It seems that Bombay has followed in the footsteps of London and its current culinary trend for small sharing-plates over three-course meals. Or perhaps it’s the other way around, and London has finally caught up with something India has been doing since the days of the Raj? More likely, we imagine. Either way, it was a pleasurable way indeed to dine at Dishoom, a relatively new restaurant near Covent Garden styled on the long-forgotten Bombay cafés of yesteryear. Think creaking ceiling fans whirring lazily overhead, lights draped with delicate materials, marble-clad tables, retro prints mounted on the walls and the occasional flash of checkerboard flooring underfoot. Surprisingly, perhaps, the space – split between ground and basement levels – is relatively free from tourists, with its location at 12 Upper St. Martins Lane escaping the Central London curse of attracting camera-wielding, theatre-going diners. Quite the opposite is true here, in fact, with an insidery clientele of genuine curry lovers that appreciates a side portion of style with its masala.
As explained by our waiter, the food on the menu here is designed to share and is served up in the centre of the table as and when it is ready. And what a menu it is, comprising grills, salads, small plates, roomali rolls, biryanis, breads and teas. We went slightly overboard, admittedly, and ordered dishoom chicken rolls – two of them, massive in size and stuffed full of tender, succulent pieces of whiter-than-white chicken – chilli cheese toast – surprisingly light, and topped with spring onions and green chillies – and dishoom calamari, the weakest of the ‘starters’, though a squeeze of lime added a bit of flavour. Afterwards, we opted for lamb samosas – packed full of minced lamb, and encased within light, crispy pastry that flaked when bitten – grilled masala prawns – oversized and outrageously tasty, topped with tomato and fresh coriander – and the daily ‘ruby murray’, which had been an unusual spinach and cheese combo. While it sounds sickly, it was inventive and inspiring and went down a treat – particularly when washed down with a DG&T – Rangpur Tanqueray, tonic and a few drops of Ashwagandha – and a Chajito, made from chai-infused rum and muddled with fresh mint and lime. Delicious!
While we were anything but hungry come dessert, we felt it our duty to at least try one of the five options available; while we should have probably gone for the traditional kulfi – Indian-style ice-cream – we opted for the significantly tastier-sounding chocolate fondant served warm and with a scoop of perfectly-round ice-cream. A decadent way to end a wickedly decadent dinner. When it comes to service, it was razor-sharp and attentive without being imposing; the perfect balance.
In short, Dishoom takes traditional Indian cuisine and gives it a fresh, innovative twist for a new generation of city-dwellers – in fittingly old-generation surroundings.
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