Dishoom, Covent Garden, London
When it comes to Indian in London, I'm a Lahore Kebab House fan from way back (and love Quilon and Moti Mahal when I'm feeling posh). But this week, my work schedule prevented an East End lunch venture - so a friend brought me to Dishoom.
I was DEEPLY skeptical going in, because it looks like the kind of generic restaurant that offers an 8.95 ploughman's lunch and an upstairs function room. But it smelled good, and the man at the tandoor gave me a cheery smile. And then we started eating:
Bhel puri - a bit more tamarind tang than purely citric zing, and fantastic - ticked all the boxes of fabulous crunch with the constantly shifting interplay of herbal coriander, sharp chili and a touch of unexpected sweetness from pomegranate seeds. FAH-BU-LUSS.
Mutter paneer - put Lahore's in the shade. Mellow heat and perfectly textured cheese.
Lamb boti kebab - I'm not prepared to say these big chunks of grilled lamb are better than Lahore's chops, but if not, they come damn close. Garlic, ginger, chili - perfectly cooked with a lovely toothsome sear on the outside.
Black dal - totally outclassed Lahore, and came very, very, VERY close to Moti Mahal's makhani dal.
Gunpowder potatoes - I've been longing for these room-temp tangy potatoes since having them in a bar in Delhi. SO good.
Naan (which I didn't try) and roti, which didn't fit my perception of roti qua roti - it was a single layer of thin, almost tortilla-like bread rather than a multi-layered flaky thing - but was nonetheless tasty.
Raita - excellent. Good yogurt, chopped cucumbers, a bit of cumin and garlic - what's not to like?
Mint and tamarind chutneys - also very good.
Mango and fennel lassi - while not quite on a par with the mango lassi I had the day before at the Indali Lounge near Baker Street in terms of luxurious creaminess and depth of mango flavour, someone had had the brilliant idea of stirring in a spoonful of fennel seeds. GREAT combo.
*And* it's in central London. I am ever so happy.
I went to Dishoom early in its career and liked it, but wasn't blown away. On two occasions, the naan was just downright terrible. But I think the place has improved quite a lot and it's so convenient as you point out. I've never tasted the lamb kebob, but after your description - that's next on the agenda! I, too, liked the paneer which rivalled the great stuff my husband makes.
Thanks for the helpful review. I've just started researching London researching, in preparation for a trip there in 2012, and I'd come across this restaurant. We like (and some of my family prefers) southern Indian, so this is a great-sounding lunch possibility in a convenient location.
Out of interest is Dishoom a " Bombay style cafe" that ranges over India or does it concentrate on dishes of that region?
I normally eat South India so couldn't really comment on the menu.
I had Dishoom Frankie & Pau Bhaji at the Southbank pop up and thought it was ok but no more than that.
Ok, ok, so Dishoom is not southern Indian. I tend to mentally classify Indian restaurants as "northern" or "southern," just because most of what I see in the U.S. where I live as being one or the other - mostly northern, which is not my favorite. I don't think I've ever seen an Indian restaurant in the U.S. that's specifically Mumbai food, though more are including dishes from there - not that they don't exist, just that I haven't heard of them, and there are certainly none in the city where I live. My in-laws are from Mumbai which yes, I know is not in the south, but they used to spend time with relatives in Pune and Goa and the like, and I guess sometimes serve southern dishes, or dishes with ingredients more found in southern India, so short-cut my reference to the various Indian regional cuisines.
Not that we've established that it's not southern, I still like the menu, and will be looking for other great Mumbai and southern (and I guess northern) Indian restaurants. I do have Quilon on my list, as well as India Zing, but am also looking for less formal, cheaper places for variety and for lunchtime meals. And that are near the places we're likely to be visiting in central London.
You might enjoy the food at Woodlands near Marylebone High St. It's a vegetarian, South India place that I went to awhile back. I wasn't familiar with dosas and some of the other dishes, and they were well done. I haven't been yet to Quilon and doubt this is at all in the same league, but if you are looking for cheaper and informal, it might be worth a looksee.