Dishoom, Covent Garden

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.

Dishoom Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Advertisements

Sketch, Mayfair

The world is a bit shit at the moment. The leader of the free world is an orange-faced buffoon, Brexit is going so badly that Africa will soon be sending us aid, and Moseley still doesn’t have a Waitrose. Worst of all, none of it matters anyway because we’re all going to get nuked by North Korea.

So two hours of afternoon-tea-shaped escapism, taken in the Wes Anderson-esque Gallery at Sketch, is well deserved. For a mere *cough* £72 plus service you can be whisked away to a magical millennial-pink land where the only dilemma you’ll face is which tea will best complement your champers. Everything is perfect here, your every wish answered; it’s an alternative reality for those with a large disposable income.

Picture courtesy of Sketch photo gallery

If I’m honest, I was expecting style over substance; delicate instagram-worthy bites with flavour playing second fiddle. Happily, I was wrong. It was without doubt the loveliest afternoon tea I’ve ever had, and packed with skilled work. Bravo, Sketch.

Champagne and tea sorted (essentials first, people), we are presented with our first course. Egg and soldiers by name, but not quite by nature. A comté cheese mornay takes the place of the white in an shell-shaped eggcup, cradling a dainty confit quail yolk. To accompany it come comté soldiers and a mother of pearl spoon of caviar; we are in Mayfair, darling. It’s cheesy and rich and lovely, although I still don’t see what all the bloody fuss is about caviar.

Cake stands arrive next, groaning with an array of finger sized sandwiches on the bottom and topped with two layers of petits gateaux. I won’t list them all for fear of sending you to sleep, but I must tell you that the coronation chicken sandwich is outstanding. We rave about it to the extent that we are brought another full plate. The petits gateaux are truly fantastic, in particular a delicate choux finished with redcurrant cream and white chocolate, and a deliciously rich chocolate and caramel gauteaux. This is a team who know their pastry.

The food keeps coming. Plump scones appear, accompanied by clotted cream and a choice of fig or strawberry jam. They are quite possibly the nicest scones I’ve ever eaten. Sorry Mum – yours are second, I promise. We’ve reached the stage where clothes are crying out to be loosened, but still one more round is to come. A slab of pistachio and cherry cake, and one of Victoria sponge. Both are excellent, yet both get abandoned in fear of a Mr Creosote moment.

The bill is, of course, eye watering – not least because I am treating my sister – but one well worth paying for a one-off blissful escape from reality. Until my credit card statement comes, that is.

Find Sketch at 9 Conduit St, Mayfair, London W1S 2XG.

sketch Gallery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bleecker Burger, Victoria

A recent trip to London saw us trying to tick as many places off our ‘must-eat/must-drink’ list as we could in 30 hours.

All our lunch and dinner slots were already full when we were recommended Bleecker as “the best burger in London”. Our dilemma was solved by a quick Google; their speciality is the Bleecker Black burger, a double cheeseburger with beef black pudding. Black pudding is clearly a breakfast item, giving us a perfect excuse to squeeze in a trip to Bleecker for the most important meal of the day. We later found out that the Bleecker Black is temporarily unavailable (a situation described by Twitter users as “drastic” and “worse than Brexit”) but we’d already justified it to ourselves, so sod it. Burgers for breakfast it was.

The little black front of the Victoria branch faces directly onto the biggest Shake Shack I’ve ever seen. Must be stiff competition for them, we thought. How wrong we were. I guarantee that one bite of a Bleecker burger and you will never step foot in that particular branch of Shake Shack again. Anyone who does so is a fool.

A classic bacon cheeseburger and a Bleecker Blue (blue cheese sauce, onion, lettuce) are swiftly ordered and we ask for them to be cut in half for sharing purposes, as Bleecker don’t give out knives. We’re totally down with that, because what kind of sick human being eats a burger with a knife?

The patties in both are cooked to a perfect pink with meat that oozes quality; flavour this good can only come from using top notch beef (Bleecker’s is dry-aged, rare breed and pasture fed). This is a serious burger. I hate places that completely eradicate the flavour of the patty by piling it high with ridiculous toppings. I’ve learnt it’s usually an indication that the patty itself is shit. Here, it rightly takes centre stage, putting in a performance well deserving of an encore.

Both are encased in the much maligned sesame bun, which in most places seems to have been permanently relegated in favour of it’s trendier cousin, the brioche bun. It stands up perfectly against the beef, providing an ideal receptacle for the burger juices whilst still maintaining it’s structure.

The blue cheese sauce on the Bleecker Blue is very good, not too overpowering but still delivering a whack of flavour. It’s an excellent burger, but the bacon cheeseburger is something else. It is complete burger nirvana – the best bacon cheeseburger I’ve ever eaten – and at only £6 is probably the cheapest hit of euphoria you can get in London. That encore I was talking about? I sent my boyfriend in for a second one as soon as we’d finished the first.

Fries wise, Bleecker’s signature are ‘angry fries’, topped with blue cheese sauce and hot sauce. The flavours worked together but personally I just wasn’t that into it; I think the sauce took over and distracted from how good the chips actually were (they were very good).

Our last minute dash to Bleecker turned out to be my favourite of the weekend in terms of sheer unaldulterated eyes-rolling-back-in-your-head bliss. Yep, it even beat the 3 Michelin starred lunch we had the previous day. One week on and I’m still thinking about it more than men allegedly think about sex (19 times a day, according to the extremely reliable http://www.shape.com). I’ll be back for that Bleecker Black soon.

We visited the Victoria branch of Bleecker at 205 Victoria Street, London, SW1E 5NE. They also have branches in Spitalfields and Southbank. 

Bleecker St. Burger Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato