Vikram says he’s been in Dubai “literally forever”, but after 16 years it only feels that way. Born and raised in Mumbai, he came to the city as a professional photographer, and started to cook when he felt the need to express his creative talents through another medium.
He had never previously felt the need to cook in Dubai, with its somewhat hyperactive culture of eating out and takeaways, but now found himself experimenting with French cuisine, then Spanish, then Italian. “Then I figured out that I could actually have a lot of fun with Indian spices,” says Vikram. “With Indian food you can adapt and mould recipes to your own palate, with whatever is in your fridge. It’s interesting.”
The summer curry with mussels hit all the right flavour notes
Omani prawns cooked with coastal spices
By the time that supper clubs became a thing, he was good enough with those spices that friends were asking him, “Why don’t you do this?” He was hesitant, even nervous, especially when his friend Neha Mishra (the home chef and ramen queen behind @astoryoffood supper club who has also gone on to open her own restaurant Kinoya) brought her friends to his first club event, and they were all chefs.
“It was scary to feed people,” he says, but the people turned out to be his favourite element of the experience, and since that jump off the deep end he has come to enjoy each and every gathering at his Curry Bureau. “My tables are like the United Colors of Benetton. I’ve fed Emiratis, Filipinos, Indians, Danes, Belgians, French people...This is what Dubai has to offer, that mix of cultures, and there’s a lot to learn about people through food. There’s personal growth involved as well.” Vikram has also fed his own mother, whose cooking inspired some of his dishes, although she was surprised by his contemporary approach to what he calls “Bombay cuisine”, with its mix of “Mangalorean and South Indian influences, flavours from Maharashtra”.
“Obviously I have ruined her recipes,” he says, laughing. “But the flavours are intact.” His dishes are “travel-influenced” too. The mussel curry, for example, is presented in a kind of Belgian style. “I love how you can dip bread in it and sop up the curry,” he says. There’s also a Spanish flourish to his Omani prawns, which he keeps on the menu even while rotating his 12 main specialist dishes, because they seem to guarantee that plates will be wiped clean.
He doesn’t make the desserts though, in part because he’s got a “savoury palate”, and also because he wasn’t happy with a few early tentative attempts. “I don’t want to do something I’m not good at.” Instead, two sweeter-toothed friends now handle the dessert course. “That has made life a lot easier.” Vikram still makes a living as a freelance photographer, while the Curry Bureau, which was meant to be something to do “on the weekends, or in the evenings”, has now become an equal passion. “I am lucky that I get to do two jobs that I thoroughly enjoy.”
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“My tables are like the United Colors of Benetton. I’ve fed Emiratis, Filipinos, Indians, Danes, Belgians, French people...”
ON THE MENU
We absolutely loved Vikram’s comfort food peppered with coastal influences. The portions were generous and were served with no bells and whistles, but it didn’t need any;
just some bread to sop up any rich sauce that remained as we worked our way through the courses. Vikram’s spice mixtures from India are used sparingly, but well. The beef fry was a great example of this, as the spices highlighted the quality of the tenderloin rather than overpowering it. The sea bass inside the banana leaf parcel was meltingly tender and delicately flavoured with a Bahraini spice mix, soft white onions and heirloom tomatoes. Our favourites were the ever-popular summer curry with mussels as well as a seasonal mango curry with shrimps.