Every year on December 23rd, I go out for a big Christmas meal with my friends.
And while the company is always good, the food usually isn’t.
Trying to find somewhere to suit a large group that includes vegetarians, fussy eaters, a guy who “winna eat anything frae the grund” (to non Dundonians, that means he doesn’t like vegetables) and a large number of people who’ll be drinking and therefore don’t want to take a taxi too far from the city centre can be difficult and it’s meant that in the past after all the exciting suggestions have been shot down, we’ve gone to dreary Italian restaurants like Don Michele or bang average ‘Jack of All Trades’ eateries like Papa Joes.
But this year, much to my amazement, there was a consensus to try somewhere a bit different.
We went to my personal favourite Friday night takeaway spot – but a venue I’ve never sat in to eat at – Al-Basha Mediterranean Restaurant & Shisha Bar on Dalgleish Road.
So how did we get on?
Al-Basha is a spacious, well-lit restaurant that is part of Dundee’s Carlton Hotel. I can’t say the venue blew me away as being particularly amazing, but at the same time it was nice enough. The staff were friendly and attentive, which makes such a difference.
The only thing I would mark it down for was that there was a toilet brush in the men’s lavatory which put me off using it.
Unlike The Bach, it also has easy disabled access.
You get a choice of a regular menu (which is what we order from when getting our takeaway), but we went for the Tapas menu where they just bring more and more food out.
And boy, did they ever.
It came in the following order.
Round 1: Fruity and Spices Breads with oil, dips and cold cured meats.
Round 2: Flatbreads with a variety of dips including hummus, baba ganoush, artichoke, some kind of coleslaw, a dip with capers and sweet potatoes, and red pepper.
Round 3: Items like garlic mushrooms, fried halloumi, lamb samosas, meatballs in tomato sauce, cauliflower pakoras, chicken rice, spiced potatoes, stewed okra and lamb rice.
Round 4: The vegetarians were give their own massive plates of veggie food that included stuffed vine leaves and peppers, among other things, while the carnivores were given a large amount of meat (kebabs, lamb chops, chicken etc) to wolf down.
Round 5: Dessert in form of grapes, dates, Turkish Delight and some joyous baklava.
Round 6: Quality Street.
Now I suspected we’d be given a lot of food, so I tried to pace myself, but I was stuffed by Round 3; we all were. To get that fourth round was almost a bridge too far, but we soldiered on.
And let me say now, the food here was superb. Everything was well cooked, full of flavour and added to the experience, and as one of our group said “There hasn’t been a single thing here I haven’t loved”. The lamb rice especially is something you have to try.
Honestly, this place is amazing, and it’s also very nice to be exposed to trying new foods and flavours.
But you do have to pace yourself or you’ll end up like Mr Creosote.
For me it’s always a lemonade, and I had no complaints on that score. Most of the group consumed copious amounts of wine that seemed to go down well, and to top off the night they tried some sort of exotic shot that smelled like it would strip paint. But they liked it so who am I to judge.
The Vegetarian’s Viewpoint
As you can tell, there was plenty for vegetarians to get their laughing gear around. No complaints at all on that score from them.
Here’s the best part; for all that food it was £20 per head. Absolutely sensational. That doesn’t include the drinks of course, and while I can’t attest for the value of the alcohol, I’m happy to report that from my perspective it was tremendous value for money.
When I’ve mentioned Al-Basha to people over the last few months, the most common response is “Oh, where’s that?” because it’s slightly out-of-the-way and not somewhere that will likely get much foot traffic. But more people need to know about it and understand just how good it is.
I loved the meal last night, and I think everyone else did too (though the guy who doesn’t like vegetables wasn’t there and I think it might have been a little too different for his tastes).
Great value, so much food and nice staff means this is a place you have to try.
But just remember to pace yourselves.