Peppermill has been a go-to spot for Indian fare in Abu Dhabi and Dubai for a few years now, predominantly serving rich North Indian food. Its fancier sister restaurant Laung by Peppermill is centred on the regal fare favoured by mughals and other royal dynasties, with a contemporary twist on the classics.
Given Indian restaurants are a dime a dozen in the UAE, The National set out to review how Laung (which translates as clove, the aromatic spice so lavishly used in Indian cuisine) sets itself apart.
What to expect and where to sit
Tucked away on the first floor of Nation Towers on the Abu Dhabi Corniche, Laung by Peppermill can seat 80 diners in an expansive space that features semi-private and private dining rooms. A glass-encased terrace offers stunning views of the skyline and the sea beyond, and should be your go-to when the weather cools.
Featuring an extensive menu with chaats, grills, curries, biryanis, breads and desserts, Laung by Peppermill offers signature Indian dishes (such as butter chicken and kadhai paneer), as well as intriguing options such as ghee roast chicken with chettinad sauce. My dining partner and I entrust chef Munish Rana with bringing us his favourites.
The meal begins with toasted poppadoms served with a trio of chutneys ― coriander, tamarind and yoghurt-based ― which whet the appetite for what is to come, alongside light and refreshing mango mojito and berrylicious mocktails.
Gol gappa aka pani puri is a cheap and cheerful staple at Indian street food restaurants. Laung's tangy gol gappa-dhappa dish is pricier than most at Dh29, but comes on little glasses and is topped with a moreish tomato chutney and slivers of papaya. The spicy-sweet water the puris are filled with does not take away from the crunch, but this is a dish best eaten quickly.
We are next served beetroot kebab (Dh55). Truth be told, I am not the biggest fan of the vegetable, but the melt-in-the-mouth patties at Laung have a crunchy exterior and are served with crumbly cheese, making for an exquisitely textured dish. The spice level complements the sweetness of the beetroot, too.
If you're not the biggest fan of spicy food, consider the murgh malai tikka (Dh59). The chicken kebab is flavourful, tender and ― to its benefit ― is served without the twist that accompanied our first two starters.
A tangy berry-chilli sorbet (Dh7) helps cleanse our palate for the mains, which are the real stars of this show.
We try the classic lamb rogan josh (Dh75), dab moilee (Dh99) and chicken meatball in makhni gravy (Dh69). The first is a Kashmiri-style braised lamb curry, and Laung’s version comes with a smooth, flavourful thick sauce with meat that falls off the bone. It's best eaten scooped up in a crunchy garlic naan (Dh17), although the restaurant also serves biryani rice (Dh33).
My dining partner, who is from Kerala, says the dab moilee (tiger prawns cooked in creamy coconut milk tempered with curry leaves and chillies), reminds him of a dish his mother cooked, which I take as a seal of approval. This curry is best paired with plain steamed rice.
With not much space for dessert, we manage only a few bites of the gulab jamun with rabri (Dh29) and shahi tukda (Dh39). Laung serves its gulab jamun warm with a nutty rabri and crunchy caramelised popcorn. The shahi tukda, meanwhile, is a calorific but decadent multilayer dish served with pista and kulfi ice cream.
The meatball makhni is like nothing I’ve ever had before, which is saying something given butter chicken is a staple across the subcontinent. At Laung, a giant ball of minced chicken is stuffed with butter and spices, and perched atop a pool of buttery tomato and bell pepper gravy ― a mild sauce packed with flavour. All that butter does make this dish heavy, but it's a worthy cheat treat.
A chat with the chef
Chef Rana has worked at various Taj properties, including the ones in Lucknow, Sri Lanka and Dubai. In the UAE, he has also worked at Al Murooj Rotana and award-winning Indian fusion restaurant Tresind.
Rana, who is trained in European and Indian cuisines, reveals that he plans to add a number of Indo-French fusion dishes to the menu later this year.
Price point and contact information
Dishes start at Dh29 for soup and go up to Dh119 for the lamb chops. Laung by Peppermill is open from 11am to 11pm, and reservations can be made by calling 02 886 8877.
This review was conducted at the invitation of the restaurant