As many of our readers will know that Ajay and I are presently enjoying the sunshine in UK & Ireland. We flew in from Mumbai on Air India’s 787 Dreamliner, had a mediocre stay experience at the Marriott Park Lane Hotel and a nicer one at Hyatt Regency London – Churchill which is right behind Oxford Street.
Trying out one Indian meal is one indulgence we afford ourselves on our longer international trips. Ajay finds a restaurant that is popular among the locals and we usually avoid the Michelin list. Not because we miss Indian food, but we want to figure how different cities interpret Indian cuisine.
Earlier this week we visited Dishoom at Covent Garden in London. Dishoom is a chain of restaurants that draws its inspiration from old Bombay Irani Cafes and the first restaurant opened in 2010. Today the group runs 4 Dishoom outposts in London and there’s one in Edinburgh.
The restaurant doesn’t accept reservation after 5:45 pm in the evening and we had heard that the wait is long. So we decided to walk in at around 4 p.m., sort of an odd hour between lunch and supper. When we arrived at Covent Garden waiting had just started, We were fortunate to get a table within 2 mins at the basement level.
As soon as I entered the place it reminded me of a busy Irani cafe back home in Mumbai. The place was buzzing with people were chatting and rather than an uptight formal sit down restaurant this place had a relaxed atmosphere and a fun vibe about it.
The stair case leading down to the basement seating level was lined up with old family pictures in black and white and posters depicting memories of old India.
We were ushered in on a cramped 2-seater table and the server quickly got us the menu. She explained us that everything on the all-day dining menu was available except Thums-Up (India’s best-selling cola, in case you didn’t know) and the food ordered will be served as soon as it’s ready in the kitchen. They don’t follow the appetizer, main course and dessert order of serving.
Once Ajay and I were done with going through the all-day menu, we ordered Okra Fries and Prawn Koliwada to start off. I was pleasantly surprised to note that the menu did not revolve around only currys and naan. After all it’s the English that gave birth to the famous Indian chicken tikka masala. There was a variety on the menu with pav bhaji, kebabs, keema pav and bhel.
We were also served water in steel glasses and a plate with 3 kinds of chutney, tamarind, mint and chilli were placed on the table.
The Okra Fries turned out to be deep-fried Okra wrapped in Gram Flour & Spices which were crunchy and tasted really good.
The Prawn Koliwada, a Maharashtrian style seafood preparation had a prominent curry flavour. To go with the starters we also ordered the Bombay Pimm’s which is Pimm’s and ginger beer with mint pomegranate, citrus topped with coriander. It is summertime after all, so Pimm’s is an absolute necessity.
We ordered Chole Bhature along with the appetizers and the kitchen forgot about it. So the Chole Bhature arrived with the Chicken Biryani. The Bhatura was flat but nice, though the Chole were mouth watering and tangy.
The Dishoom chicken biryani is a take on the famous chicken berry pulav that is served at Britannia & Co., a legendary Parsi eatery in Mumbai. It is a few hundred metres from Ajay’s office and he has eaten the original a zillion times, but since we were here, we decided to give it a go. It is good that it is a take on the real thing, as the real thing is a world apart.
We finished off the meal with some masala chai and Bailey’s chai, which is a dessert tea: a concoction of Baileys cream and brewed tea.
Overall this place has a cool atmosphere, was vibrant and buzzing with energy. It represented a vintage Irani cafe that brought people together to socialize over food.The food is packed with flavours. It’s not too spicy and everything we tried was delicious.
It’s a value for money restaurant with good sized portions and affordable pricing. For 2 appetizers, 2 main courses, 2 drinks and a dessert we ran we ran up a bill of 50GBP/ INR 4,000. When we got out we saw a queue which literally ran around a block for the evening service. If you go as a group of more than 6 people, that is the only way to get a table reserved for dinner.
The next morning we decided to ditch the lounge breakfast at the hotel and headed back to Dishoom to try their Bacon naan roll, only available for breakfast. We went to the King’s Cross outlet that is also their largest restaurant in London and the interiors depict the story of India’s Independence struggle.
The Bacon naan roll is a piece of mouth watering naan stuffed with bacon strips, cream cheese, chilli tomato jam and fresh herbs.
We also tried the keema per eedu, which is a classic Parsi breakfast dish with keema, chicken liver, fried eggs topped with potato crunchies called salli. It was served with pav and we just could not fault the dish.
The best part about breakfast though was the bottomless masala tea, the restaurant serves in the morning. The tea is brewed with spices and served in chai glasses. We had second helpings.
Overall, we are glad that this restaurant is breaking away from Indian cliches of Bollywood, Maharajas and showcasing a different side of Indian food. It’s a fun meeting place for every one and if you live in London or are visiting the city, a meal at Dishoom should be a must on your list.
Have you had a meal at Dishoom? Share with us what your recommendations of dishes.