It would seem as though everyone in Dubai is talking about SpiceKlub. A casual Indian eatery that makes a big impression thanks to a combination of bold flavours and molecular gastronomy. Coming to Dubai’s bustling Mankhool district from Mumbai, SpiceKlub has made quite the impression despite only being open a number of weeks.
The fit out is pleasant and the space has been utilized well. Although it does feel as if a few tables too many, have been crammed into the narrow and compact layout. A bright Rangoli is the focal feature of the left wall and a kaleidoscope of colours radiates from the concentric design in an almost hypnotic formation. Fully embracing the festival spirit of India, colored paper kites hang from brash copper pipework. While exposed lightbulbs hang from rickshaw wheels and hanging swing seats, adorned with colorful cushions, add an additional element of fun and frivolity.
SpiceKlub wasn’t at all what we expected and forgoes the fine-dining ethos of similarly themed establishments (Tresind, Junoon and Jodhpur) in favour of a far more family friendly approach. Having caused quite a furore in its homeland, SpiceKlub takes traditional North Indian dishes and blends them with influences from all over the country, creating something altogether unique in the process. Further enhancing the product via molecular gastronomy and innovative presentation, it feels as though we’ve stepped out of a restaurant and into a science lab.
We were so taken with the food that it wasn’t until a few courses in, that we realized SpiceKlub was a vegetarian restaurant. Despite the absence of meat, we honestly didn’t miss it and on the whole the food was very good. It should be noted that the spice level of some dishes is particularly intense, so order wisely and adjust the spice level accordingly.
What of the molecular gastronomy we hear you ask? It would seem that Dubai’s Indian restaurants are obsessed with dry ice and food that looks like one thing but taste like another. With little doubt that the playful take on presentation makes for a fun dining experience. We found the molecular elements (described in the menu as ‘served the SpiceKlub way’) more on the gimmicky side than an addition to the story of the dish. We may well be in the minority. With Instagram going crazy over the test-tubes, syringes and beakers utilized by SpiceKlub (guilty as charghed)!
Our meal begins with a bulbous vessel of Coconut Water with Rose Caviar. Containing coconut water that’s been flash frozen at minus 106 degrees! Chipping away as if in the remote Arctic (no pick axe required), the texture lies somewhere between sorbet and mousse and with no ice crystals the blend is surprisingly smooth. The subtle flavour of the coconut water is complemented by the orbs of smooth rose flavored caviar. Which don’t quite have the ‘pop’ of their fishy inspiration and instead take on a bite more akin to Turkish delight.
Not wanting the be outdone, the Mango On The Rocks is blended before you at the table. Starting out as a firm mixture, warm mango juice is added to the blend and the consistency transforms into something for more palatable. Proposed as a take on the mango lassi (an Indian favourite). The reconfiguration of elements makes for more of a mango snow cone and this is not the last time we’ll feel the pang of childhood nostalgia during our SpiceKlub experience.
With a rainbow of colored chutneys and pickles slowly taking over our table (mango, tamarind, citrus pickle, mint yoghurt and walnut with cabbage) we knew it was time for the bread. Nothing could’ve quite prepared us for the Roomali Cheese Papad, a flatbread layered with four types of cheese and laced with fiery green chilis and emanating a powerful aroma.
Indian street food is where SpiceKlub draws much of its inspiration from and the Papdi Chaat is of particular note. On top of a base of crisp puri, sits cheese, chutney and a coriander foam. Meticulously plated with edible flowers. Each bite sized snack should be consumed in one mouthful to provide a confluence of flavours on the tastebuds.
Remember we mentioned childhood nostalgia? Well this came back in waves with the arrival of SpiceKlub’s Pav Baji Fondu. Being a child of the 80s, fondu reigned supreme and there was nothing more comforting than dipping a husk of bread into a congealed mixture of over-cooked cheese (you’ve got to love the 1980s). Thirty years later and we’re excited by the dish, having not had fondu since childhood. Unless you count a chocolate fountain?
The creamy mixture as suggested by the name. Is a pan baji transformed into a fondu and kept warm via a tea light. Soup-like in constancy the mixture is topped with diced onions and provides a literal explosion in the mouth. This is due to the high levels of spice but is still a dish that we throughly enjoyed and would highly recommend.
Without meat, SpiceKlub are still able to produce an impressive array of grills. With the Paneer Tikka being our pick of the bunch. Large cubes of cottage cheese are marinated in hung yogurt and seasoned with fragrant spices, before being placed on a sizzling table top BBQ. The flavour is good, although we did find the cubes of paneer to be on the large side. Granted you can cut them down but after some time it felt like too much of one thing.
Dubai’s obsession with Pani Puri seemingly knows no bounds. This popular Mumbai street food snack has been re-invented so many times recently that we’ve sampled it in both spherical and foam form. Here at SpiceKlub, the dish is completely deconstructed into a ‘make your own’ kit, complete with test tubes of the pani liquid and a syringe of sweet tamarind. Feeling like we’d returned to the school chemistry lab, we gleefully filled each of the puffed puri with lentils and a dash of the spiced pani, before consuming not just one or two… but the entire serving!
We hate to sound like a broken record but we’re not huge fans of Indian desserts (too sweet, too milky). At thirty three years old it’s unlikely that this will change and you’ll never find us ordering rasmalai or gulab jamun. The re-interpretation of dishes at SpiceKlub certainly worked in our favour and we’d even go so far as to claim the Bubbling Kulfi a resounding success. Served in an open mouthed jar complete with dry ice leaking from the spout. The frozen kulfi mix must be blended with one of the accompaniments – blueberry, salted caramel or chocolate ganache – making for a dessert that not only tastes good but is A LOT of fun to consume.
Our final dish, Rasgulla Cheesecake was one that did not resonate with us. Syrupy balls (the rasgulla) are embedded within a vanilla cheesecake that was far too dense and not flavorsome enough for our liking. I’m sure many of you will disagree with our thoughts and we do believe the concept to be a good one but we found the execution to be disappointing and the flavours lacking.
SpiceKlub’s popularity stems from it’s accessibility in terms of price point. The place was jam packed during our Friday lunchtime and its popularity is unlikely to subside anytime soon, thanks to a clever marketing campaign and a constant Instagram presence. SpiceKlub has Dubai intrigued and it’s worth a visit just to see the look of elation on customers faces, as they encounter the interiors and the molecular demonstrations for the very first time.
Would we return to SpiceKlub? Yes
Would we order the rasgulla cheesecake? No
We were invited to dine at SpiceKlub. All views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE.