Dishoom is already a success story, with five restaurants in London and one in Edinburgh. I’m surprised it’s taken me this long to visit one. We chose the Covent Garden location – just a few steps from Leicester Square underground station.
It isn’t possible to book a table for less than six people after 6pm – you should expect to wait in line outside for up to one hour and we did (picture above was taken at 11.15pm so no line). As it was, I hadn’t seen my friend for several months and we had plenty to chat about while we waited. The line manager, who also registers you when you join the line, also offers hot Masala chai. I regretted not bringing a hip flask filled with whiskey. It isn’t possible for both to leave the line and visit a nearby pub – you’d need to take turns.
Once inside, the décor is that of a Bombay café – these Irani cafés of Bombay were set up by Zoroastrian immigrants who resettled there in the mid 1900s. Apparently only twenty-five remain. We were seated at quite a small table for two – others who were luckier sat at booths for four. I’m not sure if you can hold back and wait for the table of your choice.
The menu and wine list are on a double-sided piece of A3 paper. I found it difficult to read the 7pt font descriptions of each dish without the light from my iPhone. Our waitress, originally from Poland, was really friendly and helpful. My friend, Vrinda, assured her that we (actually not me) knew all about the food. We ordered a bottle of Terre di Monelusa Primitivo – good value for the location at £27. Tap water was free.
Vrinda went a bit crazy with the starter orders, explaining that each was a chance to try Bombay street food. All the starters were good value:
Vada Pau – a deep-fried spiced potato patty in a bread roll £3.90.
Pau Bhaji – a bowl of mashed potatoes with a bread bun for dipping £4.50
Dishoom calamari – small fried pieces £5.90
Bhel – cold and crunch puffed rice with pomegranate and spices £4.50 – forgot to take a picture of this.
The Vada Pau and Pau Bhaji were delicious. The calamari batter was a bit too sweet. The Bhel was, to me, like a bowl of spicy breakfast cereal without milk – Vrinda assured me the Bhel was good and pretty much how it should be.
It was a good experience and a nice change to the pappadums and samosas that I order without thinking.
For the main course, we ordered Mahi Tiikka £8.20, Jackfruit Biriyani £8.90 and a Chicken Ruby £9.50.
The chicken ruby was as good as any chicken curry I’ve eaten.
The biryani was authentic – apparently you can partly tell by the piece of inedible pastry left on the edge that is the remains of the cover. The biryani was really tasty.
I forgot to take a picture of the perfectly presented Mahi Tikka – the piece I tasted was delicious and I’d be tempted to order that as a starter on another visit.
The (clean) bathrooms were downstairs. I was surprised to find another part of the restaurant downstairs – sadly lacking the same character as the upstairs and also quite claustrophobic with low ceilings.
I would recommend always asking for an upstairs table, preferably a booth – even if that means you have to wait in line for longer.
We’d seated at 8 and suddenly it was 11.15. 12.5% service charge was added to our bill and I was almost tempted to tip our waitress a little more.
We really enjoyed our time at Dishoom. The food was excellent, waitress really great and the prices really reasonable. The biggest downside is having to wait in line outside. I think I would try and arrange to visit as a group of six to avoid the line.
12 Upper St. Martin’s Lane
London WC2H 9FB