Hailing from Birmingham – a city with one of the largest Indian populations in the UK – I’ve been lucky enough to try out my fair share of that country’s amazing cuisine, so when Michelin-starred chef Atul Kochhar opened his first fine-dining restaurant in the Middle East – Rang Mahal at JW Marriot Marquis Dubai – I didn’t initially jump to make a reservation; I assumed I’d already experienced some of the best in South Asian cuisine. How wrong I was…
Rang Mahal is split into two sections. The first is a vast bar whose seductive lighting, red walls with black latticework, private alcoves with plush velvet sofas, plump cushions and dark lacquered floor all combine to create a pseudo Indian boudoir experience.
The second section is the restaurant, which is airy and bright in contrast. With a nod to the Rajasthan culture that inspired the restaurant, the interior contains Indian memorabilia including carved stone pillars, statues of deities, and murals depicting local dancers. A chef’s table at the food of the kitchen also allows the most avid of foodies to see how the authentic cuisine is prepared.
With Rang Mahal’s extensive cocktail menu of specially crafted drinks infusing Indian flavours, unwind in the lounge first and slowly introduce your palette to the spices. We recommend the ISHQ (meaning ‘love’ in Hindi), which contains saffron, homemade jasmine essence and bubbly, as an aperitif. If you are in doubt as to what to order, the extremely friendly and knowledge staff will not only help you pick your poison but will also explain the origins of the drink.
Atul Kochhar is a critically acclaimed chef and, as such, his menu not only doesn’t disappoint – it inspires, introducing you to a plethora of original and tantalising dishes. For those worried about the heat of the cuisine, fear not; each dish is tailor-made to your tolerance, using a scale from one to four, with one being extremely mild and four being the spiciest.
We recommend the grazing menu, which you can opt to have paired with wine. This menu allows you to sample an array of dishes on offer, including the line-caught sea bass served in a coconut sauce (meen moilley), the slow-simmered masala lamb (gosht khada masala) and the betel-nut-leaf ice cream. The sides of steamed rice, naan and roti are delicious enough for you to just want to eat them on their own.
Contemporary Indian music is played, but you will barely notice it because the food and drink are the real stars here. So whether the restaurant or bar is busy or empty, you won’t really mind… you’ll be too mesmerised by your culinary journey.
If you’re a fan of Indian cuisine, impeccable service and a modern and chic environment, which attracts an upscale clientele, then this is for you.
The best infused cocktails this side of town, and fine dining without the pretensions.
JW Marriot Marquis
marriott.com, (04) 4143000
The grazing menu costs Dhs300, or Dhs550 with wine pairing.