There’s something about Indie. The new venture from the team behind Dubai’s Iris and White. It could be the discreet location, hidden away in the upper levels of Gaucho in DIFC, though you wouldn’t know it exists, for there is no signage in sight.
Indie is an import from Beirut, an uber-cool venue that is both charming and raucous. Summarising Indie is a complex task, as the experience evokes more of a feeling than a wordy description. With a distinctly rustic charm, an eclectic collection of retro ornaments (think suitcases, old television sets and typewriters) are shelved away amongst the beautifully crafted decor. Seating is a mixture of high bar style and more formal dining tables. A darkened interior is punctuated by flashes of bright colour from the green and purple upholstery, bringing life to an otherwise gloomy space. Striking light fittings with exposed filaments are surrounded by bulbous glass jars, like burst fireworks, momentarily suspended in mid-air, before cascading to the ground.
As stated, Indie is about a feeling and reminded us of venues we would frequent when working an office job back in London. Indie could be Canary Wharf or Liverpool Street, it has that feel. Visiting on a Wednesday night, we were surprised at how busy it was, as friends gathered to unwind after a hard days work. The crowd comprises more than just ‘city types’ and is a cross section of Dubai, enjoying a very inclusive space.
Indie may be the new kid on the block, having opened less than two months ago, but for a concept so new, it’s making huge waves. In an area renowned for pretentious dining and expensive prices, Indie bucks the trend, providing a breath of fresh air into an area where most venues are offering the exact same thing. The name is not explained. but an abbreviation for ‘independent’ would be our guess
Indie is a vibrant place that injects a huge boost of personality into Dubai’s financial district and this is evident in the eclectic mix of cocktails served in everything from re-cycled light bulbs to tin cans. Beverages are not as you would necessarily expect, as the mixologists twist your favourite classic cocktails, into something familiar yet altogether new. A standard mojito becomes a ‘Tortuga Mojito’ adding Falernum liqueur (a sweet syrup of Caribbean origin) in what the menu refers to as “a little special something.”
‘Midnight In Paris’ combines Woodford Reserve, cola syrup, rhubarb and plum bitters and an Aperol infused strawberry, to re-invent a classic old fashioned. A strong drink with a large artisan ice cube, that keeps the drink cold without melting and watering down the liquor – it is touches like these that we love. The ‘Cannonball’ mixes citrus vodka with fresh pomegranate, lemon juice, yuzu and lavender syrup to concoct a blend like no other.
Not drinking? Not a problem! All drinks can be mixed in virgin form and taste just as spectacular, to a point where (at times) we were unable to tell if they contained alcohol or not. Our drink of choice, was the ‘Bloc party’ a tropical fusion of passion fruit, mango and lime, though we were also enamoured with the fruity elderflower sangria topped with prosecco.
With drinks this good, how does the food measure up? With stiff competition from some very exclusive restaurants (Zuma is virtually opposite), Indie is aware of its limitations. Offering an international menu that is neither showy or attempting to break any boundaries. Instead focusing on firm favourites that complement not only the drinks, but the laid back vibe of this casual night spot.
The menu presented upon a cork board, is compact and does not offer a huge selection, though diners will certainly find items of interest. From edamame or beef carpaccio rolls, the bar snacks have been well selected and are served sharing style. Unable to decide exactly what to order (it all looked good) the team at Indie provided us with an ‘Amalgam’ sharing platter highlights from the ‘bite’ section of the menu.
The urban menu is a blend of international flavours and cooking techniques, including a selection of tapas, that likes the drinks, take on an experimental nature. Minced beef and pine nut samosas are actually more of a Mexican quesadilla, while Spicy raw tuna on crisp rice cubes are arguably the most popular item to order. Though delicious and texturally exciting, we much preferred the familiarity of the spicy yogurt marinated rock chicken.
Despite many of the dishes being labelled as ‘spicy’, we didn’t find any of the heat to be overpowering. Rather, the chilli is used as a discreet means of adding extra seasoning to the meat. Lime crab had a nice zest to it and the extreme tang definitely works wonders with the smoothness of the crab flesh. A super corn salad that looked like little more than a bowl of sweetcorn was surprisingly good combined with citrus and olives.
It’s exciting to discover that the best item on the Indie menu is a bite sized starter. The ‘Rossini Jr’ is one of the best things we have eaten in a long time. Deliciously tender cubes of prime beef are smothered with a rich foie gras sauce and truffle flakes and eight of these mini delights are just not enough! They are so moorish that diners are likely to order a second round.
Now the team at Indie tend to downplay the food, instead focusing on the overall atmosphere and experience offered by the restaurant. The food here is excellent and although it may not be as high end as neighbouring establishments, the price point is good and the quality exceptional, from the starters all the way though to the grills, grains and mains.
Meat is Indie’s forte and each dish presented to our table was more distinguishable than the next, raising the bar course by course. ‘Tagliata’ of grilled beef fillet also contained foie gras, yet it was the simple addition of rock salt and sweet figs that really did wonders for the beautifully rare meat. Accompanied with what the menu describes as ‘pont-neuf fries’, these chips were quite literally the size of whole potatoes and drenched in a truffle sauce provided a gluttonous pleasure. We didn’t really connect with the salmon, which tasted good drizzled with balsamic sauce but evidently failed to excite us and seemed bland in comparison to other menu items.
With only four desserts to choose from, we were able to sample them all. For lovers of chocolate we strongly suggest the ‘choco co’, a nutella, mascarpone and coconut commination with a light vanilla ice cream. You can never go wrong with waffles and the ‘love bites’ topped with fresh berries and sweet and sour cream were really pleasing. For something more obscure, pineapple carpaccio is something that we have never seen on a menu before, as thin pineapple slices are combined with a slightly acidic lemon sorbet. For us though, it was all about the revisited panacotta which abandons the standard vanilla flavouring in favour of coconut, passion fruit and berries, almost verging on an edible pina colada.
The slightly limited menu works in Indie’s favour, as all the dishes offered are exceptionally good. Vegetarians may struggle a little, but the team are very accommodating and will most-likely work wonders for you. The service at Indie was friendly and exactly as you would expect from a restaurant and lounge amalgamation. We especially appreciative of the way in which different roles were determined via uniform – waiters wear braces, whilst bar staff have waistcoats and maitre d’s are dressed all in black.
Indie is a busy place, one that is bursting with energy. Big groups gather for after work drinks and the venue is well suited for those looking to let loose after a tough day at the office. Music is loud, and the sound of chatter and clinking glasses are inescapable, yet this is all part of the Indie’s unique charms. With live music on Wednesday’s and a two course business lunch for under 100 AED, Indie is catering to everyone and forging a new identity on the DIFC dining landscape. A neon sign that adorns the entranceway says it all: “If you don’t belong, don’t be long.”
Location: Inside Gaucho, Podium Level, Gate Village 05, DIFC, Dubai
Hours: 12pm – 3:30pm / 6:00pm – 2:00am
Phone: 04 456 9817 / 055 455 6106
We were invited to dine at Indie but all views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE, unless otherwise stated. Interior photos used courtesy of Indie DIFC.