Dishoom isn’t such a secret anymore. I first started raving about it a few years ago, just after the Covent Garden restaurant opened. I took countless people there, for dinner and for breakfast, and each and every one was impressed, going on to spread the word to their friends too. I spent Valentine’s Day with my (also single) best friend at Dishoom in 2011; I dined with big groups of friends, feasting on huge numbers of sharing plates; I went with colleagues; I went on dates; and all while Dishoom was still relatively unknown.
NOW, however, you’ll have a hard time getting a table (annoyingly they don’t take dinner bookings) – I tried to take my cousin on a Monday evening last month and was informed the wait for a table would be 40 minutes. Not cool. So be grateful, readers, that I’m telling you about Dishoom at all! I’m only shooting myself in the foot, increasing the wait time for a table by encouraging you all to visit!
Dishoom is a Bombay Café, and there’s one in both Covent Garden and Shoreditch. Inspiration comes from the bustling Irani cafés of Bombay from the 1960s, but with a luxe twist. Slow spinning fans rotate overhead, exposed light bulbs hang low over tables, the floor tiling is a monochromatically geometric, and the family photos and framed pictures on the wall bring a homely vibe. I’d say the Covent Garden restaurant is a bit smarter and more polished than its Shoreditch sister, which has a more industrial, dark feel – but I still can’t decide which I love more.
An open-plan kitchen gives glimpses of the chefs tossing dough over hot cooking domes to make the light romali roti flat bread, and the spiced scents permeate the entire room. In Covent Garden, be sure to venture downstairs to check out the intimate alcove tables – and the bathrooms also deserve a mention (I’m a firm believer that you can really judge a place by its bathrooms!) as the exquisite attention to detail extends even to here, with classic posters and medicine cabinets full of colourful balms and tonics.
Dishoom aims to introduce Londoners to a new take on Indian food, moving away from the traditional curry house dishes and into the territory of sophisticated sharing plates, with influences of street grills and food stalls, but all beautifully presented. A kind of Bombay tapas, reasonably priced, which allows you try a variety of the dishes.
You must try [dinner]…
Chili Cheese Toast
House Black Daal
Chicken Berry Britannia Biryani
Romali Roti bread, with Classic Raita for dipping
Pineapple & Black Pepper Crumble & Ice Cream
My favourite meal at Dishoom is actually breakfast. You can book a table for breakfast (bookings are accepted up until 6pm, after which you can only book for 6+ people), and it’s the perfect place for a lazy morning bite. The Shoreditch restaurant also has a verandah, which is ideal for a balmy brunch/lunch, or lantern-lit evening meal.
You must order [breakfast]:
Ginger Pig Bacon Naan Roll, with Cream Cheese & Chutney
Granola with Vanilla Bean Yoghurt & Fresh Fruits
House Chai / Chocolate Chai (I can never decide which I like best!)
The Permit Room bar area of the Shoreditch branch is perfect for cocktails; Juleps, Sours, Fizzes, Smashes and other fancies all feature, and each one is impressive and stunningly served.
The word dishoom is the old Bollywood sound effect when a hero lands a good punch. Dishoom’s two restaurants have succeeded in wining over London, and I can vouch for their ability to pack a serious punch.
Dishoom is getting ready to celebrate the Hindu festival of Holi with a crazy colour party at Hawker House in East London, on 23rd March. Buy tickets (£15) to enjoy an afternoon of storytelling, traditional colour-play, music, delicious snacks and drinks, between 2pm and 4.30pm.
Look back at the 2013 festivities here:
Shoreditch: 7 Boundary Street, London, E2 7JE | 020 7420 9324
Covent Garden: 12 Upper St Martin’s Lane, London, WC2H 9FB | 020 7420 9320