Luke Bennett discovered bursting flavours and an authentic setting for a sub-continental journey.

Jwala’s vision is to offer guests a casual and enjoyable dining experience by creating the illusion of wandering the streets of India. The décor is a true reflection of this with vibrantly painted walls being adorned with murals of iconic, Indian images and a collection of street-themed items carefully displayed throughout the restaurant. To immerse diners even further into Indian culture, Jwala is currently hosting live music from 7pm daily (except Sundays). The band that played during our visit certainly added energy and authenticity to the evening.

Upon arrival, we were warmly greeted and encouraged to select our seating preference. The tables with lounge seating were an obvious choice. However, there is the option of siting outside or in coved, semi-private areas near the back of the restaurant if dining in larger groups.

While we perused the diverse and innovative menu, a bowl of light, crispy papadums alongside an assortment of dips was delivered by our friendly and attentive waiter, Swapnil. Jwala’s menu encompasses many symbolic, authentic Indian dishes with added creative theatre and a fusion with many international cuisines. From OMG Butter Chicken Lasagne to Jwala Bunny Chow, the eclectic mix of courses certainly evokes curiosity and excitement.

With a little guidance from our waiter, we opted for a range of different dishes to start our evening. Firstly, displayed in an inverted, transparent glass was a colourful and intriguing Raita Salad. As Swapnil lifted the glass, matchsticks of cucumber spilled elegantly onto the plate, mixing with the crunchy bed of boondi and pomegranate seeds all smothered in a fresh, creamy raita sauce. Not your average salad, this dish proved to be a palate-pleasing harmony of freshness and crunch.

Served in a bronze teapot emitting steam, Rangoli Chicken Lollipops were next to arrive and, as the name suggests, four wooden sticks were wrapped in chicken breast, each coated differently with crispy Indian flakes that complemented the juicy fibres of meat. Accompanying the lollipops, were three alluring, golden samosas. Slicing through the first, perfectly fried pastry revealed a very generous serving of minced lamb that excelled on both texture and taste – only to be outdone by a warming, gooey concoction of cheddar and mozzarella that oozed from the middle of the next samosa.

Dining out with your partner or friends provides an opportunity to share and enjoy food and 65 Pizza appears to be the perfect dish for this type of occasion; however, it is so delicious that you wish you weren’t sharing it. This innovative take on a pizza starts with a soft, tearable naan base blanketed with a layer of rich tomato sauce and stringy mozzarella. Plentiful amounts of Chicken 65 and crunchy pine nuts along with drizzles of raita and mango dressings all make for delectable toppings. Each flavoursome bite of pizza just keeps bringing you back for more!

Jwala aren’t just exciting their diners with spectacular food options, they are also serving up a range of fascinating speciality drinks from Bollywood Lassi to Sholay Mojito. We opted for the latter which was a pleasurable blend of lemongrass, ginger and lime all unusually served inside a plastic bag and providing a punchy sharpness that complemented the main courses perfectly. The first of which was of course a curry, Prawn Masala Jar. Plump, juicy prawns were smothered in a creamy coconut milk and tomato gravy that had both a wonderful depth of flavour and popping freshness from the addition of peas. A light and flaky Pashawi naan filled with a substantial, crumbly spread of almonds, dried fruit and coconut, was perfect for dipping into the curry or to tear and savour alone.

Having tried the delicious Bermuda Chicken Biryani on a previous visit, I decided upon sampling the Gamla Jhad Paya Biryani, and I was not disappointed with my choice. Gamla means pot in Hindi which explains why the food arrived in a garden pot with the bone of the lamb shank protruding from the ‘soil’, a bed of black paya basmati rice. The fibres of the lamb were unbelievably tender; the rice was flavoursome with layers of soft and crispy grains permeated with a crunchy concoction of cashews, pomegranate seeds and peas. All of which made for mouthfuls of full-bodied, moreish food.

A metal stake carrying hearty chunks of succulent chicken breast announced the arrival of our final main course, Kutubminar Shawarma. Despite their impressive size, each piece of meat retained satisfying levels of moisture and they were marinated in a tantalising tikka sauce – yet another display of expertly prepared meat from Jwala’s chefs. A surrounding selection of katoris housing onions, chapati, mango pickle and tahina raita made this outstanding dish perfect for sharing.

Given the extremely generous portions of food, we didn’t really have an appetite for a dessert. Thankfully, Bubbly Papadum provided the ideal, lighter option with savoury, crisp papadums carefully stacked and layered with a combination of sweet vanilla custard, sugary strawberry jam, and a plentiful scattering of fresh fruit. If you have a greater appetite for desserts, Jwala offers an impressive variety from traditional Gulab Jamun Bites to Rasmalai Tres Leches (a saffron infused cake which Swapnil mentioned was a top choice).

Looking for a relaxed yet memorable restaurant with outstanding food and excellent service? Then, look no further than Jwala – a contemporary, Indian establishment, ideally situated in the lively district of Medina Centrale, The Pearl. ✤