For Indians across the world, Diwali is synonymous with LED decorations, fairy lights, diyas lining window sills, bursting crackers with friends and family and partying until the small hours. But of all these things, it’s the feast that grabs the spotlight. Diwali is the day – and happily this year, the weekend – when the diet goes out the window and good food sparks off the festivities.
But if you’re too busy to cook, head to one of the top Indian restaurants offering mouth-watering festive menus. You’ll be sure of a dazzling and delicious Diwali.
Antique Bazaar, Four Points by Sheraton, Bur Dubai
Nestled in the heart of Old Dubai, Antique Bazaar is true to its name. The interiors are a throwback to Mughal grandeur, and its ornateness is a mishmash of royal heritage. The distinctive Indian character is amped up by live music. But we’re here to talk food, and in this too, Antique Bazaar stands out. No doubt it’s pulling out all the stops for Diwali. From the sweet-and-sour laccha salad to stuffed green peppers, chicken in a black pepper shorba, dum-cooked mutton kofta and the evergreen moong dal ka halwa, a regal spread awaits. Dh125-Dh150 per person (veg/non-veg). Available on November 11. Call 04 397 7444.
Ananta, The Oberoi, Dubai
The Oberoi group is an official training ground when it comes to Indian cuisine, and boasts a star-studded alumni including Atul Kochhar, Vineet Bhatia, and Vivek Singh. So it’s only fitting that the Dubai hotel’s flagship Indian restaurant has inspired an entourage of foodie fans who rave about its stellar North Indian cuisine. Ananta’s award-winning dishes are the kind that transport you to the chaotic, aroma-filled alleyways of Old Delhi with every spoonful. The Diwali line-up is traditional, with surprising twists – think guava and watermelon cooked with spices, oven-baked duck with khoya and nuts, and rose kheer. Sit close enough to the restaurant’s spectacular show kitchen, and we promise, it will be a Diwali night to remember. Dh395 per person. Available from November 5-12. Call 04 444 1407.
Mahec, Le Méridien Dubai
Around four years ago, Mahec – or Modern Authentic Hindustani Evolved Cuisine – opened with great fanfare and even greater expectations. And it seems to not have disappointed – the sophisticated Indian restaurant has been racking up fab reviews for its unique take on desi food. Naturally, we’re hoping its Diwali menu will melt hearts. If you’re going green, we recommend the tart achari gobi for starters, before you move on to the green pepper ka pulao and paneer in various preparations. Meat eaters are in for a pan-Indian treat with the lamb seekh gilafi, cooked covered, which gives it a distinct flavour, and a Hyderabadi keema matar. What’s not to like? Dh139-Dh159 per person (veg/non-veg), available on November 11. Call 04 702 2615.
Flow Kitchen, Fairmont the Palm
Along drive to Fairmont the Palm is a fantastic way to build your appetite on D day. The weather will be glorious, fingers crossed, and the skyline is stunning at night, so it’s worth booking a table outdoors for a truly dazzling evening. While Flow Kitchen serves food from across half the globe—it’s a Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and Asian cuisine restaurant – this Diwali is dedicated to Indian food. You’re promised an authentic experience with diyas and Rangoli – traditional decorative floor patterns in vibrant colours - and live chaat, dessert and beverage (cutting chai, anyone?) stations. The menu is huge but we can vouch for the spiced tiger prawns terrine, Amritsari salmon, Mulligatawny soup and compressed khatte aur meethe (sweet and sour) fruits. The array of desserts is to die(t) for, including phirni, falooda, motichoor laddoos and even the classic Bengali sweet, chumchum. That’s a serious culinary challenge, and one to go crazy for. Dh215 per person, available on November 11. Call 04 457 3388.
La Porte des Indes, The Address Duabi Mall
If you think the decor of La Porte des Indes sparkles, then its Diwali menu will surely be a cracker. Seriously, clichés apart, every year, the culinary crew of this contemporary yet chic Indo-French restaurant is known to dig out some of their most classic recipes and give them a makeover that turns them into pop art – a vibrant feast of colours, textures and flavours. This year too, the team promises to impress with a carefully crafted meal that includes Malabar fish curry (sea bream in creamy coconut sauce); methi murgh (chicken in a spicy and tangy curry, infused with fresh fenugreek); and mushroom galouti (melt-in-the-mouth kebabs laced with an in-house spice mix). Do remember to keep space for the dessert platter. Yes, a platter. Diwali is no time to count calories! Dh335 per person, available from November 8-12 for dinner only. For every booking, one is provided complimentary. Kids will be able to enjoy a special menu for Dh95. For bookings, call 04 438 8610 or email reservations at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Naya, Jumeirah Beach Hotel
Looking for a lavish vegetarian meal that gives the traditional fare an exotic makeover? Then head to this new kid on the Indian fine dining block. Tucked away in a quiet corner of the busy hotel, Naya’s vibrant interiors and relaxed environment is perfect for those who want to enjoy the festival with family and friends. And enjoy you will, for the recipes have been carefully crafted by Naya’s head chef Pravish Shetty.
Starters include crispy fried okra with chaat masala and lentil dumplings stuffed with raisin and cashew nut soaked in spiced sweet yogurt, while baby aubergine curry cooked in peanut and dry coconut masala and lotus stem dumplings poached in rich cashew gravy make up some mouthwatering mains. For desserts, on offer are fig and black cardamom rice pudding with a caramelised crust and pista khoya kulfi, a traditional Indian egg-free ice cream with pistachio, dusted with milk fudge. If you’re caught licking your fingers, blame it on the chef.
Diners who prefer to eat meat on these days can order from Naya’s à la carte menu. Dishes are priced individually and range from Dh25-Dh80. The vegetarian à la carte Diwali menu will be served from November 9-11. For bookings, call 04 432 3232.
Mint Leaf of London, DIFC
Who needs fireworks on Diwali when you have Dubai’s glittering skyline sprawled right in front of you? At Mint Leaf of London, the exquisite Indian restaurant on the 15th floor of Emirates Financial Towers in DIFC, the floor-to-ceiling windows frame the stunning beauty of the city in all its glory. If that’s not enough, the restaurant has created a rich, luxurious ambience with lamps and decorative lights, just so you don’t forget the festivities.
The Diwali menu includes plenty of culinary stars – from a traditional mutton curry to murgh kaju korma, with chunks of chicken braised in a silky cashewnut sauce, through to the dessert menu, which is so sinful it should be made illegal. Yes, the melt-in-the-mouth gajar halwa tart with carrot and fudge, the spongy rasgullas and the pistachio ice cream will get you to commit the ultimate crime of overeating. Dh225 per person. Available until November 11. For reservations, call 04 706 0900 or email email@example.com.
Junoon, Shangri-La Dubai
Special occasions like Diwali call for fine dining in a big way and it doesn’t get any better than celebrity chef Vikas Khanna’s Michelin-starred restaurant, Junoon at the Shangri-La. True to its name (which means passion in Urdu), it offers an intense fusion of Indian-ness and modernity – from the polished interiors to the Diwali menu’s contemporary flavours that honours tradition with a vegetarian as well as non-vegetarian option. The three-course thali will see you tuck into innovative starters such as aloo kaju ke roll (potato and cashew rolls), creamy govind gatta (chickpeaflour dumplings in yogurt), and coconut fish curry for mains. End the fabulous meal on a sweet note with the royal shahi tukda (bread pudding). Delicious! Dh220-Dh270 per person (veg/non-veg), available from November 8-14. Dine from 7-8pm for a 20 per cent discount. Call 04 405 2717 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Amala, Jumeirah Zabeel Saray
Restaurants at the Zabeel Saray – the Ottoman Sultan’s Lounge and fancifully French Imperium – have a reputation of successfully capturing the taste and tenor of destinations and eras. Coming from that well-established repertoire, it’s no surprise that Amala nails the Mughal empire’s cuisine and ambience. The three-course Diwali menu is a testament to Mughlai mastery with lyrical-sounding entrées that are a medley of lush flavours. Ankurit kusmakar salad (moong sprouts, cucumber, chaat masala), oven-baked zafrani tangri kebab tikka (saffron chicken) and spicy fish pakoras kick-start the lavish feast that then segues into filling lamb dalcha (spicy lamb and lentils), creamy paneer pasanda and aromatic dhaniya wala murgh (coriander chicken). Take your pick from a variety of naans, or green peas pulao as accompaniments but go easy, as a selection of traditional mithais will follow. Dh250 per person. Available from November 10-12, 6-11pm. Call 04 453 0444 or email email@example.com.
Bombay Brasserie, Taj Dubai
Decked out in psychedelic cushions and traditional murals, the Bombay Brasserie instantly brightens moods, and for the festival of lights they’re going the extra mile with resplendent diyas (lamps) and rangoli (traditional art). But it’s not just the decor of this signature Indian eatery that has been the Taj’s dining glory from London to Cape Town. Biting into the three-course vegetarian Diwali menu you’ll beam a million-watt smile no diya can hold a candle to. Inventive appetisers like tangy khurmani tikka (apricot-filled potato cakes) will whet your appetite as fragrant Lucknowi subz biryani, gucchi aur khumb (mushroom curry) and asparagus korma will open your eyes to the wonders of a chicken tikka-free Indian meal. Closing this culinary deal are saccharine hit anjeer ka shahi tukra (bread and fig pudding) and a traditional sweet platter. Dh196 per person, from November 6-11. Call 04 438 3100.
Qureshi’s Kebab and Kurry, The Country Club Dubai
A royal treat is what we expect when it’s a meal at Qureshi’s – the Bur Dubai restaurant run by a family of chefs who’ve fed Indian royalty for 200 years and are now happily offering the same delacies to discerning diners. The dazzling Diwali menu upholds their legacy as pioneers of Awadhi cuisine with vegetarian and non-vegetarian variants of soups, curries and kebabs served as live ghazal singers belt out classics. Sip on saffron-laced badam shorba or the shorba-e-barkush (lamb broth). Melt-in-your-mouth kebabs – dahi kandhari kebab, murgh sunehri kebab and jhinga Qureshi’s – reign across both menus, while vegetable, chicken and lamb biryanis (try the Falaknuma gosht biryani), velvety qormas (murgh badam korma) and piquant dals kick off the main course. Taking temptation to a whole new level are desserts such as jamun-o-gul, Mysore pak and laddoos as well as delectable milk-based sweets. It’s a royal feast on your doorstep. Dh149 per adult; Dh75 for children; Dh120 for Country Club members. Available on November 13 only, from 7.30pm. Call 050 374 6583.