Most people’s favourite Indian restaurant is the one at the end of their street. There are lots of decent enough Indian restaurants in London and so convenience usually wins over heading to a destination restaurant (with the exception of Tayyabs which is strictly speaking Pakistani anyway). This makes the opening of Dishoom right in the middle of Covent Garden just over one month ago, a pretty brave move. Indian food that isn’t just about cheap, cheerful and convenient curries can be tricky to pull off. The now defunct Urban Turban comes to mind.
The interior of Dishoom
The name Dishoom comes from the equivalent of “kapow” gun shooting in old Bollywood movies, immediately invoking a sense of nostalgia for any Indian diners. The nostalgia continues in the interior of the restaurant which is a modern take on old school Bombay cafes, never having been to Bombay I have to take the owners word on this. Authentic Bombay cafe or not, the place looks great. There is a sense of history to the cosy black booths, black and white checked floors and old photographs hung on the walls. Dangling old glass lamps illuminate the tables and there is a large open kitchen with all sorts of interesting looking equipment in it like the metal dome for stretching roti on and the vats of hot oil with naan bubbling merrily away inside.
Crisps and accompanying sauces
Dishoom is another of those too-cool-to-take-bookings restaurants but MTV boyfriend and I skipped the queues by eating early in the evening. We had St Martinis (£5.50) to begin, Dishoom’s take on a martini which features pomegranate and chilli syrup shaken with the gin to give a strong, but dirty twist to the drink. Cafe crisps (£1.90) were thin and keenly spiced making them the perfect drinking snacks and very moreish. They had a serious kick to them but came with a cooling mint sauce, a sweet and sour chutney or a fiery chilli accompaniment, depending on how masochistic you were feeling.
Service was incredibly swift, to the point that we felt a little hurried. Almost as soon as we placed our main order it all came out in a rush, so it is probably advisable to order in stages if you want a more leisurely dining experience. Although quickly prepared, the food was good. The keema pau (£4.50) of minced lamb served with hot, buttered bread that looked like a hamburger roll was nicely spiced and dry. Deep fried calamari (£4.50) was perhaps a bit heavy handed on the batter and light on the calamari. The chicken berry biryani (£7.50) came in a pot sealed with pastry with light, fluffy rice and sweet berries, although there was not much of the tender shredded chicken in the serving we got.
It was the spicy lamb chops (£9.20) that were utterly transfixing. They had a thick charred crust of black pepper and chillis which were a great foil to the pink meat. Cooling yoghurt raita (£1.90) was flecked with diced cucumber and fresh mint and we could not resist mopping it up with the fresh naan bread (£1.70). I could eat naan all day, every day and never get tired of it and Dishoom does a great naan.
Dishoom may not replace my local curry house in my affections, it is a little too slick and too far away from the end of my road for that. Still, when I feel like Indian food with a bit of a difference it will be hard to go past. Despite a few food wobbles, all the early indicators point to a restaurant that is going to be a raging success.
Details: 12 Upper St Martins Lane, Covent Garden WC2F 9FB (Ph 020 7420 9320) Tube: Covent Garden
Damage: Such a bargain even my mother would approve
If you liked reading this you might be interested in my reviews of other Indian restaurants Aladin and Urban Turban.