Just over a week ago, though it seems much longer, Ilaria and I ate at Dishoom. Twice. Yep, we liked it so much the first time, we went back.
Dishoom is a small chain of modern Indian ‘Bombay Cafés’ in London. There are 4: Shoreditch; King’s Cross; Carnaby; and Covent Garden.
There’s a lot to like about Dishoom, and though I can only vouch for Shoreditch, I have no reason to doubt that the same relaxed vibe, energetic and friendly staff, great food at reasonable prices and overall good experience also exists in the other Dishoom cafés.
I love the time they’ve taken to give you a sense of place. Here’s the way they describe the history of Bombay Cafés on the menu and website: “The original Bombay Cafés have almost disappeared. Opened early last century by Zoroastrian immigrants from Iran, their faded elegance welcomed all: rich businessmen, sweaty taxi-wallas and courting couples. Fans turned slowly. Bentwood chairs were reflected in stained mirrors, next to sepia family portraits. Students had breakfast. Families dined. Lawyers read briefs. Writers found their characters.”
Oh, that hooked me. I was right in there, back in the day. But Zoroastrian? To quote Google (hand on heart!), “Zoroastrianism is the ancient, pre-Islamic religion of Persia (modern-day Iran). It survives there in isolated areas but primarily exists in India, where the descendants of Zoroastrian Persian immigrants are known as Parsis, or Parsees.” I couldn’t have summed it up better myself, and my Oxford Dictionary explained more under ‘Parsee’: “An adherent of Zoroastrianism, especially a descendant of those Zoroastrians who fled to India from Muslim persecution in Persia during the 7th-8th centuries.”
Forget the quotes, whoever wrote the café blurb and their menus has a way with words.
Here’s a sample from the breakfast and lunch menus, which understandably, made choosing food no easy matter, oh, and start with a Bloody Mary if you will, ‘Made with the feisty Mary-mix of Dishoom’ or a Virgin Mary ‘Feisteness abounds, but there is no swearing.’
A sort of carnival of snackery, halfway between crisp and cracker. Colourful, lemony, salty.
A bowl of mashed vegetables with hot buttered pau bun, Chowpatty Beach style. No food is more Bombay.
BACON NAAN ROLL
The ‘Ginger Pig’ smoked streaky bacon is dry-cured for 5 days with rock salt and Demerara sugar then cold-smoked over oak chips. A Dishoom signature dish and deserving of all its accolades.
Thick slices of bloomer bread are buttered and thrown onto the grill where they become char-striped. Served with homemade preserves: pineapple-pink-peppercorn jam, and tangy orange marmalade with star anise.
The seduction is in the tumble. Potatoes with brown skins, smoky-grilled, broken apart, tossed with butter, crushed aromatic seeds and green herb.
SPICY LAMB CHOPS
They lie overnight in a special marinade of lime juice and jiggery, warm dark spices, ginger and garlic.
The name refers to beating someone up nicely – a messy to-do of cucumber, onion and tomato. (see my Kachumber here)
I love it, just love it. The originality, the visual images, the way they have brought the heart of the original Bombay Cafés into the High street, accessible to all, but more than that, I loved it because it delivered a relaxed experience, punchy though, with attentive staff and smack-in-the-face flavours.
If a trip to London is not on the cards, have a flick through the Dishoom website and learn more about their culture, the music they’re into, the ‘design a plate’ initiative and the impressive charity work they carry out.
Shoreditch 7 Boundary Street London E2 7JE Tel: 020 7420 9324
King’s Cross 5 Stable Street London N1C 4AB Tel: 020 7420 9321
Carnaby 22 Kingly Street London W1B 5QP Tel: 0207 420 9322
Covent Garden 12 Upper St. Martin’s Lane London WC2H 9FB Tel: 020 7420 9320
You can read about how they support child hunger here:
“Every time you eat a meal with us, we feed a child in need. In return for your meal we pledge a meal to Magic Breakfast – a charity providing nourishing, free breakfasts to schools in London, so children who go hungry at home attend class with full bellies and enquiring minds.”