It was said that the old Irani cafes of Bombay were a very popular place to gather back in the 1960s. However, a big majority has already disappeared due to competition from modern cafes and fast-food restaurants. It’s a shame really. But that has brought to the inspiration and concept behind Dishoom, a very popular Indian restaurant that has taken the UK by storm.
We visited the Carnaby branch, which is situated by Kingly Street. Dishoom first came to my attention because of a charity project they did during Ramadan. In that project, they decided to perform their zakat by donating meals to the less fortunate children. For every meal served, two children were fed and they were able to donate a total of 160,000 meals by the end of the Holy month. Then at Diwali, they pledge to feed a hungry child for each guest served. At the end of the year, they have donated over a quarter of a million meals to for children in India and East London. Seeing the success of this, they have pledged to do this every year in order to help those in need.
This charity activity has really touched me. What’s more beautiful in this is that, despite the religious differences within the restaurant group, everyone respected and came together on these religious events and made contributions to the world. Of course, we should always be supporting charity outside these Holy dates but it warms my heart to see Muslims, Hindus, Christians, etc. all coming together to support in one another’s events.
Now back to the dining experience. The restaurant doesn’t do small reservations and I was worried there might not be seats given their prime location in central London. Fortunately, though it’s absolutely buzzing inside, we had been lucky enough to get a nice round table spot.
Greeted by friendly staff, it’s as if we’re led into a whole new scene away from busy London. The setting inside is super cosy, featuring slightly dimmed lights, wooden interior and marble tables. Soft Bombay music was playing in the background as well to set the ambience. There are glass windows separating the rooms, with lots of classical decors all over the place. My favourite is the wooden bookshelf next to our table, where they have put old books, photographs, old toys etc. It’s just in overall a very charismatic place.
Surely it is trying to recreate the traditional Irani cafe setting but they elevated it with a classy touch to match the London city vibe. Even though it’s busy inside, the ambience was really chill. We see some people just sitting there with their laptop as you would typically do in a cafe. It really brings out both a nice restaurant quality as well as a chilled and relaxing cafe style. It has an elegant touch but at the same time, it retained a traditional down-to-earth style.
Mango and Fennel Lassi (£4.2)
Starting with drinks, we had the Mango and Fennel Lassi. It was icy and creamy, and the fennel did add a little kick to the overall flavour. Nonetheless, the mango flavour wasn’t as strong as we would’ve liked. It was decent but not particularly impressive.
Awadhi Biryani (£12.5)
The Awadhi Biryani is a lamb biryani, prepared with stock and spices, then layered with rice and cooked in traditional ‘dum’ style. This was definitely one of my favourites of the evening. I love biryani and this one really impressed me because it’s so incredibly fluffy and featured some incredible flavours. The flavours were very well-layered and really offered a full rounded experience to the palate. There’s also a mild touch of spiciness in there to give the taste buds a little tease.
My only criticism for the dish is that I would like to have tasted more of the lamb. The lamb did contributed a lot to the overall flavour but there didn’t seem to be a lot of meat pieces found in there. It’s got me thinking how fabulous it could taste if there were just a little bit extra meat in there to lift the flavours even more. The rice has really taken the spotlight in this dish and we all agreed that it’s a winner.
Chicken Ruby Curry (£12.5)
The Chicken Ruby is a chicken curry cooked in rich silky makhani sauce. It’s got a vert rich and velvety texture, which was indeed super silky and smooth to taste. The chicken pieces were also very tender, though I would perhaps like a little bit more seasoning soaked into the meat. But, all in all, it’s a really great dish.
Sali Boti – Carnaby special (£16.9)
This Sali Boti dish is exclusively a special served at the Carnaby branch. It is a Parsi classic dish with tender lamb meat braised in a rich and flavoursome gravy. It is then topped with some crunchy sali crisp-chips and served with buttered Rommali Roti. You can choose from a half platter or a full platter to share. Here we ordered a half one.
Starting with the gravy, it was extremely rich in flavour. Compared to the curries, it is more savoury and less creamy. The flavours were fully braised into the meat in addition to its juiciness and tenderness. It is the kind of dish that makes you keep on wanting more. The crisp-chips added an extra crunchy texture to it. It remained crunchy even after mixing with the gravy and created quite a delightful texture. The roti was a nice side dish to compliment the main but I find it a bit too ‘damp’. I would prefer a bit more elasticity and lightness but despite that, it tasted nice.
Lamb Boti Kebab (£9.9)
Last but not least for the mains, we got the Lamb Boti Kebab dish. This kebab dish is a Bademiya-style classic which consists of lamb meat marinated with red chilli, garlic and ginger. The kebabs came in patty styles. It smelled fairly nice. However, the actual flavours didn’t stand out much and it was slightly dry. Out of all the dishes we had at Dishoom, this one was, unfortunately, most forgettable.
Dishoom Chocolate Pudding (£6.9)
For desserts, we went with the Dishoom Chocolate Pudding, which is basically like a molten chocolate cake but with a unique Bombay touch to it. It was served with a scoop of Kashmiri chilli ice cream on the side.
The pudding was really nice. It tasted very rich and gooey, which was euphoric. There’s a little hint of salt in there as well. Salt is essential in the making of a chocolate dessert in order to give a little lift of flavours, but sometimes it could get distributed unevenly. That was the case here. There were a couple of spoons of the chocolate pudding in between that tasted salty instead of just a little tease.
As for the chilli ice cream, it was certainly a very interesting experience. At first taste, it is just like normal ice cream, giving you that light and chilled feel to your tongue. Shortly afterwards though, you would find a spicy kick coming out. Of course, it’s not fiery hot as it would be in a spicy savoury dish, but it’s definitely a surprise kick to the palate.
Pistachio Kulfi (£4.2)
We also went with a Pistachio Kulfi, which is essentially ice cream served on a stick. I am normally slightly anxious when it comes to pistachio-flavoured ice cream or desserts as many places add almond powder to it which I think totally kills the taste. This one, thankfully, was pure pistachio flavour. I absolutely adored the kulfi was it was extraordinarily creamy and dense. It’s just so refreshing, satisfying and hard not to fall in love with it.
…I absolutely loved my meal at Dishoom. Stunning food, great ambience, friendly staff and convenient location – it’s simply the perfect spot to gather with friends for a nice relaxing dinner after a busy day of work.
Chicken and lamb are halal at Dishoom.
Alcohol is present on the premise.
Nearest station: Oxford Circus