Monday, 22 October 2012


The idea for Dishoom comes from the East, from the bustling Iranian coffee houses that were scattered across Bombay (as it then was) over a hundred years ago. Dishoom initially opened in Upper St Martin's Lane a couple of years ago. Now it has gone East again, to Shoreditch, to a new yet artfully distressed space on Boundary Street. It feels a bit ersatz, at first, if not quite the full Disney: chipped plaster; lots of battered Indian artifacts scattered around; dog-eared posters and sepia-tinged family photos on the walls; to say nothing of instructions to chai-wallahs, taxi-wallahs and others chalked on the carefully roughened, dirtied walls.  Ceiling fans rotate lazily as if to dispel pre-monsoon heat.

Even during the soft opening, though, there is a buzz about the place, with queues waiting in line at weekends. The original Bombay cafes were renowned for drawing in a wide cross-section of city folk to sit and chat or do business over a quick bite, and the same seems to be true here too: Indian families (multi-generational groups, many in sarees) rub shoulders with Hoxton hipsters and couples on first dates, or fans just back from the football.
Roomali Roti, Black Dall, Paneer Tikka and Raita
We are introduced to the menu by a very keen, Eastern European waiter, who explains it works a bit like Indian tapas: the cultural collisions begin to jar. Some odd "fusion" moments have also crept onto the menu itself: a section called Ruby Murray; dishes called Dishoom Slaw and Chilli-cheese on toast; nestling in the cocktail list are Chaijito and Bollybellini.

However, the food itself is a different matter. It starts well with impeccable Chai and salted Lassi.  The Lamb Boti Kabob is succulently well-cooked, the Raita and chef's Special Black Dall are both rich and sloppy, and the Paneer Tikka is crisp, juicy and very well spiced.  Reassuringly, there are also some real Mumbai favourites here as well: Keema Frankies, dribbling with lamb and chilli juice, and battered glass bottles of Thums up and Limca.  The highlight though is the delicate, lacy Roomali Roti, a wisp of bread just right for dipping, dunking, wiping or scooping.

The ceiling fan is still turning, seemingly bringing on the monsoon itself: it's now raining outside.

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