On a recent trip to London, we decided to visit the Iranian style Bombay cafe that is Dishoom at Carnaby Street. It is the Indian restaurant on every Blogger's Instagram feed, and every self declared foodie's list of places to try. As wannabe Bloggers and food loving people, we thought we'd give it a go and see if the buzz is for real, or if you should just stay at home and order a takeaway.
I fell hard for Dishoom after seeing blogger upon blogger posting/boasting about their amazing breakfasts/lunches/dinners
from the restaurant inspired by Irani cafes that were once part of the cultural melting pot of Bombay. I'm going to be honest, it was the sound of the bacon naan roll that inspired me to make a reservation, and was what convinced the husband to tag along. After perusing the menu online, and doing the usual mental ordering in my head to work out if we could afford to eat in this hot spot, I booked a table for a late lunch at 2 pm. Despite my initial desire for the bacon naan roll, I realised that I would have to get out of bed before 9:30 am on a Saturday and it didn't sit well with me. We chose the Carnaby Street location, as I wanted to browse the shops afterwards, and being a stone’s throw from Oxford Street it was ideal. Also, there is a fantastically instagrammable indoor courtyard which I was a bit excited about.
We rocked up to the restaurant which is on Kingly Street, a little before our reservation and we could already see the line of people inside and outside waiting for a table. Note to self: always book a table. I believe they do keep some tables aside for walk-ins if you are more of a risk taker, or if you go after 2:45 on a weekend, you have much more of a chance of being seated without much of a wait. We were shown our table promptly at 2 pm, without much fuss, and our server explained the menu is tapas style, and to order 2-3 plates per person. We ordered 6 dishes (went for the max as we were getting to the hangry point): lamb samosas, chicken ruby, murgh malai, gunpowder potatoes, chef's special sali boti, garlic naan, and some basmati rice (not counting the rice as a dish!). For drinks we asked for 2 Coca-Cola's, but shock horror, they only do Thumbs Up, which is the Indian version of coke. I'm always wary of places that don't do real coke, but fear not, as Thumbs Up is made by the Coca-Cola company and tastes alright, perhaps a bit too much Pepsi, but hey it's all personal preference.
The food arrived pretty swiftly which was great as I was about to eat the napkin due to my hunger levels. So, the food was quick, but did it taste good is the big question, and i'm going to give it a resounding capitals worthy YES! It was bloody good. The tastes and flavours were slightly different from the usual Indian, but not different enough to divide opinion. The injection of Parsi flavours like the sali boti, which is a tender braised lamb in a rich gravy like sauce served with buttered roti, is what sets the food at Dishoom apart from the rest. The simple dishes like the lamb samosas, were delightful and awfully morish, which was perfect as the murgh malai arrived soon after. The murgh
malai is chicken thighs marinated overnight in garlic, ginger,
coriander and cream, and then cooked on an open air grill.
The chicken ruby (a fun play on a Ruby Murray, Cockney rhyming slang for a curry) is everything you want in a curry. The spice levels are perfect, and the curry sauce of course makes for the perfect companion for your choice of naan. The garlic naan we ordered was heavenly, not the sometimes thick and heavy naans you get from takeaways. It was light and had a great crispiness to it. Perhaps if I was to be critical (those that know me, know that I am!), the gunpowder potatoes were a slight let down and didn't stand out like the rest of the food. There was nothing wrong with it, they tasted good, but perhaps compared to the other gastronomic delights, these were just good.
The area we were sat in was super crowded. The type of closeness where you can hear the conversation next to you and you need to tuck your elbows in. Don't bring loads of shopping bags, and definitely do not bring a suitcase, even if it is cabin sized! I saw a woman with both shopping and a suitcase, and I could feel her struggle. However, Dishoom is based on the Irani cafes in Bombay from the 50's, and the close quarters of the tables and chairs is part of the aesthetic. But if you aren't a fan of being boxed in - you have been warned. While the decor was quirky and reminiscent of what you would expect a Iranian cafe in the 1950's to look like, I wasn't sat in any instagrammable areas so to speak, and was not one of the lucky few sat in the interior heaven courtyard. I tried to casually saunter over to get a photo, but didn't have enough guts to take a shot. The toilets were predictably cool, and of course most importantly well looked after. En-route to the loos, you pass by the open plan kitchen where you can see the chefs hard at work, which I thought was a nice touch. The staff all seemed friendly, but as luck would have it, we probably had the weakest link looking after our table. He didn't seem like he cared to be there, and did the minimum required of him to get the job done. However, the poor guy could have been having a bad day, and it didn't lessen our love for the food.
Would I go back to Dishoom? Hell yeah, I'm already craving that chicken ruby and sali boti, which for me were the stand out dishes we had. I would probably try another Dishoom branch, as there is one in Kensington, Covent Garden, Kings Cross, Shoreditch and Edinburgh. Each location has its own chef's special, so I'll have to go back to Carnaby Street for the sali boti again. It cost the two of us £77 (including 12.5% service charge), which is no cheap meal, but for a special occasion or once every now and again its not too bad. In terms of the buzz that surrounds it, I would say its probably not worth all the hype you've heard. Solely for food, it is fantastic and deserves all the praise, but take the rest with a pinch of salt.
Hopefully you have the read the above review, as that will provide you with much more detail than this one. This one will tell you what Dishoom means for your stomach and your wallet. First though, I want to talk about people. I'm not a big fan of people, and don't like them sat on top of me when I'm trying to consume a curry. The restaurant is popular, busy, and you are crammed in. As a 6"3 guy, having someone behind you hit you with their chair every time they move is not ideal. So the set up did not sit well with me, even if it is "their " style. The food however was great, it was very very tasty. Much better than your average take-away curry from the down the road. Obviously the prices reflect this, and 2 of us with no alcoholic drinks spent £77! So this is not somewhere you go for a cheap meal, stick to Bombay Dreams on the High Street for that. My favourite dishes unsurprisingly were the meat ones... the lamb samosa's were great, the chicken ruby curry perfect. The style of the dishes is tapas, which always scares me. How do you know you are ordering enough? Are they judging you? Do they think here is fatty ordering 10 dishes again? We got 5 or 6 dishes and that was perfect, I left very full. I wouldn't want to order more than that, as you'll be hit with a hefty bill. The service was OK, but nothing special. Therefore paying 12.5% on top of the bill for that annoyed me. Is it me, or are service charges going up every week? It used to be 10%, now its 12.5%...when will this madness end?? It is also "discretionary", but let’s be honest, when was the last time you went - I'll only pay you 10% or did not pay it!!!
So to summarise the Mrs has gone into great detail above about the decor, the food and everything about the place. My summary is simple. The food is lovely, the place is too packed and the price is too much. However I also understand you are paying Central London prices. So would I come back again? Yes if someone else was paying!
Steph Rating 4 stars
Matt Rating 3.5 stars
Price for 2 77 GBP (no alcoholic drinks, inclusive of tip )
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