Dukes Dubai is the latest hotel to open on Dubai’s exclusive Palm Jumeirah, a five-star property with a distinctive British identity that you wouldn’t necessarily expect given the modern facade. As the sister hotel to the award-winning Dukes London, the elegant lobby promotes a quintessentially British charm with its leather high-backed armchairs, sausage dog ornaments and a Victorian-style fireplace that evokes a distinct Britishness without straying into stereotypes.
Us Brits have become renowned for our love of food from the Indian subcontinent, so much so that chicken tikka masala has become our national dish. Therefore, it seems perfectly fitting that an Indian restaurant takes pride of place on the 15th floor of Dukes Dubai. Khyber offers a rustic environment that feels somewhat palatial with its brickwork, gurgling water features and collonaded archways. It’s a space so different from the hotels interior that it feels as though you’ve been transported to the North-West Frontier, the Khyber pass so to speak, the treacherous mountain pathway that formed part of the ancient silk route between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Khyber as a restaurant is taking things back to basics with a focus firmly on the spices traded along the silk route. While the current trend for Indian food in the UAE has skewed more towards molecular gastronomy and fanciful presentation (see Carnival and Junoon), Khyber opts for a more stripped-back approach, taking the cuisine back to its more traditional roots. You won’t find an overuse of dry ice here, instead, the theatrics are based on nothing more than the aromatic flavours, inspired by a restaurant that first opened in Mumbai in 1958. Khyber Dubai takes these same recipes that proved so popular in India and transports them to Dubai, paired with impressive views over the manmade Palm Jumeirah.
Things start off simply with a selection of Khyber’s signature appetisers, comprising of a tandoor cooked lamb chop, a tandoor ka phool of spiced broccoli, Resmi prawn in a complex marinade of spices and the signature Khyber tikka masala. A common fixture in Indian restaurants, the individual elements of this platter are plated to resemble the white, orange and green colours of the Indian flag and come presented on a banana leaf in a similar fashion to a Thali. What surprised us most (aside from the powerful flavours) was how tender the meat was.
It should be noted that Khyber isn’t afraid when it comes to spice levels. All too often when we visit Indian restaurants and order a dish of medium heat, it tastes of little, as if purposely kept mild for the Western palette. At Khyber, the team understands their flavours (and their diners) and will assure the correct heat of your requested dishes. The Butter Chicken (AED 105) is the perfect example of this. As a dish often recognised for being creamy and very mild, Khyber’s version opts for a much dryer gravy and a good dose of spice to complement the tomato base and tender boneless tandoori chicken.
Better still is the Khyber Raan (AED 225) the most popular dish on the menu and one that we’re assured manages to replicate the flavours that made the Mumbai flagship so popular. The lamb leg is marinated for 24 hours in ginger, garlic and garam masala, before being slow-cooked until the meat is tender enough to slide off the bone. Khyber’s raan is in such high demand that the team ask diners to order it in advance (when making the booking) to ensure that it will be available on the day – it’s that popular!
We’d also recommend the Prawn Mughlai (AED 125) for its aromatic nature taking on the cookery techniques of the Mughal Empire. Mixing khoya, tomato, red masala and cashew nuts alongside prawns and egg, it’s the velvety texture of this dish complemented by the sweet subtle flavours of the gravy, that make this an Out & About must order. The Khyber Chicken Biryani (AED 110) is mixed with rosewater and nuts to add a fragrant element and the only items we really found lacking were the Dahl Makani (AED 55) and the breads.
As we strive to find an appreciation for Indian desserts (we find them too sweet and milky), the Gajar Kal Halwa (AED 35), a traditional Punjabi dessert of grated carrots, almonds and raisins, provided a step in the right direction. Though admittedly, the Gulab Jaman (AED 40) and the Phirini (AED 35) rice pudding were too much for us. This is no disservice to Khyber as a restaurant, but more of a personal preference. In fact, we managed to find our sweet fix Khyber’s signature cocktails. The Mango Mojito (AED 80), Royal Lychee Martini (AED 80) and Tamarind Sour (AED 75) are all winners and impress with their beguiling concoctions.
Khyber may not be reinventing the wheel in terms of Indian cuisine but offers much to admire. The service deserves a special mention for the discreet nature of the staff, who are always close by, are knowledgeable in terms of the menu, but never impose on the dining experience. The restaurant space and its seating options offer appeal, especially to families with young children, for Khyber has a number of secluded booths and two private dining rooms. The largest of which offers stunning views of the Palm fronds and Atlantis hotel from an appealing private balcony.
Our only criticisms come from the plating, which is basic and doesn’t quite match the rest of the experience. Some of the dishes require refinement in terms of presentation and reminded us of a restaurant of the same name located on the Romford Road back in East London. The name may be similar, but the overall experience is not and for a newly opened restaurant, Khyber is off to a good start.
Location: Dukes Dubai, Oceana, Palm Jumeirah, Dubai
Social: Instagram / Facebook / Twitter
Hours: 5pm – 11pm (lunch 12:30pm – 3pm on Fridays)
Phone: 04 455 1111
We were invited to dine at Khyber. All views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE. Interior images used courtesy of Khyber Dubai.