I love the idea of Dishoom; a place that pays homage to the old school Irani cafés of Mumbai (or Bombay, as it was then). Dining rooms of faded colonial elegance, buzzing with life, where people from all backgrounds gathered, bypassing social barriers or religious differences to unite over their desire for sustenance.
It’s a great concept for an eatery. And although Dishoom is a very Westernised, gentrified version of those Irani cafés, there’s a lot to like here (and the rate at which new outposts are cropping up indicates that people rather do).
The fit out is beautiful, with dark panelled walls, marbled tabletops and sepia tinted photographs on the walls. I’m sure a lot of money has been spent to make this place look as though it’s been untouched for decades. Due to unforeseen circumstances I’m dining alone this morning, so have the luxury of a deep leather booth all for me and my thoughts. For a generously priced £2.50 comes a glass of excellent chai which is refilled regularly, without once having to wave down a waiter. It’s richly spiced and warming, with just enough sweetness; a hug of a drink that more than makes up for the snow flurries I’ve braved on my way here.
I order the bacon naan roll, and it is very good. Admittedly, you can’t go too far wrong with freshly made naan, admirably sourced bacon from the Ginger Pig and smears of cheese and chilli tomato jam. It deserves all the very nice things people say about it, but at £5.50 I’m not sure of it’s value. I guess it all balances out if you get your money’s worth of that chai.
Although my dining companion couldn’t join me this morning, I order an extra dish in his honour. I wish I hadn’t bothered. The Akuri tastes as unappetising as it looks. The egg has collected into flabby little lumps, a result I would guess is due to too much time in the pan with too little fat. There’s a vague suggestion of spice and the occasional bite of soggy onion buried within. It goes mainly uneaten, unsurprisingly. The sweet buns are unremarkable, so I won’t remark, and the tomato was probably my favourite element of the dish.
A game of two halves, then, in regards to the food. The service meanwhile was polished and attentive throughout, without ever giving seeming as though they were trying to rush me out of my prime real-estate booth.
Had I ordered just the bacon naan and a chai, I would have walked out with change from a tenner and a glowing opinion of Dishoom. Damn my gluttony, and damn those rubbery, greying eggs. I may still return – I’ve heard good things about their main menu, particularly the black daal – but perhaps not in too much of a rush.
Dishoom has a number of branches around London, but I ate at the Covent Garden branch at 12 Upper St Martin’s Lane, London, WC2H 9FB. Website.