There’s a new Dishoom in town – but hey, you probably already know that, given that half of London seemed to be queuing for a table during soft launch last week!
As a restaurant blog editor, I am frequently asked to divulge my biggest secret and name my favourite restaurant in London. Previously, I would have deliberated a little while and come out with “ummm… probably Dishoom?” Ask me now, however, and the answer will be an immediate blurt of “Dishoom!” with no hesitation and 100% certainty. Yes, the new KX outpost has well and truly tipped the balance.
So what is it about Dishoom that gets hundreds of Londoners queuing round the block for a table? Let me attempt to put it into words…
Dishoom gives you a dining experience like no other. And ‘experience’ is the key word here. Never have I visited a venue that so utterly and authentically transported me to another place and time.
When you set foot in any Dishoom restaurant, you step into a Bombay café of the colonial era. Every single tiny detail has been considered – the Dishoom founders, cousins Shamil and Kavi Thakrar, are obsessive about this, in fact, and spent much of 2014 travelling to Mumbai and trawling through historical archives in order to accurately furnish the new KX restaurant.
Situated just behind King’s Cross, the founders have drawn parallels between St Pancras and Mumbai’s Victoria Terminus stations (both of which are built in an OTT Gothic style), further adding to the authenticity of the experience in recreating this Irani café which, back in the early 1900s, would have played a key role in bringing people together (in 19th-century Bombay, before these cafés existed, Hindus and Muslims would never actually eat together).
Let me walk you through the new venue – it is huge. As soon as you enter the lobby area, you notice the height of the space – two floors above you, and one more below, with chunky metal girders and scaffolding all the way up, plus a commanding station-style clock.
There is seating in the lobby area, including some Bombay Fornicators – wicker chairs with extra-long footrests that might been handy for love-making…! At the far end is a replica of a Mumbai Central station book kiosk, used here to serve sugar cane juice.
Round the back of the bar, on the ground floor, is the Family Room, another dining area. Reproduction signs and posters throughout the restaurant nod to colonial Indian history, and a huge graffitied wall is a reference to the Indian government of 1927 and Simon Commission. There are old photos of the independence movement scattered about the walls, most taken by India’s first female photo journalist, Homai Vyarawalla.
Wash basins are common in Irani cafés, as are large signs to proclaim the rules of the house…
The main restaurant is on the first floor, and features classic bistro furniture and industrial lights. The soundtrack makes you feel like you’re in a Bollywood-meets-Disney film, and the whole place buzzes with happy diners and relaxed but attentive staff.
Up in the rafters is the chef’s table – a monochromatic space for up to 14 diners, looking down upon the whole rest of the restaurant. I’ve got my eye on this space for future dinners and events…!
In the basement is the Permit Room bar – the name being a reference to the Bombay Prohibition Act of 1949, where the sale of alcohol was limited to those with a medical permit! The bar itself has an apothecary feel, but the space is large, with lots of seating and tables, and more authentic black and white family-style photos.
Like I said, every single detail has been recognised, considered and executed, and the result is quite something. Even the toilets have been Dishoom-ed.
I have chatted about Dishoom’s menu offering in a previous feature on the Shoreditch and Covent Garden restaurants, so I will just summarise quickly here…
Breakfast at Dishoom is my favourite meal. The bacon naan roll is the ultimate Indian-British culture clash, and the granola bowl is the best I’ve found in London. Wash it down with hot and spicy House Chai.
If visiting for dinner, remember that this is a place for sharing plates – so order plenty and get stuck in – Dishoom’s totally reasonable pricing is another reason for it’s huge popularity, so don’t be expect a scary bill at the end – quite the opposite. The calamari is once again the best I’ve found in all of London; the chilli cheese toast is also a winner. Definitely order a Romali Roti flat bread and bowls of Raita dip and black daal. Finish off with a Kulfi popsicle or the pineapple and black pepper crumble. Oh and more House Chai!
Be warned – there are booking restrictions at Dishoom: After 5:45pm, they only take bookings for 6+ people. But then breakfast is my favourite meal anyway!
5 Stable Street, King’s Cross, N1C 4AB
Photos by me and John Carey.