So, what does Dishoom means. It is actually a onomatopoeiac word, which is a clever name for the kind of restaurant Dhishoom aspires to be. Dishoom-dishoom is the sound of people hitting each other in Indian movies. Every physical blow is accompanied with the sound dishoom. This expression represents the panache the restaurant aspires to, which is far far away from reticence even the most glamourous Indian restaurants have had in expressing their Indianess.
When we walked in through the door on a summer evening, the place was buzzing with energy. The first thing that struck me was that a large group of people on a table were drinking rose in chai glasses. So, unlike the Indian restaurants of yesteryears, here was a restaurant with the confidence to serve wine in the petite conical glasses in stead of the usual rounded goblets. These tea glasses are ubiquitous in India. The whole country recharges on the hour across the country with espresso like sweet milky thick tea shots served in these petite glasses. Watching the rose wine swishing around in the these glasses was unusual, yet made perfect sense for a place that does not shy away from its identity.
Dishoom is modelled on the irani cafes in Mumbai. These cafes were set up by the 19th century Iranian immigrants and were the Indian equivalent of the Viennese cafes. These cafes are very businesslike with rules clearly laid out near the entrance. Nissim Ezekiel, the eminent Indian poet has famously chronicled the instruction from his favourite irani cafe in Mumbai in a poem. A truncated version of this poem can be found near the entrance of Dishoom. The rules are at one level practical and businesslike – “no talking to the cashier”, “no credit” and “no change” and at another level start intruding in the moral space – “No discussing gambling”, “No talking loud” and “No telephone”. The institutional economist in me has a lot to say about this. People were certainly talking loudly and the resturant staff were very friendly. So these were de jure and not de facto rules.
We were taken in by the place even before we started eating. The food was great. We had Bombay Sausages (£3.90) to start with. The sausages were sauteed with onions and tomatoes. Simple yet very very tasty. This was actually the tastiest thing on the menu. Next came Lamb Boti Kebabs (£7.20). They were nice but my quibble would be that boti kebabs are best done with meat on the bone, whereas here the kebabs were chunks of boneless meats, which were slightly on the dry side. Having said that, the lamb pieces were chunky, well marinanted and grilled to perfection. We followed it up with Chicken Berry Biryani (£7.50), a take on the famous berry pulaos of the Irani cafes. The biryani was done in a pot sealed with atta that was opened on the table in front of us – steam aroma and all that. The chicken was done perfectly and had the right amount of the masala yoghurty marinade sticking to it. The rice was fluffy and aromatic. The most important thing in a berry palao is the berries and I must say that the berries had the perfect sweet and sour taste, which perfectly complemented the rice and chicken. We also had the house black dal (£4.50) which was done very well even if it was a tad expensive for the quantity. The only thing that disappointed us were the lassis. They lassis were diluted and really bland. Nothing like the real thing. All in all a fantastic experience.
12 Upper St Martins Lane
London WC2H 9FB
020 7420 9320