Wow there’s a lot of rules at Dishoom.
No combing hair? Fair enough. The Dishoom diners held one commandment in flagrant contempt on our visit though– the one about the talking. London’s new(ish) recreation of a Bombay café was exploding with ambience, and the general hubbub was infectious and potent.
We were surveying the scene from their wind tunnel of a waiting area for thirty minutes (the way I see it, anything in the Urbanspoon Top Ten is worth up to half an hour) and we had plenty to keep us occupied. The Times and The Times Of India hung from wooden reading sticks by the bench, and framed pages of The Illustrated Weekly Of India sat next to faded adverts for face cream and posters advertising the cinematic likes of ‘Dr Madhurika’. Incense smoke clung to out nostrils, chased away every two minutes by the breeze from another party trying (and failing) to get in for dinner. Low-slung fans turned lazily by industrial light fittings splashing a weak amber glow over gorging diners. A free glass of chai tea, all milky and warming with a ginger kick, was brought over and we were finally taken to our spot where we ordered the London Restaurant Festival menu at twelve fifty each. Our twelve fifty went a long, long way.
The table was full of delights in no time. A bit too quickly really, as the best part of any meal is the anticipation. A virgin bhang lassi was astonishing, soft and seductive with a crunchy cinnamon, seed and rose hip crunch on every mouthful (if a bit too bulked out with ice). Keem pau (spice minced lamb) was a small bowl of tangy lava that obliterated its accompanying “buttered bread” (read: economy buns) but smothered garlic naans perfectly. We chose roomali roti as our other bread option – a mistake as it languished in the bowl like a wet teatowel and didn’t wipe the floor with the gloopy (and delicious) house black daal as it should have. Raita was as clean and cucumbery as you’d expect and we ate lots of it off the fork as our starchy options had dimished somewhat. We didn’t damage the three chutneys (including the house special with red and green chilis) that much either due to the lack of bread, but I guess it left more room for the Dishoom chicken tikka (expertly charred chunks that were gobbled on sight, by both our table and every table around us) and the chicken berry biryani (slow cooked and again done to perfection if a little antiseptic tasting). The latter came in a pot ringed with dough and both rice and meat were that ideal meeting of tender and tacky.
One Meantime lager and a chocolate kulfi later and our bill turned up in a little trinket with a bell trapped inside. We were finished in less time than we spent queueing, fifteen quid a head down and on the right side of bloated, full of comfortably-above-par Indian food in a spectacular venue that will probably become a favourite. It’s two doors up from new Mexican restaurant Cantina Laredo, and much as I’ve tried to defend that place in the face of much blog derision, this is a far better bet.
Want to know what Dishoom means? Ask An American In London
Want to see some nice pics from the restaurant? Try Greedy Diva
Price Per Head: £15
Soundtrack: The deafening sound of jabbering gluttons
Clientele: All castes