What have you been up to this long Eid weekend? We decided to hibernate on Day 1, dreading the holiday rush across the city. Surely every road, every mall and every restaurant must be overflowing with people now that everybody is back from the summer break?
Well I have great news for you! I’ve recently discovered the (not so secret) secret hang-out for foodies who, like me, detest the crowds. Ironically just a few parallel roads down from buzzing Dubai Mall itself, Bay Square is a hidden gem housing some of Dubai’s most affordable restaurants under one spacious complex itself.
I was in Bay Square about a week ago, devouring really good Thai food at Fuchsia, and just a week later I was back yet again, this time for some amazingly affordable Indian at 25 Degrees North.
The restaurant derives its quirky name from Dubai’s latitude position on the world map, and hopes to be a sought after destination for its authentic North Indian dishes. 25 Degrees North has two branches in Dubai; one in Barsha Heights, and the other (which I visited) at Bay Square.
Bay Square has ample parking. Just drive into the underground parking spaces of buildings 3, 6 or 13. We parked at Building 3 as it is in close proximity to 25 Degrees North.
The restaurant was sparsely occupied despite it being a Friday night. The interiors are dimly lit, and tastefully done up in warm Parisian-style hues of beige and brown. Some of the sofas looked a little worn out from use, a testament that the restaurant has a steady inflow of regulars.
The staff here are warm and welcoming, and we were hosted by a very well-informed young man called Harshal. He seemed to know about the constituents of each and every dish on the menu, and what we really liked about him was that he wasn’t pushy. He actually advised us on the portion sizes. If only we had paid more attention because, as always, we ended up over-ordering!
Being a huge fan of chaat (the spicy-tangy Indian street food that comes in a whole array of combinations), I ordered their much talked-about Palak Chaat. Harshal warned us the serving size would be enough to feed a group of 4, but being a chaat fan, I went on to also order in their Watermelon Chaat.
When he said the portion size of the Palak Chaat was huge, Harshal wasn’t joking. For a mere AED 19 per order, this chaat is massive! This dish comprises of a generous serving of chickpea-battered spinach leaves, deep fried to a crisp golden-brown and topped with a tangy mix of fresh yoghurt, tamarind and coriander chutney. We loved the crispness of the ‘palak’ leaves, and that hit of tangy-hot from the mix of spices made me reach out for more and more. I had to remind myself this was only the beginning… best to save some appetite for the next course!
The Watermelon Chaat by contrast, was very light and refreshing. It has an unexpected nuttiness of peanut, which somehow manages to work quite well with the burst of watermelon, and this platter was cleared up in no time.
25 Degrees North also does a great selection of North Indian-style kebabs, and this takes up 4 pages of the menu itself! We went for one of their signature kebabs, the Murgh Banno Kebab. ‘Banno’ seems to be a very popular name for pretty young dancing girls in Bollywood flicks, so when our host Harshal declared ‘Everyone loves Banno’, I couldn’t help but surpass a giggle!
The Murgh Banno Kebab consists of succulently soft, juicy chicken that has been soaked in an egg-based marination and cooked in the traditional Indian tandoor oven. The thick, mighty Banno has to be sliced up for serving, and you get a whole bouquet of elaborate Indian spices in every bite. I especially liked the fresh hit of coriander in this dish, and relished it with generous drizzles of tamarind chutney.
The other kebab dish on our table was the Murgh Gilafi Sheekh. This kebab has an absolutely moreish ‘melt in the mouth’ texture that made me favor it over the Banno. This kebab gets its silky softness with the infusion of cheese, and has a beautifully delicate smoked flavor to it.
While delving into these appetizers, we sipped on some very classic Indian drinks. I went for the Jal Jeera, a much-loved heady concoction of cumin and chili spiked with lime, that is known for its digestive properties.
Hubby sipped on Fresh Lime Soda, yet another Indian classic consisting of fizzy soda, a squeeze of lime and a generous pinch of ‘chaat’ spices.
For my daughter, we ordered a Watermelon Juice, and we were mighty impressed with how fresh and flavorful it was.
For our mains, we had a whole lot of curries. Not one, not two, not even three… but four of 25 Degrees North’s most recommended curries! Here is what we had:
The Murgh Kolhapuri is a bold, fiery chicken curry from the Western state of Kolhapur. If you love the heat of chilies as much s I do, you will really relish this curry. I could taste the characteristic hit of chili powder with every spoonful.
The Railway Mutton Curry gets its name from its origins. A classic from the kitchens of the First Class compartments of the trains of India, this is a very homely-style mutton curry with a spicy tomato base, made all the more moreish with the addition of potatoes.
Bhuna Ghost, a classic stir-fry of succulent meat marinated in a generously spiced yogurt base, is a major family favorite of ours. Everybody seems to have their own take on this dish, and I am happy to report that the one at 25 Degrees North was absolutely decadent.
We also tried a curry from the seafood section of the menu. The Dum Nariali Prawns is yet another signature dish at 25 Degrees North, and for good reason too. This rich and creamy coconut milk-based curry features plump, juicy prawns and is artistically served in a young coconut shell.
We swiped clean all the curries with ‘hot out of the tandoor’ Garlic Naan.
Like the appetizers, the mains at 25 Degrees North are very generously portioned and try as we might, we really couldn’t do justice to all these curries and had them packed up for lunch the next day.
And we even ordered a Dum Pukht Mutton Biryani! At 25 Degrees North, biryani gets served in very stylish mason jars. Aromatically spiced with a bouquet of flavors and topped with a pile of caramelized onion, this decadent pilaf features succulently soft pieces of meat. It comes with a generous serving of yogurt raita on the side, and is enough to feed a hungry group of 4.
Unsure about what to order for dessert? For a mere AED 39, 25 Degrees North offers a very generous dessert platter that can easily be shared between four.
I am not a huge fan of Jelebi, but the ones here are so deliciously crisp and not overly sweet either. Loved having these dipped in the Rabdi that came on the side. The platter also includes a cloud-like Ras Malai, soft and creamy and garnished with nuts. The platter also includes a large serving of Carrot Halwa, Kheer (Indian Rice Pudding) and Gulab Jamun (the scoop of ice-cream you see here was ordered separately for my daughter). This platter pretty much covers all the North Indian favorites! A must-order for a major sweet-tooth like me.
Overall, 25 Degrees North surpassed my expectations. The interiors may look a little worn out, but after dining here I finally can relate to all the hype that has gone behind this chain. The menu items are very reasonably priced, generously portioned and very deliciously prepared.
Best of all, if you are looking to avoid the crowds, the branch at Bay Square really is a hidden gem. This place is perfect for a quiet night out with the family. Call 04 4376035 for details.