Before you start booking your no return flight to India, let me fill you in on another secret. Well, it’s kind of a secret – the gourmands of London have been aware of this treasure for quite some time now. There is real authentic Indian food available bang in the middle of the busiest area in Covent Garden, serving not tourists, but – bells are ringing – actual foodies. And even Indian foodies, might I add!
It’s called Dishoom and it claims itself to be a ‘Bombay Cafe in London’. A ‘Bombay Cafe’ is something of an everyman’s pub of India. Subject to extinction nowadays, the original cafes welcomed everyone from rich businessmen to sweaty taxi-wallahs and courting couples. They were the hottest places in town (often literally), where food was served all day round and to everyone.
I believe it is the interior, that gives the quality of the food away even before you have been seated. If the place is designed with attention to detail, then so will be the food. Dishoom is like that – the owners have gone to extreme lengths to re-create the authentic interior of a ‘Bombay Cafe’. With a modern twist, naturally. Like back in the day, the walls are covered with vintage sepia family photos, the floor tiles are of the standard bottle green kind and the kitchen is exposed to the diners. Regardless of taking reference from something that developed its ‘look’ over time and therefore is quite random, in the Bombay cafe in London, nothing has been left to chance.
If you’re one of those people who believes an Indian dish consists of meat chunks swimming in curry sauce served with a bowl full of rice and bread on the side, then I strongly suggest trying out Dishoom – you’ll never think like that again. Even though their curries (especially the Dhaba Chicken) are to die for, it’s the grills, small plates and rolls that will make you come back again and again. The succulent lamb (Sheekh Kabab) and chicken (Murgh Malai) are cooked and spiced perfectly, whilst the fresh out the oven Samosas serve as an ideal pre-meal appetiser. If concerned for meat overdose, worry no more – Dishoom have their paneer (traditional Indian home made cheese) cooking down to an art and the grilled portobello mushrooms are a tasty alternative to meat. There is only three biryanis in the menu, but with both vegetarian and meat options and all are a delight. The menu in Dishoom has been put together with the same love and care as their interior – it is a fine mix of modern and traditional, taking the best of both worlds. Having a variety of options, the menu still remains simple and sleek – contrary to many other Indian diners in London.
The price range is reasonable, and if, like me, you like to order a whole punch of stuff for a table of few, so that everyone can have a taste of everything, then Dishoom is a place for you. Their ‘spicy’ comes in a choice of options and if in doubt, just ask the staff to help you out. Though at times a bit loopy, the service at Dishoom is generally friendly and homely – just as you would expect from a traditional family run cafe. The wine list is not spectacular, but then again, you’re in Bombay not Paris, so let your curry do the talking, whilst the chardonnay takes a backseat for a change. Try a delicious chai instead and finish off the meal with a Kulfi stick – a butter soft mango and pistachio ice cream on a stick.
I cannot count the times I have eaten in Dishoom, so I’ll just warn you now – once you give it a change, you’ll keep on coming back. And that’s a good thing.
12 Upper St. Martin’s Lane London WC2H 9FB
Make a booking online at the Dishoom website, but be aware that for dinner they only take bookings for 6 and more, so if you don’t have five friends, just pop in and demand for a table!