A cold late afternoon coupled with a craving for something warm and spicy led us to this restaurant, Dishoom, nestled off a busy corner in Covent Garden (although Leicester Square station is much closer I think!). We were at the Royal Albert Hall for an event, and fancied a bite to eat after. With not much around in the vicinity of South Kensington that appealed to us, we decided to take the Tube underground to Covent Garden and a four minute walk later, we stepped in to this curry oasis.
Somehow, we got a table as soon as we entered but within the next fifteen minutes, a queue formed and a waiting list developed so it was a magical-in-the-sense-that-the-heavens-were-opened-and-curry-was-destined kinda day.
A warm ambience, a little noisy with nostalgic Bollywood tunes and the buzz of conversation flowing in the background.
We ordered the Far Far and Pau Bhaji to begin with and for mains, the Chicken Tikka Roll and Chicken Berry Brittania. We followed this with two cups of chai and a mango and fennel lassi. We went with our little 5 year old daughter, who found it all pretty spicy except for the mango lassi. Whilst later browsing at their website, I discovered a children’s menu. A bit disappointed that we weren’t told about this but our waitress did say she was new and this was her first day. (All descriptions in bold are copied from their menu).
Far far: A sort of carnival of snackery, halfway between crisp and cracker. Colourful, lemony, salty. (V)2.50
Far Far was my childhood in a plate, except I remember shapes and not a lot of flavour, just pure crunch. The Dishoom far far were long colourful cylinder crispy cracker-like things dusted with what I guessed were the holy grail spices of Indian street food (chilli, salt, sugar). A nice snack but I couldn’t help shaking the feeling of this not being starter-like. It’s like having popcorn for starters. Indian popcorn. Or a bag of crisps. You know what I mean?
Pau Bhaji: A bowl of mashed vegetables with hot buttered pau bun, Chowpatty Beach style. No food is more Bombay. (V)(S)4.50
(Thanks to my lovely sister for the recommendation!). Pau Bhaji is like your five-a-day in one bowl. Just vegetables of course. It sings comfort food to me. However, the buns seemed a little greasy (for my liking) rather than buttered description but that’s just me being super nit-picky. Otherwise, it was authentic with a nice hint of spice. I’ve had a fair few pav-bhajis and although mama’s one is best, this does come pretty close. 4.5/5
The presentation was pretty simple and minimalist, because ultimately this is street food.
Chicken Berry Britannia: The Dishoom variation on the legendary Irani Café special, with cranberries. 8.90
The Chicken Biryani arrived with a little more fanfare as the waiter lifted the casserole lid that was lined with dough (more authenticity there!) to let out a steamy biryani. This was what the husband ordered. I had a spoonful, or two. Ok, maybe it was about five. I love the toppings of a biryani. They are like the cheese to the pizza. I loved the use of cranberries, typical of Persian cuisine instead of the more traditional raisins. It was missing a little crunch, which could have been easily solved by a few slivered almonds or roasted cashews. The husband felt it was flavoursome and tasty but the portion could have been bigger but he thinks that about most things. 4/5 (only because he wanted more!)
Dishoom Chicken Tikka – A family recipe, using a marinade of sweet vinegar, not yoghurt. Laced with ginger juice, turmeric, garlic and green chilli. (S)7.90
For me, Indian food is always a craving for nostalgia. Our sense of taste is such a powerful portal in to memories and all things familiar. I am sure most of us have had a chicken tikka roll at least once (Am I right?) The chicken tends to be bright red with charred edges but disappointingly dry on the inside. This however was a whole different ball game. Or chicken wrap rather. I loved the marinade, not sure I could taste all the distinct flavours individually but they were definitely mouth-wateringly tasty together. The description accredits this to a family recipe, and these are the kind of secrets best kept within the family! There was sweetness, super spiciness and tanginess amongst the tender but not dry chicken, and lettuce. The star of the show for me was the bread it was wrapped in. It just tasted bread-like (not chewy or rubbery). It came with a little sweet ketchup-like dip, not sure what it was but I liked it. 5/5
Drinks: Mango Lassi – First-class yoghurt with fresh mango pulp and fennel seeds. 3.90
We are used to that bright yellow, sugar-loaded but refreshing drink where your ami or aunty used canned mango pulp or some Rubicon mango juice but hey, it was one of your five a day. I didn’t manage to get a picture because we ordered this mainly to relive our daughter of her tongue on fire. I did manage a sip or two and you could definitely taste the fresh mango and it was refreshing, without the sugar overload that usually is present in lassis. It was just sweet enough. 5/5
We finished with the House Chai. All things nice: warming comfort and satisfying spice. Made in the proper way. All who have tried it are swearing by it. 2.50
I do like a chai. All day, every day. This again, another hit. It had hints of cloves, ginger, cardamom and black pepper. Creamy and steamy hot, and sweet. A great end to a nice meal.
Have you been to Dishoom? What did you think? Please comment, and also suggest more restaurants you would like me to review 🙂