Dabbawal - West Jesmond

Mumbai's vibrant street food culture on Tyneside
February 21, 2023

Dabbawal takes its name from the famous Dabawalla’s of Mumbai and is nestled behind a row of other eateries on Brentwood Avenue in the cool urban community of West Jesmond in Newcastle. In Mumbai at lunchtime, Dabawalla’s deliver hot meals to office workers that they have collected from the homes of the workers or restaurants, and transport them to those waiting for lunches after a hard mornings graft. Authentic dishes which have been freshly prepared are delivered by the bicycle-riding Dabawallas in Mumbai. Dabbawal has been open since 2008 and has two restaurants in the city. The one I visited last night in West Jesmond and the other on High Bridge, bang in the city centre. Dabbawal’s ethos works well with the name – street food, “freshly prepared, and utterly authentic.”

I can confirm that the smell of warm spices as we approached the restaurant made my mouth water. I was starving as I’d decided to skip lunch knowing what was in store, but as I approached the door, passing through the terrace which I think would be just perfect on a springtime evening, I was hoping I wouldn’t have to wait too long to sample the delights that I had poured over all weekend. I kept going back to the menu on Dabbawal’s colourful and easy to navigate website and changing my mind about what I would eat – would it be small plates or big plates? Lamb, chicken, veg? Ah…the choices!

The restaurant was just as colourful as the website and had some really cool artwork on the walls that reinforced the Mumbai message. My favourite was the Bombay Lemonade advertisement. I decided after being very warmly welcomed and seated that this was the only drink I could choose from the menu I had been handed. It was refreshing, zesty but with a hint of sweetness. My dining date was very disappointed they hadn’t ordered the Bombay Lemonade and swiftly stole mine for a slurp. Our second round of drinks included their very own Bombay Lemonade as I wasn’t sharing any more of mine. If you go, this is not to be missed.

The menu has so much to choose from. You can have small plates, big plates, breads, rice, sides – all of which sounded like our kind of thing. For starters from the small plates section of the menu, I opted for the Bombay Bomb – four crispy mini puris stuffed with mashed potatoes. They were little packages of delightfulness; spicy with green chilli but not enough that you couldn’t enjoy the textures and flavours on the plate. My curry companion opted for the Dabbawal Grill - which scored maximum points.

Whilst the general aura in the restaurant is relaxed and is without an awful lot of fuss and unnecessary frippery, as a customer, I got the impression that every member of staff was dedicated to making the dining experience really special and memorable. Both myself and my street food sidekick commented on the service which was attentive without being suffocating. The staff at Dabbawal seemed to have a natural knack of knowing when to approach the table.

'Street Food Pioneers of the North East' is a claim that both eateries rightly deserve - but they are so much more besides: I defy you to leave either West Jesmond or Highbridge invigorated - and having enjoyed authentic food cooked with meticulous detail.

Did we enjoy our evening? Hanjee Chef!

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