By Ishita B Saha: Peppermill, the colonial Indian dining restaurant that was earlier located in the same building that housed Lulu supermarket in Al Barsha, had been one of our personal favourites with impromptu visits after a weekly grocery shopping or otherwise. Although popular and boasting of a menu that reflected Indian colonial flavours and regional dishes from the coastal line of India, it never did get the attention that it probably should have got much earlier. However, its newly opened location in Dubai Festival City with a contemporary feel and a stunning view to boast of, I am glad that Peppermill will finally get the spotlight that it so deserves. The revamped Peppermill, the Version 2.0 as Ms. Shafeena Yusuff Ali, CEO – Tablez Food Company, the lady behind Peppermill and many other F&B concepts like Bloomsbury, Galitos, Sugar Factory etc and a keen foodie (do check out her some recipes that she has contributed earlier), lovingly described it, is exactly that – a stunning view of the Dubai creek, a lazy leisurely vibe and of course, brilliant presentation of the earlier classics. And that too not trying too hard on the latter either, specially with so many Indian restaurants in Dubai right now who are going ballistic over molecular presentations – no puns intended at our favourite ones though! I insisted on catching Shafeena, an extremely busy lady – a restaurateur, entrepreneur, a mother of four and now a student (yes, she’s enrolled in a prestigious business course in the University of Oxford – this is by invite!), she obliged. Life always comes a full circle ~ the first time we (Debbie & myself) had met her, it was at the earlier Peppermill restaurant over lunch, drooling over a Palak chaat. This time it was at the same restaurant in its new avatar, again over Palak chaat and other signature dishes… all in its new avatars. An inspiring chat and an extremely elaborate meal later, I could only sigh in relief – Peppermill has retained its original flavours, added a few modern takes here and there in terms of presentation and the most important part – the posh location in DFC is really not going to affect the diner’s wallet! While I missed the real peppermill that had been the centre piece in the previous venue, I have been promised that it will be a showcase somewhere very special – if not in this venue but elsewhere. Aha – more ambitious projects churning out from the same stable that are sure to keep us guessing ovetime!
The Peppermill Colonial Experience
The Drinks: I start with a signature Mojito made with my choice of muddled fresh fruits (I ask for mangoes and then an ususal lemon and mint one) and stir into a bowl of thick lassi with my stick of Kulfi lassi!
The Starters: A selection of hearty soups and fresh salads (not an usual offering in traditional Indian cuisine, isn’t it?) make its way to the table – while I am recommended the Prawn Shorba – poached prawns in coconut and curry, I stick to the rich Tomato Shorba brimming with fresh tomato, coriander and butter poached vegetables – just because I know a lot of food will be coming my way. Fattoush Ala Indie, my choice of salad is infused with Arabic flavours – fresh and flavourful made with mixed lettuce, cucumber ribbons, red radish, chargrilled peppers and pickled beetroots. The Chaat Platter is delightfully presented and has the perfect dose of masala and zing as it should be in an array of classic Indian chaats. A Mediterranean inspired Kataifi Prawns followed soon – prawns wrapped in crispy kataifi and served with a spicy mango chilli salsa.
There are many interesting additions in the menu which catch my attention – for example, the Kalimpong Chicken Shuijao – chicken dumlings from China-Sikkim border; the Gorkha Chicken – a Nepalese stir fry chicken with spring onions, coriander and black pepper or the Grilled Tangra Prawns, dish inspired by the Chinese colonies in Tangra in Kolkata – the only official Chinatown in India. When we talk about food from across India, most of the times the North East and even the Eastern parts of India escape the attention, something that I note diligently coming from Bengal.
The Mains: It reflect a showcase of succulent grills from tandoor and sigdi accompanied by freshly baked naan breads as well as colonial inspirations such as the First Class Railway Officer’s Mutton curry or a Gymkhana Selection. I dug my bread into a Nalli Rogan Josh with tender pieces of baby lamb shank pulling off while next in line vying for my attention was a Tamil style Mutton Pepper Fry with generous pieces of stir fried idlies garnishing the dish. Peppermill’s take on the classic Matar Paneer (top left) leave me quite surprised and with a smile – a big chunk of panner with cooked pea filling inside! As if I hadn’t eaten enough, my mention of the kind of Biryani that a Bengali craves – the Awadhi Biryani, is immediately met with a Mutton Biryani cooked in the Awadhi style.
The Peppermill menu is quite elaborate – a lot of signature dishes thrown in – Pankhi Kebab and Murgh Malai Tikka, signature home-style curries such as Chicken Chettinad and Roast Duck Kaliyan and some trendy additions like the Coconut Cream and Pepper Corn Panacotta – a strawberry granita, fennel and thandai milk crumble served with star anise flavoured apricot compote or the Broccoli Zucchini Musallam, broccolli stiffed courgette with ricotta and nuts, saffron and mace musallam sauce etc. The portion sizes are generous and all the dishes that I tasted so far (and I tasted a lot more than I can mention here) are cleverly crafted with simplicity and deliciousness and deserves a return visit, this time with a lot of leisurely time in hand and a bigger appetite!
Ishita quips in: “A stunning backdrop for a sundowner or a masala chai (which I did as I couldn’t resist the location). Also a perfect venue to watch IMAGINE – the breathtaking fire-water-laser show that take place every evening!”
For more info: www.peppermill.me
[Exclusive images by Ishita B Saha]