But even our arrival was greeted with something of a fanfare by the gateman who promptly donned his cap and guided us to a prime parking spot out front.
Once inside, we were escorted to the lift and began to feel really rather special.
The interior of Akbar is what I, never having visited the sub-continent, imagine Indian fine dining would be like actually in India.
Rich colours, plush materials, subdued lantern and candle lighting and a live Indian band.
I must admit, when I saw them, my heart sank just a little – I’m not a great fan of some Indian ladies’ singing which just jars on my eardrums, but this guy had a heavenly voice and when the women joined in, it was equally as pleasant.
We had a good look at the impressive menu before deciding to go for the one-price buffet deal. The very helpful waiter assured us we could add items from the grill if there was something there we fancied but didn’t find in the buffet.
I started with chicken chaat, a really tasty combination of minced chicken, coriander, turmeric, garlic, chili, tomatoes and onions with a chunky texture ideal for the accompanying poppadoms.
I also added a spicy chickpea salad which really tickled the tastebuds, salty and savoury and very filling.
My dining companion went for the lentil soup, again spicy but not enough to be unpleasant – I left this one alone knowing I’d be tucking into dahl with my main course.
The selection for the mains was really good with chicken mughlai, mushroom masla, a lamb dish, fried fish, dahl, biryani and another type of rice, as well as various others we didn’t even have stomach space to try.
The chicken mughlai was perfect, the sauce rich with the scent and taste of cardamom, coriander and cumin. But be warned, the meat’s not boneless so watch out.
My dinner partner was very impressed with the mushroom masla which started off gently tasty but gave a real kick on hitting the back of the tongue.
The fried fish was good enough for a second helping, white and fluffy inside with a crisp but sticky outer coating and the biryani had all the spices and fruity flavour you would expect from the best sub-continent cooks.
For my taste the dahl was a little bland, but then in so many places the chili’s so plentiful as to be overpowering so I would rather the former than the latter.
I ordered spinach paneer from the a la carte menu and was delighted with the generous serving of chunky cheese and piquant spinach – with just enough of a hint of chili to make it really interesting.
And though there was no naan actually on the buffet, a quick ask and the waiters were happy to produce a baking hot platter straight from the oven to mop up the delicious sauces.
You’d think by now we’d have been full but my dining partner went back to try the fried chicken, strips of breast meat in a yoghurt and spice marinade which tasted almost good enough to make me forego dessert – but not quite.
And speaking of dessert, another impressive spread from jelly to trifle to a fresh cream and rice concoction to chocolate cake – which my companion said was good but slightly dry.
Not spotting the traditional Indian kulfi ice cream, I once again asked the waiter who duly brought forth a serving of the super creamy dessert. But despite my delight at the big chunks of pistachio, alas my eyes were bigger than my tum and I couldn’t quite manage to finish it – but hey, maybe next time. I can see Akbar becoming a regular haunt particularly since they serve a rather nice house red at just a dinar a glass.
The bill (for two)
|3x||house red grape||Bhd3.000|
|Location:||Gudaibiya - Ramada Palace Hotel|
|Experiences:||Alcohol available,Takeaway available,All you can eat deal,Business lunch,Live music,Smoking permitted|
|Times:||Open daily noon-3pm, 7pm-12.30am|
|Credit Cards Accepted:||Yes|