Dishoom

 

Can you profess to be a huge fan of Indian street food having never been to India? Last night I took the step from a Sunday night takeaway or cuzza with the boys to somewhere a little more upmarket.  

 Upper St Martins Lane is possibly my least favourite part of London, the low-rent part of the West End with shops selling Oxbridge hoodies and chain restaurants ten a dozen. Dishoom nestles amongst all of these without drawing much attention to itself from the outside, step over the threshold however and you’re transported away from one busy old city and into another. Old Bollywood film prints, tables with marble tops and tiled floors. Ceiling fans and stripped back, pendent lights intertwined in bunched knots add a contemporary take on colonial style. The chaotic, vibrant & lively restaurant floor evokes the Bombay Café vibe they’ve obviously strived to emulate. A mix of young couples, colleagues and friends make up the clientele  and an open kitchen bustles with chefs working double time to produce what look like delicious & varied dishes appearing at regular intervals.

 We’re seated downstairs in a comfy booth, the excited atmosphere of the main restaurant gives way to a more relaxed environment which allows us to settle in and scan the menu. Discovering I’m the only Dishoom virgin among us, my friends start recommending various dishes but as per, I’ve given the menu a great deal of prior due diligence online so ignore them and stick to my guns.

Our friendly waiter introduces himself to us and asks if we’ve been before and starts explaining how you should order. I dread this concept of having to point out how certain food’s should be eaten (I can’t use chopsticks). Gaucho Grill do this by presenting a 3 dimensional board of delicious cuts of steaks assuming the only marbling you’ve ever seen is on your Aunts faux fireplace. He seems a little put out that despite his pointers we’ll go it alone and order individually thank you. The dishes are served small so my friend says 3 dishes should do it. I order The House Black Daal, Gunpowder Potatoes and Dishoom Chicken Tikka.

A samosa or two come and go, rather dry and crumbly I’m afraid we wait hoping that everything else won’t arrive in drips and drabs- to our relief a short while later a huge serving tray full of small pots and plates arrive.

 Quite unlike any other daal I’ve had before, the house black version is earthy, rich and hearty with an almost buttery flavour. It’s got that  mac ’n’ cheese feel it’s so comforting. I could easily imagine myself tucking into a bowlful on a cold winters evening. Dare I say it would make a fantastic accompaniment to some rustic style sausages it’s so dense and the flavour mellow enough to carry a herb flavoured sausage or marinated meat.

Despite being warned off the gunpowder potatoes as being a dull choice I choose them anyway. The description reads ‘The seduction is in the tumble.’ My versions is of crushed, delicate potatoes with a crisp herb infused skin with aromatic spices. Their delicious and like the daal knocking a ‘Tarka’ for six these put the ‘Bombay style’ spuds firmly in the shade. These two dishes along with some cooling riata provide the perfect accompaniment to my favourite dish of the evening- The Dishoom chicken tikka.

 For me. Chicken tikka me evokes very fond memories of the drive home from prep school for the holidays at the end of each term. As a treat, my father would take me to a tandoor restaurant in Aberystwyth, the smells of the fresh onions, garlic and spices being cooked and tasting the marinated pieces of chicken were heaven after 10 weeks of bland dry food and gelatinous pieces of meat. Imagine Oliver Twist at an all you can eat buffet. I still love it now and last night’s effort may be the best I’ve had. A marinade of sweet vinegar is used instead of the traditional yogurt. Laced with ginger juice, turmeric, garlic and green chilli, the tender pieces of chicken are heavenly and with a twist of lemon confirm my returning here very soon all by themselves.

Comfortably stuffed, a last round of drinks ordered and our table cleared. I notice a promotional postcard on our table. It catches my eye as it appears to be an old film still of Michael Caine throwing a punch from the superb British 60’s film Get Carter. The relevance only became apparent when looking up the meaning of Dishoom this morning. It’s the old Bollywood sound effect produced when a hero lands a good punch, or when a bullet flies through the air.

Dishoom takes all of the authenticity of what it’s trying to create here in London and using iconic imagery from Bollywood to Pinewood  and popular Indian street food  delivers a hell of a punch.

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