Dishoom: The Reliable Heirloom of Bombay
Now a part of quotidian London, Dishoom is ever reliable with flavours that excite the palate no matter how many times you've been. With a mouthwatering breakfast menu, restaurant specials and an extensive list of signature dishes, Dishoom feeds London from morning till evening. London's dining scene is simply incomplete without it.
Photos credits: Dishoom, Kings Cross.
First opened in 2010 in Covent Garden, Dishoom's arrival brought a frenzy into London's dining scene. It's extensive all-day menu seemed to include dish after dish of signatures. It comes as no surprise that Dishoom now has a total of 6 restaurants in London, and 3 others in Edinburgh, Birmingham, and Manchester. Most impressively, the quality is kept across all branches. Undoubtedly, Dishoom contributes greatly to London's reputation for having the best Indian food in the world beyond India!
It is truly hard to write about Dishoom with its extensive list of notable dishes, top-notch service and bustling atmosphere. It is reliable and simultaneously, ever exciting.
It starts with a queue
Or it usually does if you're at Dishoom for dinner. Only bookable before 5:45pm - i.e. for breakfast, lunch, and tea-time - dinner usually warrants a 40-90 minute wait. Yet, at Dishoom, this daunting wait is made more manageable by the cups of chai, mint tea and sherry that are handed out to queueing diners. Half of the long wait is also usually done within the restaurant's bar - a calculated move to shepherd guests towards a tipple just as people start to become impatient. On rainy days, Dishoom even prepares umbrellas for those unprepared and in the line. These small gestures make all the difference, especially to cold, hungry visitors. Aside from the dinner queues, the staff's attention to detail and care mark the dining experience at Dishoom.
Visually and olfactorily Bombay
I have always loved the moment when I step into Dishoom; it transports you and your senses. As a concept restaurant, it was inspired by Irani cafés in 60s Bombay, where people of all classes, occupations, and cultures gathered for a cup of chai, a small snack, or a full meal. The eclectic décor at Dishoom reflects this history and culture. Whilst each restaurant is decorated slightly differently, with the founding Covent Garden branch being more trimmed and polished, the King's Cross branch, in my opinion, embodies the soul of Dishoom.
Housed in a stylishly refurbished Victorian rail transit shed, King's Cross Dishoom transports you to a space that illustrates Bombay with colonial and industrial influences. When you enter into the King's Cross restaurant, you'll notice the towering metallic staircase that connects the ground floor to its mezzanine and second dinning floors, and the chained fans and lights that dangle from the high ceiling. Their metallic presence is evocative of a factory interior. Yet, at the same time, the hanging clock face, vintage weighing scale, and wooden waiting bench that greets you at the door all nod to the building's rail transit past. Large prints of 'dos and don'ts' on the weathered-looking walls hark back to colonial institutions. Amidst this cacophony of symbolic placements, the incense and spices that fill the air inform you that you've entered Bombay.
Let's talk about breakfast
Before I delve into the not-so-short shortlist of heavenly dishes in Dishoom's all-day menu, a proper shoutout to its breakfast menu is necessary. It is award-winning for a reason.
A personal favourite, and probably London's too, is the 'Bacon naan roll'. It's quite a simple dish. Crispy smoked bacon and fresh parsley sandwiched by warm, fresh naan slathered in sticky sweet chutney...the combination is divine. Whilst the dish may look small, it is one you inadvertently savour. The chutney and smoked bacon are like a match made in heaven. The parsley cuts through the sweetness and fat with its freshness whilst the warm naan rounds everything off with a mellow afternote. Cleaning that plate will leave you utterly satisfied. My mouth is already watering just thinking about this.
The breakfast is not complete without a tea, and Dishoom serves a wicked one. Their 'House chai' is liquid gold. With powerful spices that tickle all your senses, it feels almost sinful to call this the sweet, creamy drink tea. What's more, their chai is bottomless during breakfast service. Endless top-ups of chai...what devilish delight! It is no wonder that I usually exit a Dishoom breakfast on a sugar high.
An assured food coma
It seems almost inevitable that one leaves Dishoom with a food coma. When it comes to Dishoom's all-day menu there are a few must-haves for Dishoom first-timers.
From the grill, the 'Murgh malai' is a dream. Marinated overnight with garlic, ginger and coriander, it is flavourful, tender and succulent. The robust flavours of this dish somewhat prepares you for the stunning dishes to come. Dishoom's 'House black daal' and 'Chicken ruby' are two signatures that are found on everyone's table. Whilst the daal is an earthy, creamy comfort, the chicken ruby is a spice-heavy buttery delight. Both dishes pair beautifully with basmati rice or fresh (garlic) naan - the perfect mediums for mopping up the lush sauce these dishes leave in their wake.
So far, the items above are enough for a 2-3 pax party. But if you have a slightly larger group of 4-5, a couple more dishes can be added to the order. From the grill, the 'Malai mushrooms' are beautiful. Creamy, zingy, and packed with the punch of garlic and ginger, the mushrooms are addictive and a wonder with a bite of naan. The 'Jackfruit biryani' is another reliable dish. Stowed away in the saffron-scented rice are pieces of the meaty fruit that satisfies vegetarians and meat-lovers alike. Laced with raisons that give a nice sweet pop, the biryani is great on its own.
All dishes at Dishoom are perfect for sharing - in fact, they are designed to be! What cannot and should not be shared however is their 'Mango & fennel lassi'. Lassi - a yoghurt-based drink - is perfect when the spices hit you a little too hard. The mango lassi in particular offers a sweet tropical respite that defends impeccably against all spice attacks. The earthy fennel echoes the similarly earthy notes of coriander abundant in the savoury dishes, which make this lassi (or multiple glasses of it) the best accompaniment to your meal.
In the slim possibility of ordering dessert
If you miraculously still have space for dessert, there are 2 I'd like to recommend. The first is the 'Pistachio kulfi'. A kulfi is like a creamy ice lolly - a genius compromise between a gelato and a popsicle. The pistachio one in particular is nutty in the way pistachio-gelato-loyalists like myself would like. If you are still suffering from the spices of the meal, this kulfi is a nice way to round things off.
For a slightly bolder end to the meal, the 'Dishoom chocolate pudding' would be it. It is a dark chocolate molten lava cake topped with chilli ice cream. A word of caution regarding the chilli ice cream - it's spicy. One would think that cream cannot possibly by spicy, well, I was proven very, very wrong. It takes the tested chocolate-chilli combination to another level of sweet and spicy, with its added hot and cold combo. Truly a mind-blowing dessert that's worth a try if you are mentally and physically ready to handle it.
Always a pleasure
Dishoom is the type of restaurant you'd readily say yes to if anyone in the group suggests it. It is probably also the first restaurant any Londoner would think of if anyone is craving Indian. Their signature dishes are so well established that you'd almost always order the same thing when you are back for a visit. Yet, there is so much to discover at Dishoom. If you are able to try out other offerings on the menu, it is very likely that your future ordering repertoire at Dishoom grows in size. So, you either rope in a big group of friends for a meal, or prioritise your selections. It truly is a conundrum that I am happy to face any day.