Mint Leaf of London…in Dubai – does it differentiate?

Mint Leaf of LondonIndian restaurant concepts imported from London appear to be picking up steam here in Dubai. I am not quite sure if that’s a good or bad move, but we’ll address that later. First to dock here was Vineet Bhatia’s Indego (he now also has Ashiana), followed by Atul Kochhar’s Rang Mahal and then La Porte des Indes. Now we have Mint Leaf (of London) just open in Emirates Financial Towers, near the main DIFC building.

The restaurant, bar and lounge perched on the 15th floor impresses with floor-to-ceiling windows boasting breathtaking and sparkly views of Dubai, Burj Khalifa included. It’s all dark slate dotted with henna-inspired carved wood interiors and photography – sultry and sexy. I love a restaurant that constantly has you gazing around taking in every nook and cranny, and Mint Leaf is one of those. Needless to say the window tables are the ones to nab, and with a near-empty restaurant on a Friday evening we have our pick. Admittedly it is Ramadan and World Cup night, but given Mint Leaf opened five weeks ago, atmosphere is seriously lacking. One note though, if you’re sitting in the section near the open-show kitchen with the tandoor oven on full steam, it does get a little hot – unusually for Dubai, the air-conditioning is not blasting away.

Before I delve into the food, Mint Leaf is licensed but at the time of reviewing the wine list is limited, plus no sign of cocktails as yet – they are coming though apparently. There’s a good value fruity and fresh Prosecco (Bisol Desiderio Jeio) for AED235 a bottle. Sadly only imported water at AED35 a pop is available.

Mint Leaf of LondonMint Leaf of London starters

For starters we order a couple of portions of crispy soft shell crab with a garlic mayo, balsamic reduction and mooli (radish) relish to share between our trio. Cooked whole, tempura style and spiced with fennel, coriander and chilli, they look so tempting, almost crawling off the plate, but a heavy hand in the kadai (Indian wok) makes for a slightly over-fried crisp batter. On the other hand, our second appetiser choice recommended by our waiter, the tandoori prawns marinated in roasted cherry tomato and garlic with a tomato and mustard chutney are succulent and perfectly roasted.

Moving onto mains, we select a mixture of traditional and more creative dishes. A ‘Fisherman’s’ black tiger prawn curry bursts with fragrant flavours of lemongrass, kafir lime leaves and garlic, whilst the tomato butter sauce of a chicken tikka makhni staple dish is addictively good. Plenty of prawns and chicken abound in each dish, with both sauces light and devoid of ghee. A crispy duck breast stir fry tossed with shallots, curry leaves, peppers and crushed black peppercorns is excellent, but reminiscent of Cantonese, not Indian cuisine. The keema naan stuffed with minced lamb is a must-order and a meal in its own right, whilst the chilli garlic naan also impresses. The typical rice and raita dishes prevail.

Mint Leaf of LondonMint Leaf of London

A playful spin on a brownie arrives in this cute earthenware pot (a reminder of Table 9?) with a cake mixture of coconut, butternut sauce and raspberry compote – garnished with a few sprigs of mint leaves – a nod to the restaurant’s name. Well balanced and not too sweet. The highlight though to my surprise, a delightfully tangy pineapple and pink peppercorn sorbet which makes a brilliant palate cleanser, albeit at the end of our meal.

Whilst the food veers more towards traditional than contemporary Indian, and in most parts makes for well-executed fare, the service is a disappointment. A few examples. Our waitresses, whilst sweet-natured, are over-attentive and rushed in their service. We are asked by two different servers if we would like to order water  – and when it does arrive, we are poured two bottles of still, instead of one each of sparkling and still. With menus in hand for only a few minutes, we are approached to take our order – no I think we need a little more time. When we do place our order for starters and mains, we are asked if we would like to select our dessert – no, not yet! A number of times, plates are removed before we have finished – one of my pet peeves as you can read here in my rant. The prosecco is not adequately chilled, and we have to ask for our flutes to be replenished. None of these service issues are acceptable on any night, but in particular a) when only three tables are occupied, b) in a restaurant already open for five weeks and c) with a per person spend of AED315 (without vino). On the upside, one waiter in particular knows his menu, confidently and humourously offering recommendations. We also accidentally knock over and break a glass which is scooped up with minimum fuss.

Thankfully prices on the Dubai menu are pretty much on a par with its London sibling, give or take a few dirhams either way. Needless to say the alcohol is pricier here.

When an imported restaurant brand docks in Dubai, expectations are high given it should arrive with a backbone of well-established operational standards. Therefore all elements of the dining experience – food, service, interior and atmosphere – should be top notch. Otherwise why transplant an existing concept, when you could create your own? So in this case, in a city overflowing with Indian restaurants from the cheap and cheerful Karama variety to glamtastic boozy options, Mint Leaf’s food and décor impresses, but the service needs polishing to compete in an over-crowded market – which perhaps given more time, it will. In the meantime, here’s to a three out of five FooDiva knife rating.

When choosing where to dine on Indian cuisine in Dubai, does an imported brand hold more cachet for you, or not?

A bientôt.

FooDiva. x

P.S – Mint Leaf of London is open for lunch over Ramadan, as are a number of other independent restaurants in Dubai. Click here for the round-up. 

FooDiva Rating: Knife Rating: 3
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13 Responses to “Mint Leaf of London…in Dubai – does it differentiate?”

  1. IshitaUnblogged July 9, 2014 at 10:57 am

    The instagram feeds from all the food bloggers had been absolutely gorgeous. Sad, that the service didn’t keep up to the impressive food and decor. An imported brand makes me curious only if it has a good reputation elsewhere. It’s also interesting to note that the menu fares on being traditional. I would have expected a very contemporary and a fusion approach. Look forward to visiting Mint Leaf.. now, with another Mint Leaf in Silvena’s Omnia Gourmet… a bit of confusion is surely going to be there (remember Bestro, Bystro?)

    • FooDiva July 10, 2014 at 2:30 pm

      I gather they had a good turnout for the bloggers’ event. I am sure the service that night was fine though! It is sad as it marred our experience, but it’s an ongoing issue across many of Dubai’s restaurants. I too expected a more creative approach given they position it as contemporary Indian, but looking at the rest of the menu it’s pretty traditional. I would return though once it’s settled in. I expect Mint Leaf of London is trademarked in the UK and they should have covered the UAE too – unless the one in the Gourmet Souk beat them to it!

  2. Dave Reeder July 10, 2014 at 10:43 am

    Much as I enjoy high end Indian cuisine, I do prefer to spend more time out in the souks trying more authentic regional cuisine, knowing that bank of experiences will not be duplicated back in the UK. Finding decent Indian food by quality chefs such as Vineet Bhatia or Cyrus Todiwala is easy in London; finding food from Andhra Pradesh or Calicut almost impossible.

    • FooDiva July 10, 2014 at 2:33 pm

      I guess Dave it all boils down to do you want a tipple with your Indian feast or not? 😉

      • Dave Reeder July 10, 2014 at 2:56 pm

        Good point, though it is possible to have authentic regional plus a drink, most notably at Casa Goa (Palm Beach Hotel) or Susegad Goa (New Peninsula Hotel). Neither of them win many points for ambience, though! And La Porte des Indes manages authenticity, regional food from Pondicherry, alcohol and ambience, though the latter is significantly different from the London original.

  3. Kelly July 10, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    I do enjoy Indian food and I must say that, having lived in south India, I rather prefer the more traditional authentic food (of any cuisine).
    It is also very disappointing to experience bad service in such high class restaurants.

    • FooDiva July 10, 2014 at 2:39 pm

      Interesting Kelly, so you’re saying creative or fusion food across all cuisines don’t delight your palate? I think it’s a shame to not encourage creativity (in any field) otherwise how do we progress if we always stick to what we’re used to…

      • Kelly July 10, 2014 at 8:19 pm

        It is not what I meant..
        Traditional food can be creative and well presented as long as it is tasty!

  4. Garry W July 10, 2014 at 2:20 pm

    Having lived in Chennai for 15 months we were lucky enough to have the chance to try many, many southern indian cuisine but my preference is for the cuisine of Northern India – is the Mint Leaf covering both? If so it is rather like having a restaurant specialising in European Cuisine which is so varied……. (from Scandinavian to British to German to Belgian to French etc not mention the other European cuisines…..)

  5. FooDiva July 10, 2014 at 2:40 pm

    Valid point Garry. Dishes are predominantly Northern Indian, but some South Indian dishes prevail…as do Cantonese stir fries!

  6. Restaurants in Dubai July 15, 2014 at 11:31 am

    Eating out is a popular past time in Dubai, namely because there are so many delicious options. So, whether you want some French pastries for afternoon tea, a full English fry-up for breakfast or a South Asian meal in five star surroundings for dinner, you’re in luck.

  7. Platetrotter July 15, 2014 at 2:40 pm

    I have yet to try any of the fine dining Indian restaurants in Dubai. Somehow as I cook Indian food a lot at home, the idea of Indian food for a night out always loses out to competing cuisines 🙂 But I have always been curious to see how Indian food is presented in a fine dining set-up as it depends so much on a shared-menu style and I’ve wanted to see how that successfully translates to the one-plate-per-person-per-course that most fine dining restaurants favor. I’m happy to see that sharing plates have caught on pretty much everywhere so will be looking to try one soon. Top recommendation in the city? 🙂

    • FooDiva July 16, 2014 at 9:48 am

      To be honest Mint Leaf and all top end Indian restaurants here always encourage sharing plates so you’ll be fine 😉 As for my top pick, I would go with Vineet’s Indego at Grosvenor House – a long standing favourite. I’ve not tried his new one at the Sheraton so can’t really comment.

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