Superb Indian dining concept - Mint Leaf of London, Dubai

I received a confirmation email of my reservation soon as my reservation had been made. Two days before my dinner, I got a courtesy email reminding me of my reservation. These moments, the latter in particular, heightened expectations that Mint Leaf of London in Dubai offered something above the ordinary. My arrival, subsequently, confirmed that.

The restaurant is housed on the 15th floor in DIFC's south Tower, and as the lift opens, the dim lighting in the corridor immediately sets the mood. A hostess offers to show me  around first, which I gleefully accept.

The lounge area 
Is a caption really needed? 
Decor meets style
I am shown the lounge area. Sofas and floor rugs here and there create warmth. It is not quite dark yet, but there is a Wordsworthian quality about the light outside as I look through the floor to ceiling windows and see the fabled Burj Khalifa. My timing is perfect because I see the skies grow darker and the lights outside become more prominent. The lounge too is now rich in ambience. I move to the bar, passing some private and semi private lounging areas,  and am greeted by two mixologists on duty. Cool, carefree and 20 something - symbolic. The wooden ceilings, if there is any doubt about where you are, have mint leaf designs protruding as you look up. Tasteful. Stylish. Finally, I am seated and I have views of the tall icon of the UAE and also the glittering lights of the Sheikh Zayed Road;  a city- boy's dream. I am beside myself.

The ceiling - mint leaves
You can appreciate the spaciousness in this pic.
I am here for the iftar, and while the regular menu is a hommage to the traditional dishes you would expect in a high end Indian restaurant, I am content with the iftar menu. The cold appetisers hit the right note. The sprout beans and chickpeas salad are spicy and offer a bit of zip, but the appetiser that excites my palate to no end is the papri chaat -  sweet and sour at the same time thanks to the sweet yoghurt and tamarind sauce. Delicious. This taste combination is again evident in the one a la carte dish I order, the beetroot pudina tikki, a beetroot cake with mint, ginger and chili but with a similar sauce to what I have on the papri chaat. My compliments are sent to the chef.

Variation on beetroot. Loved the bed of chickpeas. 
Cold appetisers in front and the hot appetisers in the background. 
Tandoori chicken
One of the aspects of the dining area that I laud as I sit there is the open kitchen - it is a genuine open kitchen with everything prepared in eye's view.  You feel you are walking down a street where food vendors are cooking different dishes and serving them on the street - an analogy picked up on by the affable and welcoming restaurant manager, Justin. There are not many street meals, though, set in the chic but homely space of Mint Leaf with views of Dubai's iconic structure! But I hope the point is made regarding the wonderful open kitchen idea. By the way, I say 'homely' because the tables and chairs have an understated elegance about them that remind me of a kitchen. Homely indeed.

As I wait for my main courses, I engage in some chit chat with two of the waiting staff, Arika and Rethabile. I find them knowledgeable and extremely personable. I notice there are also no name badges here. Not sure if it is by design, but I see potential in this: Mint Leaf is all about making everything personalised. It works. They assist in debunking the myth of the stiff high end dining experience. But then I also have an exchange with Sam, one of the mixologists.The same impression. At various points in the evening, I chat to chefs Anand and Sirajudeen. I find their willingness to share their ideas about their art another highlight. Training department - well done.

The colourful and flavourful variety of the main dishes.  

Next, my main courses are served.The abundance of an iftar is tastefully brought home when I see the main dishes. This is an iftar fit for a feast, I think to myself. Elegantly but simply presented I have subz punchmel (5 different vegetables) , mutton rogan josh (diced leg of lamb in brown sauce) and murgh mirch hara pyaaz (mildly spiced chicken) served with yellow dal, steamed rice and of course naan. The cashew sauce in the chicken dish makes it rich and creamy and because it is mildly spicy, balances the spicy lamb. Compliments are again sent to the chef.

Finally, my iftar dessert selection consists of fresh fruit and Phirni, a rice pudding. The latter is the only disappointment on the night. The cardamom overwhelms the dish and the sweetness of the pudding and the delicate taste of the pistachios are lost. I share this with Arika and I appreciate the manner in which the comment is received. It does not, however, detract from what is a fabulicious evening of Indian dining and chilling.


Espresso with a view
For my coffee, I retire to the lounge where I order a cognac and open up my WH Auden collection. The lounge is conducive to poetry and Cognac! Sam convinces me to try his Cognac mix, and while I scoff at the idea, his suggestion turns out to be quite good. He mixes a bit of Remy Martin VSOP with some Riesling and he adds a bit of cherry juice. The anticipated sweetness I feared is not there while being refreshing at the same time. My mind is opened up.

As I thank the staff and leave, I reflect on the exciting concept that Mint Leaf of London has brought to Dubai. I can see Mint Leaf of London Dubai attracting guests in- keeping with its concept - a venue that offers 3 destinations in themselves. Ideally, of course, a guest will arrive and have an aperitif at the bar, move to the dining area for dinner and then the lounge to enjoy an after-dinner single malt or even coffee. However,  I can see guests visiting just to hang out in the lounge, for example, or to have a drink at the bar. While  a number of places I have visited offer a similar concept, one of the 3 elements is usually an afterthought and a  sofa in a corner amounts to the lounging area - here you have these elements fully functioning in their own right. Now add the fact that it is all about Indian cuisine and you really have a venue that is going to excite guests and then some.

The essentials

Mint Leaf of London, Dubai
15th floor of the Emirates Financial Towers, South Tower, DIFC
Map: http://bit.ly/1reZEDD
+971 4 706 0900
 Iftar 120 Dhs

Note: While Ramadan iftars will end soon, the a la carte menu offers equally superb dishes and value.
Brandon Stoltenkamp

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