To celebrate the launch of their new lunchtime menu, Darbaar, the award winning, fine dining Indian restaurant in The City has launched a series of lunchtime masterclasses with Chef Patron Abdul Yaseen.  

Invited to try one, in the evening actually, we tracked down the slightly off the beaten track Darbaar just behind Anima, a restaurant once something of a byword for style and now looking a bit unloved and empty.

Not Darbaar though which has a particularly welcoming warm feel, especially in the restaurant where the open kitchen with its wood burning oven for the artisan bread (Nanza) throws out some serious heat.

Former Head Chef of Cinnamon Club, Abdul Yaseen has created a menu inspired by the Royal Courts of India and showcasing the very best of Indian cuisine.  As part of the set lunch menu, Chef Abdul teaches diners his tricks of the trade with a series of 20 minute masterclasses with subjects including how to make the perfect rice, how to marinade and how to work with spices.

The masterclasses are hosted at the counter seating overlooking the open kitchen and afterwards diners can then enjoy the new set lunch menu priced at £13 for two courses and £16 for three. Remarkable value, as we were to find out.

Chef Abdul is an imposing presence in the kitchen but an extremely genial, humorous man. His kitchen ran quietly and efficiently behind him taking care of an almost full house, as he took us through his tips on cooking perfect rice – it’s not as simple as you might think.

He dismissed the notion of hours of presoaking and explained that to wash the rice first it apparently isn’t a case of sticking it under the tap, as I do.Instead he recommends covering the rice in tepid water, gently agitating the rice to release starch, pour the water away and then do it again a few more times. ‘Treat the rice gently!’ he insisted.

He showed us more of how to ensure the rice doesn’t stick, always a problem at our house and something I had never seen before. ‘Add some lemon juice and throw the squeezed quarter in,’ he said doing just that.There was some chemical reason for this that I didn’t quite catch, being fascinated by a chef next to me flaming lamb patties on the charcoal Robata grill, He did this with an elan that prompted Abdul to humorously ask him not to set fire to the guests.

After twenty minutes of tips, anecdotes and information we got to sit and eat the menu.

My starters of Lamb Chapli Kebab with Smoked Aubergine Salsa was neat, well presented and delicious. The kebabs senstiively spced and the aubergine salsa a perfect smoky foil.  

P had the stir fried chicken with green spices. Again a moderate sized portion as Abdul understands lunchtime diners want to get back to the office in a light and lively state, not pinned to the floor by food.

‘We all know that time is precious, especially in The City – so we wanted to create a fun and interactive experience that would only last an hour.  Many people have a misconception that Indian cuisine is heavy and rich and with this menu I wanted to create something that was light, quick and delicious’, Abdul explained.

Bombay Masala Baby Chicken Pilau with Raita for me and it was delightful, the chicken did not overpower the rice instead the rice was the star and the chicken a flavouring. I chased every last grain down.

For desserts I had Carrot Hulwa Cake, not as sweet as it usually is and for me that was a bonus.

All in all it was a great experience and even if you can’t make time for the masterclass you can certainly make time for the brilliant lunch menu

The next masterclasses will take place on 16th March and 30th March at 12:30.

To book contact [email protected]

1 Snowden Street

Broadgate Quarter

London EC2A 2DQ

020 7422 4100