The Halal: There are now three branches of Dishoom and all of them serve halal chicken and lamb. There is no pork on the a la carte menu (though they do a bacon naan roll for breakfast). Alcohol is served on the premises.
The Place: Nuzzled next door to the Grain store in trendy Granary square is the the newest addition to the Dishoom family. In fact it’s so new, it hasn’t even made it onto their website yet! The backstory is that of a young Iranian immigrant arriving in Bombay with next-to-nothing. He’s an opportunist and with a bit of luck he opens a small cafe behind the Victoria terminus rail station which prospers from the loyalty of its patrons.
Dishoom KX opened last week and the soft launch went incredibly well. Hoards of hungry Londoners descended upon King’s Cross and waited patiently in long queues in order to be amongst the first foodies to trial the dishes. The space of the restaurant is incredible making it the largest branch yet. They have converted a huge transit shed, which they call a Godown (Indian word for warehouse). There are exposed brick walls, a grand central bar with bright underlighting, old photographs in sepia and a background score of old bollywood music. In the basement is another bar called the “Permit room” which is styled like a ticketing office. The furniture has been meticulously selected to create the perfect ambience of vintage Bombay.
The Food: I visited Dishoom with two fellow food-bloggers whose company made the night an even more memorable and enjoyable experience. Whilst queuing to enter the restaurant, we were offered hot chai to warm us up in the cold. The hostesses were very polite and gave us regular updates about how long we would be waiting.
The menu remains largely the same as the other branches with a few special additions. The bars have increased their repertoire serving an increasing number of mocktails and cocktails, fresh juices such as sugarcane, orange and nimboo-paani (lemonade). My favourite Dishoom drink remains the Virgin Bombay Colada; a green coconut and coriander concoction with chai syrup, lime juice and a sprinkle of sugar-coated fennel seeds.
We were seated in the “Permit room” whilst waiting for a table to become free. Luckily we were able to order a few bar snacks here to have with our drinks. The okra fries are my favourite snack on the menu. They are finely sliced lady’s fingers coated in a spicy batter and fried to crispy deliciousness.
I didn’t try the Koliwada prawns but was told by my companions that these were yummy (but quite hot of the spice-o-meter!)
The samosas were crispy pastry triangles stuffed with lamb mince and bits of mint and onion. These were good but by no means novel or outstanding.
Once our table was ready, we were taken up to the dining area to continue our meal. It has to be said that despite the wait, Dishoom was very efficient with its customers. There were pagers to notify you that the table was ready and a computerised system to ensure that customers were seated in order of their arrival. The waiting staff were extremely polite and helpful. Our waitress took time to talk us through the menu and made some good recommendations.
We ordered the Murgh malai, grilled pieces of chicken thigh marinaded in garlic, ginger and cream and cooked slightly pink. The chicken was cooked well and seasoned delicately.
The chicken berry brittania biryani was a fragrant pot of chicken and rice, traditionally sealed with a pastry lid. I have a weakness for biryani and this one was particularly good. The berries burst in each rich mouthful.
The mattar paneer curry had a combination of flavours and textures. A hint of chilli from the masala, a deep creaminess from the tomato sauce, sweetness from the peas and softness from the little cubes of paneer cheese.
I’ve left the best till last.. Dishoom is upholding its tradition of having one different speciality dish at each restaurant. The Haleem in Covent Garden, the Lamb Raan in Shoreditch and the Nalli Nihari in Kings Cross. Nihari is a slow-cooked lamb stew which is normally eaten as a brunch item. The meat was tender and falling off the bone and the gravy was meaty and rich. The stew was served with onion-seed naan. Bheja (lamb brain) was an optional extra, which we weren’t daring enough to try!
The Price: During the soft launch, there was a 50% discount on all food and drink but normally a meal to share would come to around £30-35 per person.
The Verdict: I’ve loved Dishoom since I first visited the Covent Garden branch many years ago. The food is tasty and reasonably priced and the ambience is classically Bombay. It’s no wonder that each new branch of Dishoom has brought increasing popularity to their infamous brand.