VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5
VENUE & ATMOSPHERE: 4.5/5
NOTE: The chicken and lamb is halal, alcohol is served on the premises.
Das visiting us from Portland gave us (yet another) perfect opportunity to sample the best of London’s food scene, and this time Dishoom was our venture of choice. Dishoom takes the style of the old post-colonial ‘Irani cafés’ of Bombay, with branches in Covent Garden, Kings Cross, Shoreditch and more recently, Edinburgh. After much hype from family members and friends, we decided to pay their Covent Garden branch a visit, where we smiled through the waiter exclaiming we would have to wait 2 hours for a table of 6, and joined the longish queue. Our positive experience started in the queue itself, where we were served unlimited servings of hot, sweet masala chai. Needless to say this softened the blow of the wait, which surprisingly only ended up being an hour instead of two!
Once we got inside the restaurant, I was blown away by the retro decor. The lighting was dim, and the smell of incense was enticing. Even the toilet cubicles were decorated with wooden cabinets filled with old indian medicines reminiscent of mine and my mother’s childhood.
We continued our wait for a table at the bar, where we ordered our drinks. I went for the virgin bombay colada, which consisted of the usual pineapple and coconut combination, but with a Bombay twist of coriander, chai syrup and lime juice topped with paan masala. The first sip was confusing for my tastebuds, but the second sip won me over with its sweetness and frothiness. Other interesting drinks on the menu include novel lassi concoctions (such as mango & fennel and rose & cardamon which I wouldn’t mind trying on another occasion), and soft drinks such as Limca and Thums Up in glass bottles imported from Mumbai. 10 minutes after receiving our drinks, we were led to a cosy booth, adorned with vintage Indian newspaper cutouts, historic photos, and an old school wall fan.
The service was generally great as the waiters were kind and attentive, (bar the one taking our order who seemed in a rush to usher us out as soon as we had finished our meal), and we received our food in no time. As a group of 6, we were able to order a good selection of vegetarian and non vegetarian dishes, including: crispy okra fries, black daal, lamb chops, mutter paneer, prawn koliwada, chicken ruby and keema pau.
The black daal was creamy and tasty, but nothing to write home about, which is surprising considering that it’s one of the most talked about dishes on the menu. The crispy okra was crunchy and delicious, so much so that we ordered 2 portions. The prawn koliwada was one of the most original things I had tasted (besides the Bombay colada), as the prawns were covered in a crispy indian spiced batter, and served with a sweet, original tasting tamarind and date chutney. The chop meat was very tender, but was too fatty for my liking and would have tasted better with a charcoal grilled finish. Although soft, the meat wasn’t tasty due to not being marinated long enough, and although the masala topping was aromatic, it tasted like it had been thrown on the chops right at the end. The chicken ruby was creamy and fragrant, and the meat tender. It’s a shame that there was barely enough meat for 4 of us to have one/two small chunks of chicken each.
The bill came to around £120 for 6 of us, which in central London isn’t bad at all. Most dishes were priced reasonably, except for the lamb chops which were almost £12 for a portion of 3. Other than that, theres no denying that the food was good. But that’s all it was… just good. After the hype I had received over the place I left feeling like something was missing. If I’m being entirely truthful, I felt we mainly paid for the experience and the ambience, rather than the food itself. I left feeling like I could have eaten an equally good curry/grill in Whitechapel for half the price (minus the atmosphere and service).
Overall I probably would visit again as I want to try the breakfast and enjoyed the overall experience. Maybe I’m coming across as pedantic, but I was expecting more from my dinner experience after all the ranting and raving over the food. I still stand by the notion that you get what you pay for. Dishoom is great for a special occasion as it provides flavoursome food, a buzzing atmosphere and great service, but be prepared to queue if you are going for dinner with no reservation.
Dishoom – Covent Garden
Address: 12 Upper St Martin’s Ln, London WC2H 9FB
Phone number: 020 7420 9320