Biryani is undoubtedly one of the most-loved comfort food. Though a very popular home dish to many Asian families, I have always thought biryani doesn’t get much of a spotlight on the restaurant scene. Yes it is widely served among mainstream Indian restaurants but it’s always more of a side item on the menu.
To everyone’s delight, there is now a biryani house in central London that solely focuses on biryani. This place is called DUM – dum as in the slow cooking method for making traditional biryani. It specialises on Hyderabadi Biryani and some Indian snacks and starters.
They are just newly opened and I was invited by the owner, Dhruv Mittal to review on the food. As soon as we sat down, we were greeted by his warm and welcoming smile. He is an alumni of the renowned Le Cordon Bleu London and has trained in a number of Michelin-starred restaurants across both the UK and India. He is very down-to-earth and that set a very positive impression to start with the meal.
We first got ourselves some drinks after we settled down in our seats. I had the Indian “Thumbs Up” coke while the other half had the lemonade called Limca, another traditonal bottled soft drink that’s found across India. From the drinks, which are very traditional representations of India, you can already tell this place strives for authenticity.
So we started off with a couple of snacks and then shared a set of biryani:
This is fried yoghurt patties served with an Andhra tomato chutney. I personally have never tried or even heard of fried yoghurt before. I looked at my other half, who’s originally from Pakistan, and neither does he know of that. Filled with curiosity, we immediately each took a patty to our plate and had a bite and here comes the magic.
I must say these Dahi Kebabs are pretty impressive. I have had Chinese fried milk before, which I thought would be quite similar but this definitely blew my mind, or both our minds really. The outside was very crispy and mildly spiced. Inside that gorgeous crunch is this soft and creamy spiced yoghurt. There is a springy texture in the yoghurt that holds it all together. The chutney was very creamy, velvety and adds a refreshing touch to the fried patties. The dish is special, unique and carries such exciting flavours. We always use yoghurt to ‘cool down’ from the fried food but combining the two elements in one is absolutely genius and something that completely rocks your taste buds! All in all, wow and well done.
If you like spicy wings, this is a gem for you. This was chicken wings tossed in a hot and sour masala, and it was like a dance party of flavours in your mouth. The chicken wings itself were tender and succulent. They were marinated well with this sauce that was proper hot, spicy, tangy and simply an explosion of flavours. This is the definition of saucy spicy wings. What I really love about it is that it’s not just spice after spice – you can taste the layers of flavours in there with none overpowering another one. It was a very strong kick of spice complemented by a refreshing tangy flavour which altogether make a bold, intense, and extremely exciting sensation to your taste buds. It might be too spicy for some people but this was perfection to us both.
Andhra Prawn Fry
These stir fried king prawns in red chilli and coconut were the last snack dish we ordered. I love seafood – I don’t know how many times I’ve already said that but seafood is what I grew up with. Prawns are always a particular favourite in the family. Though still widely available in restaurants across UK, I have always felt the seafood wasn’t being made justice or it lacks quality. I wasn’t having much expectations on the prawns but these really surprised me with the great quality and execution!
The prawns were fresh and cooked flawlessly. Flavour-wise, it was also certainly another stunner. The dish was incredibly fragrant with the red chillies. The prawn meat was al dente and succulent. It simply hits you right at the perfect spot in terms of flavour and texture. It was a robust burst of flavours and again, despite the use of strong flavours, every subtle hint of flavours can still be tasted. Normally when there’s fresh and good quality of seafood, I would prefer a subtle sauce in fear of overpowering the original freshness of the seafood. However, here at DUM, they have executed the dish so well that both flavours had a strong stand hand in hand. You can taste the natural sweetness of the prawns while also taste all those exciting spices going around it.
Lamb Shank Biryani
After all those snacks, here comes the main star – the biryani! We had the Lamb Shank Biryani, which is served with Mirch Unda Salan (curry with green chilli and half boiled egg) and smoked aubergine raita.
If you are wondering what’s the thing over the rice, it’s actually puff pastry. That is how it is served on the streets of India and Pakistan. When I saw it, it also immediately brought me back to my childhood – back home in Hong Kong, it’s not uncommon to find some restaurants serving hot soup with a puff pastry over it. I remember that excitement when I was a little girl to open that pastry and to crack the pastry into a creamy soup (a lobster bisque is my favourite to go with the pastry!). I don’t think I have really seen that every since moving away but after all these years, here I am staring at a massive puff pastry and I can barely contain that giddy excitement in me.
Visually it was stunning – a very simple and neat presentation but also with a wowing factor. As we opened up the pastry, you see all this steam coming out from the biryani as well as that alluring aroma filling up your nostrils. The portion was very generous – I would certainly recommend to share between two people.
There is a generous amount of lamb meat in the biryani and the bone is included inside as well. The meat was soft and tender though I would personally see it even more tender to the point it just falls apart on the touch of the fork and melts in your mouth. The rice was nicely flavoured and spiced. In comparison to the one I had in Dishoom, this one carries a denser texture and definitely with more spices. It has more of a rustic touch and cozy feel, which I imagine is what many people look for in a biryani.
With the puff pastry, all the aroma and flavours are trapped and nicely contained. It was easy to lose the flavours as time goes by (which did happen towards the very end of the meal) so it was really smart to use the puff pastry which enhances the flavours as well as adding a wowing (and Instagram-worthy) effect.
The other half did point out that he would like too see the egg inside the biryani as opposed to being served in the curry on the side. I personally feel it’s fine to serve it outside and leave just the lamb and rice alone in order to keep it straight and simple. If it’s a vegetarian biryani then yes with the egg inside.
While the biryani receives all the spotlight, the sides were equally amazing. The curry was very smooth and velvety and carries a nice hint if sweetness, which I feel created a nice contrast to all the spiciness from the biryani and everything else we’ve been having for the night.
I feel that everything, even the smallest of things, has a unique touch in this restaurant. For instance even the yoghurt and papadoms carry a special touch of flavours that’s not being found in anywhere else. On top of that, they have really gone for some strong and bold flavours which was like an explosive burst for every single dish yet everything is still very refined. It was almost like a controlled chaos – constantly hitting your taste buds with all sorts of strong flavours but all very refined and under control at the same time. Each flavour, though intense, never overpower one another and have combined together to create an even more flabbergasting sensation. It has an authentic rawness of flavours yet also a very sophisticated touch which was splendidly executed and speaks a lot about Dhruv’s background.
Last but not least, desserts. There’s only one item on the dessert section – the Rabdi, i.e Indian Milk Pudding.
The milk pudding comes delicately in a little cup. Texture-wise it was very creamy and velvety. It is actually quite rich but also carries this light and sophisticated flavour that balances everything and makes it a perfect little dessert to wrap up the dinner. You get the richness and density from the milk and then a light frangrant and refreshing touch from the rose water. You can taste out the cardamom blended in there as well which gave flavours to the pudding. It was then garnished up with saffron and pistachio, which both elevates the flavours of the pudding.
To sum up the meal, this place definitely wins at balancing an authentic rawness of flavours and a high-end sophisticated touch. Every dish we tried were bold and robust in flavours but also in a very refined and sophisticated way at the same time – that’s the perfect dance of flavours and sensation to the taste buds. It has a very unique touch and has really brought the more traditional side of Indian home dishes to the gourmet restaurant scene. There is no shortage of Indian food places in London but this one truly offers something unique to the market. Every single dish has something very memorable and special about them which I find very impressive to achieve. DUM is definitely the place to watch out for and I most certainly see it becoming the next hot dining spots in the city!
My Rating: 4/5
Authentic, bold and explosive – control within chaos
Halal Status: Halal
020 3638 0974 | http://dumlondon.com/
Address: 187 Wardour St, Soho, London W1F 8ZB
Closest underground station: Tottenham Court Road