A place I have been dying to try for some time now is the incredibly popular and cult restaurant chain, Dishooms.
Dishooms celebrates the long extinct Irani style Bombay cafes which brings a whole new dimension to Indian cuisine in the city. My friends and I had the pleasure of Dishooms in Shoreditch this weekend which is a buzzing, vintage style restaurant with queues almost always lining up out the door with people itching to get in to sample their cuisine. This speaks for itself in my opinion but I simply had to try this out for myself and see what all the fuss was about.
We were unable to book a table in advance as we were in a party of under 6 people, so sadly we had to brave the queues. Luckily for us we were dining quite early so were not left queuing outside in the cold and was able to find a little bit of room in the cocktail bar while we waited for a table to free up.
A fair warning though, its a "dog eat dog world" waiting for a table here, as we were supposed to be waiting for 1 hour and 15 minutes for a table and the cocktail bar was heaving with people almost fighting for a seat. Luckily, we only ended up waiting between 30-40 minutes for our table but if it had been any longer we would have been tired and exhausted before we had even sat down.
The cocktail bar had an excellent selection of different drinks on offer. Naturally there were "Fancy cocktails" but also a selection of their very own brand of IPA which I happened to sample myself. The IPA was quite citrusy, so not to my taste, but a very nice personal touch and is an example of the attention to detail the restaurant pays to get things just the way they like it. Warning though, the beer was just shy of £5 for a small bottle, I suppose this is London so you simply have to suck it up and take it but something I still cannot get used too. You could also get a selection of Chai, ciders, wine, pegs, coffee and of course, lassi.
We were eventually taken away from the buzzing and bustling cocktail bar in to a small conservatory like building, which is not physically attached to the main restaurant. It had a very vintage and rustic feel to it and really felt relaxing and peaceful after being in such an intense environment for so long.
The waiter was fantastic and took some time to explain how the menu worked. Everything on the menu is designed to share, almost like tapas, which made things more exciting, social and better for sampling lots of different things in one visit.
There was a selection of food from the usual things you would expect in an Indian restaurant such as sheek kebab, curry, biryani and daal. Not to mention grill, salads, rice and rolls. It is also worth mentioning that there was a very decent selection of gluten free and vegetarian cuisine on the menu too.
Though they were trying to celebrate their Indian cuisine you could see they were also proud of their London heritage too with dishes named with charming cockney slang such as the "Ruby Murray", which was great to see.
Dishooms tried really hard to put their own personal stamp on everything, with their own version of numerous cuisine on the menu from the "Dishoom chicken tikka" to the "Dishoom Calamari". They really push to make things their own and execute it well. We were really excited to try their "Black House Daal" which was recommended by a friend who had been before, apparently its reputation is fantastic.
We decided to get in to the spirit of things and mix it up a little. We ordered the "Chicken Ruby Murray", a biriyani, vegetable samosas, a leg of 24 hour slow cooked lamb, some greens, rice, gunpowder potatoes and some of their famous "Black House Daal".
Their full menu can be seen here.
The food didn't take too long to come out and was excellently presented on arrival. The leg of lamb was a particular thing of beauty. The meat was just falling off the bone and was absolutely incredible. Easily one of my favourite dishes of the evening, I couldn't recommend it enough!
The vegetable samosas were decent. They were light and crispy. A great platter for sharing.
Their "Black house daal" was one of the stars of the show this evening and lived up to the reputation. It was absolutely sublime. So thick and creamy, full of flavour and was a great sauce to go on anything. I would go as far as to say that it was one of the best vegetarian dishes I have ever had in my life. I would love to find out their recipe. I was so glad we ordered two!
The "Ruby Murray" was delicious, thick, succulent and spicy. It isnt going to blow anybodies socks off here but this is not what Dishooms is about. If you want that, go down Brick Lane. The flavour was great and there were four lumps of chicken in the bowl so it was perfect to share.
I was surprised at the generous rice portions for £2.90, especially since I had been to other restaurants in London and Cambridge lately and paid much more than that and got half the amount.
The place was carnage, just the way I like it, the sharing style of eating was great for socialising and discussion. It really mixed well with the bustling theme of the restaurant. This photo above is exactly what Dishooms is all about.
On my way to the toilet I had to leave the out house part where we were dining and go back in to the main restaurant. It dawned on me that we could have easily been seated in here with all the crowds and noise. This could have changed the entire dining experience for us as it was hot, noisy and dark. I was very glad to be seated where we were and I suggest if you do dine here asking to be seated in the room outside the main building as it was much more atmospheric and less intense.
During my trip I noticed that the kitchen is in full view down stairs. I was amazed to see how few chefs were working on the kitchen. Especially considering how many people were dining here tonight, and with how busy it was, these chefs deserve a medal!
Once I had returned to my chair I noticed that the queues were building up outside, we were just about at peak dining time for London and it clearly showed. People were queueing out on to the street, which also means the cocktail bar was at full capacity too. This restaurant's reputation clearly speaks for itself and after sampling its cuisine and soaking in its warm, mellow atmosphere, I can see why. People were queuing without a single hesitation, clearly they had been here before and knew it was worth the wait.
We decided to go for pudding, so I decided to embrace the culture of the restaurant and go for something a little different. A dish jumped out at me on the menu called the "Kala Khatta Gola Ice" which is essentially crushed ice in kokum fruit syrup with chilli and lime. They warn you on the menu that "the first spoonful tastes bizarre, the second spoonful is captivating". They were certainly right about one thing here, the first taste is bizarre, but the taste only got worse as it went on. I really struggled to finish it myself and I am generally a very open minded person when it comes to food.
Hey ho, if you dont try these things you miss out, it clearly wasn't for me. No regrets!
We paid our bill and left satisfied with a smile.
For me, Dishooms easily lives up to the hype. The food was absolutely out of this world and reminds me of how far behind with cuisine Cambridge really is compared to London. There was something for everyone here and everything was done perfectly. The prices were a little on the steep side but the quality really makes up for it. I was glad to see a good selection of gluten free and vegetarian food here, as to be expected with an Indian restaurant.
The atmosphere and interior decorating was excellent, it felt very atmospheric and the tone was set just right. This coupled with the sharing style platters really worked well for me. I couldn't help but think however that our whole entire dining experience rested on where we were seated. Walking through the main restaurant inside the place was dark, busy and intense. I think my whole opinion on the place would have been very different if we were sitting indoors.
You can see that Dishooms really tries to make things their own here with their own personal twists on dishes and presentation, and celebrate the culture which they come from, including London itself. It is almost symbolic of the beautiful multicultural melting pot we know and love. If you want to steer away from the usual vindaloo and tandoori grill of Brick Lane and try something more traditional then Dishooms is definitely the place to come!
I look forward to trying Dishooms at Kings Cross very soon!
9/10 - (http://www.dishoom.com)