I’m a little late coming to this one and those of us who follow the Milton Keynes dining scene know that there have been a few blog reviews of Urban already from some of our very own MK blogging stalwarts Jo and LouBou. But when I hear of a new Indian restaurant promising ‘authentic’ recipes with a great vibe and better flavour, then my interest is peaked. So, after the dust had settled from the initial fanfare and launch, Mrs P and I dropped in on Urban Dhaba late one evening to see what all the fuss was about.
Located in the old Food Hall, next to where Waitrose used to be, Urban Dhaba’s décor is certainly worthy of high praise. The interior design is great, a fantastic example of a modern curry house with a comfy seating area, modern lighting and nods to a well-established culinary heritage that is now as British as it is Indian. As with most things in the service industry it’s the small touches that make the difference; for example, the cutlery and tableware are well thought out and look great, the tables aren’t crammed in elbow to elbow and the loos are bright and clinically clean. On first impressions then, Mrs P and I decided that Urban Dhaba had a solid thumbs up.
We sat and chatted to the waiter and manager on some drink recommendations, and as it was Mrs P’s birthday dinner she went for the exciting sounding Chatpata Jamun. While I had to make do with a coke. Second only to SuburbanGent’s love of the cocktail, Mrs P reported back that the Chatpata was incredibly tasty and dangerously drinkable. Too many of these bad boys and she might not be responsible for her actions. So, I did what any self-respecting husband would do and ordered her another one.
It was late and we were hungry so we got right on the case and ordered a mixed grill starter and paneer to sit alongside the mutton and king prawn curries. I have always maintained you can always tell the quality of good indian cooking by a plain naan (no need to mess about with your irrelevant keema or peshwari variants), so one of those came out and in a surprising twist Mrs P decided to re-live her time spent in Southern India with a buttered roti as well.
Poppadum’s were your standard affair but the dips were something a bit special, the lime pickle and mango chutney both seemed premium but otherwise unremarkable whereas the little pot of coriander flavoured Indian summer, was incredible. Fresh from the herbs, a little bit sour and all beautifully balanced, we polished off a whole pan and asked for another. Mrs P mixed a spoonful with the mango chutney to sweeten the whole thing up and declared it delicious.
The mixed grill was a great showcase of all the different tandoor dishes that Urban has on offer, the most interesting part of the dish was the fish because it’s something that I always want to order but never actually get round to. This way, I could see what I was missing and make sure that I order it next time! The spiced lamb kebab and chops were equally as good with the chicken probably being the best of the bunch. I have to say though that while the tandoor spicing was well applied and gave the meat a perfect crust from the tandoor oven, the overwhelming flavour was of cardamom and while I like soap as much as the next man, there really is only so much I can eat before I start to question just how clean I want my tongue to be.
The Paneer was lovely, the crispy coating with a chewy inside all slathered with a glossy, rich and dark sauce which was so reminiscent of a dish I had eaten at Papa J’s (before they took an unfortunate turn for the worse), that I had to wonder if they had poached the chef. Paneer is another dish that I know most of us see on a menu but don’t order, so I’m really glad that this one turned out as delicious as it did.
The naan didn’t quite live up to full-on perfection as it wasn’t quite as puffy and fluffy as it could have been but you can blame Tesco for creating the belief that naans can be cooked from a packet in a microwave for that. This example was certainly no worse than any standard curry house offer and a lot better than most. Mrs P’s roti was buttered as promised and delivered the memories that she was looking for of the many evenings she spent in Kerela, trying to eat an 80% liquid diet with her hands!
The curries themselves remained strong with both the mutton and prawn dishes delivering flavours that packed an excellent punch. Both had a good depth of flavour and were great examples of why you shouldn’t restrict yourself to a Chicken Tikka Masala and/or Jalferizi depending on how much punishment you want to give your toilet. Looking further afield at dishes you wouldn’t otherwise order is a great thing, and Urban Dhaba will reward your exploration!
So is Urban Dhaba worth your time and money? We say; yes. The food, the look and the cocktails are all top notch examples of what’s on offer in Milton Keynes. We all have our favourite local Indian restaurant and what Urban Dhaba are trying to do is encourage you to widen your horizons a bit and take a leap of faith. Personally, I love the way that they give you the opportunity to expect more than just your Friday night takeaway. Will it fill you with a new and burning desire to jet off to Mumbai to experience the place for yourself? Probably not. But, with the quality improving in Milton Keynes all the time in The Don and Maaya for example, it should at least let you know that not all curry houses are created equal.