Bombay Cafe, Dishoom
Dishoom, 12 Upper St Martin’s Lane, London WC2H 9FB – Closest Tube – Covent Garden
Finally I have been lucky enough to dine at this very popular, first class restaurant. It seats quite a large number of guests, but is consistently full, with up to a 2 hour wait for a table, at certain times of the day. I was curious to see why. Open for breakfast, lunch, afternoon chai or dinner, reservations are only available for groups of 6 or more. On this occasion, I went for lunch. I was asked to wait outside at one of the tables under a heater, until a space at the bar was ready for me (this took approximately 10 minutes). After sitting in the bar area for around 20 minutes, I was led to my table to eat.
The Dining Areas
The restaurant is on 2 levels, one at ground level and one below. As I was led downstairs, I could smell incense burning and heard Indian music playing, but not too loud. Lighting is low from the modern filament bulbs that hang from the ceiling and the flooring is a mixture of wood and geometric tiling. The restaurant has a vibrant atmosphere with the service team busy taking orders from solo diners, couples and groups of people.
My waitress, Anita was fantastic at her job. To begin with, I was asked if I had any special dietary requirements or allergies. She was friendly, offered good advice regarding food options and portion sizes and was very knowledgeable about the food. My drink was served promptly together with water and she remained attentive and helpful throughout the meal.
Regular bar drinks are available as well as lassi, coolers, sharbats, and chai to name a few.
Small plates included samosas, chilli cheese toast and Pau Bhaji, a bowl of mashed vegetables with a hot buttered home made bun. All were reasonably priced between £2.90 and £5.20.
I ordered the Khichi & Chundo, an apple and chilli chutney served with something rather like a papadam, though thicker and slightly ‘puffed’.
3 complimentary dips were served too. One was sweet and date based and the others spicy with bases of chilli and coriander, leaving my tongue tingling!
Main dishes included a selection of birianis, ruby murrays, paneer or chicken tikka rolls, grills and salads. The majority of dishes are under £10.
I chose the Chicken Ruby. It was nicely presented with a simple garnish on top. A delicious creamy makhani based curry, rich, quite mild but full of flavour.
There were several to choose from and all were under £5… fried green chillis, slaw, butter-bhutta, which is corn on the cob brushed with butter, grilled over charcoal fire and finished with chilli salt and lime.
I ordered the side of roti, served warm and was the recommended accompaniment to my dish.
Sadly I was too full for dessert. However, there were some great looking choices, including several types of kulfi on a stick, cinnamon or chilli ice cream or Kala Khatta Gola Ice. I hadn’t seen this before but, it is flakes of ice steeped in kokum fruit syrup, blueberries, chilli, lime, white and black salt!! Desserts ranged from £3.50-£6.90
Coffee costs £2.20 for a single espresso or you could try an alcoholic version such as The Monsoon Martini. This is an espresso with vodka, chilli liqueur, black walnut bitters and crema for £8.50.
Something a Bit Special
I hadn’t realised how focussed Dishoom was in breaking down barriers and the charity work they are involved in. I felt quite moved by this …
Breaking Down Barriers
The ethos of Dishoom is to break down barriers between people. It pays homage to the old Irani cafes in Bombay. They welcomed people from every walk of life, bringing everyone together over food and drink.
Dishoom, Covent Garden also gets involved in charity work. For every meal that is eaten at the restaurant, a meal is donated to a child. They work with 2 charities, Magic Breakfast in the UK and Akshaya Patra in India. Both provide nourishing free meals to schools to keep children from being distracted from learning due to hunger. The idea is that they can then become educated teenagers and further, adults free from poverty. So far, since 2015, they have donated over 5 million meals.
In addition to the above, Rakhsa Bhandan – the festival of sibling love was celebrated here last year. As a way of breaking down barriers further, each guest was invited to tie a thread around another’s wrist, from a different nationality, culture or faith. For every thread tied, Dishoom donated £1 to a charity, Seeds of Peace. This is a charity which helps teenagers from conflict areas, learn to make peace.
Will I Return?
100% yes! Dishoom is a special place with a great ethos. The food is superb and offers good value for money. As a solo diner I would probably bring a book due to the likely wait for a table and not being able to choose where I sit. But the best thing about dining solo here is that you don’t have to share it!
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