Kunal Kapur is a very big deal in his native India. The chef trained with the revered Taj group of hotels before becoming the executive chef of the Leela Kempsinki hotel in Gurugram. He is most famous, however, as the presenter of Masterchef India, among other TV shows, and he has won awards for his presenting skills.
But there’s depth beneath the surfaces and Kapur spends his free time training unemployed and under-privileged young people with cooking skills and helping them to raise money for their own restaurants and food businesses.
This Abu Dhabi outpost of the chef’s projects lives up to Kapur’s good name. The idea is to update traditional Indian cooking with global flavours and vibrant presentation on a menu touting the usual line up of salads, starters, soups, mains (including good vegetarian choice) and desserts.
Butter poached prawns come with a black garlic sauce and, like several of the dishes here, the sorts of foams you would more usually find on the plate in London or Paris. Grilled Chilean sea bass, meanwhile, is cooked in the tandoor before being served with strawberry chutney. The usual dish of saag comes as creamy spinach paired with Italian cheese, while chicken tikka is mixed with sweet apricot chutney and served with tacos.
Kapur isn’t afraid to add his touch to classics such as kebabs and lamb rogan josh, both of which are deconstructed for diners to mix to their owns tastes, but the emphasis is always on respecting the classical Indian elements in each dish, rather than rendering them unrecognisable.
The interior design takes a similarly untraditional path, with the room split into two distinct areas, each with its own mood – one side bright and warm, the other cooler and more reserved, though this latter space is where you’ll find the best seats in the house at a counter that affords a view into the open kitchen.