3 tapas and 1 side per person, but we had other ideas about how much we could eat – so instead we got poppadoms to start and then 7 tapas to split. This was a good decision. I can’t even choose one in particular to eulogise about because they were all so incredible. However, I would definitely recommend trying the Bombay Bomb, Dabbawal’s take on the ubiquitous Indian streetfood Pani Puri. In India you generally have to steer clear of this treat (‘pani’ means water in Hindi, and water in general should be avoided unless you have an particular desire for Delhi belly), so definitely take the opportunity to try it! It’s an incredible mouthful of flavour: thin, fried shells of dough, filled with sharp onions and zesty-sweet water. Quite a challenge to eat gracefully as they are quite large and tend to be eaten in one bite, but well worth it.
There were just so many flavours and textures across the table, from the sweet, light and crunchy Bhel Puri, to the fierce spiciness of the chutneys, to the familiar comfort of the Vegetable Samosa Chaat. Salty and creamy and hot and delicious. However, be a little bit careful if you don’t like spice – make sure you get something alongside your meal which will soothe your tastebuds, like a sweet lassi (a thick, yogurty drink). Wine will also work: we got through our bottle very speedily.
By the end of the meal I couldn’t even manage one more mouthful: it was such a battle towards the end between being completely stuffed, but also not wanting to leave any of it. Perhaps a good piece of advice would be to underestimate how much you can eat: you can always order more! Altogether it was a fantastic experience, and I could hardly recommend it more.
If you’re intrigued by the sound of this fantastic food, why not try out this recipe for Bhel Puri supplied by Dabbawal for Appetite mag: http://www.appetitemag.co.uk/dabbawal-bhel-puri/