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Nov 16, 2012 03:56 PM

London – British-Indian fare at Dishoom, Covent Garden

Dishoom, which claimed to be ‘modelled after Parsi-owned Bombay cafes’, was absolutely, incredibly bustling this evening, with a queue that went out the door. It took up a beautiful space, high-ceilinged ground floor, cosier basement dining room, retro-Indian pop decor abound, even in the washrooms.

What we had:
- ‘Far far’, crispy rice crackers, which went well with the 3 types of dips provided. They actually charged GBP2.20 for something which I thought should be complimentary.
- ‘Bhel’, which is Dishoom’s take on the popular chaat, ‘bhel puri’. Decent version here – the spiciness, sweetness & sourness of the dish all toned down (understandably) to suit local Londoners’ tastes.
- Okra fries - simple but fun.
- There were 3 types of biryani on offer – we chose the ‘Chicken Berry Britannia’ option. The chicken pieces were overly-dry, and the rice used were of the cheaper variety. But the cranberries provided little bursts of sweetness which was an added taste dimension. Note: one portion was enough to serve 2 persons of pretty healthy appetites. One has to pay an additional GBP2.20 for cucumber raita to accompany the biryani (boo!) and no hard-boiled egg provided as well (I’d have loved that).
- ‘House black dhal’ which, the menu mentioned, was ‘simmered over 24 hours for extra harmony’. It sounded like Dishoom’s take on the famous ‘Dhal Makhani’ served at ITC Maurya Delhi’s Bukhara restaurant, which cooked their version for 16-18 hours. But Bukhara’s version was more buttery-rich and tastier.
- Garlic naan (average), cheese naan (below average) and Roomali roti (meh!)

Overall? Service was friendly & attentive, decor was over-the-top kitsch, food was not memorable, prices were exorbitant.

Did it remind me of the Parsi cafes of Mumbai? Hell, no!

Address details
Dishoom Covent Garden
12 Upper St. Martin's Lane
London, WC2H 9FB
Tel: 020 7420 9320

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  1. Any recomendations for something in the area that might have the same vibe but have more value? I am american but I have loved indian for most of my 31 years and was hoping for something near waterloo. This seemed to fit the bill and they have keema pau which I have only ever seen once before, 10 years ago on my last visit to London.

    17 Replies
    1. re: muushupork

      One of the London-based Chowhounds who're very familiar with the Indian food scene - howler, Jfores, limster - will be better able to give you up-to-date tips (I'm only here on a visit from Singapore). I love Indian food, too, but am not *that* familiar with the Indian food scene in London as, in my past 3-4 decades of chowhounding in London, I usually go for other cuisines here (British, French, Lebanese, Italian) as I can already get very good Indian food back in Singapore, and I also go to India quite a bit on business.

      I do know that some of the better-regarded Indian spots in the same area as Dishoom are:

      Moti Mahal, 45 Great Queen Street (Tel: 07240 9329)
      Masala Zone, 48 Floral Street (Tel: 07379 0101)
      Imli, 167-169 Wardour Street (Tel: 07287 4243)
      Sagar, 31 Catherine Street (Tel: 07836 6377)

      Try taking the Tube to other areas, as the London underground system is very convenient. Personally, the only other 2 Indian spots I want to check out before I leave London this time round are both in the East: Needoo Grill (87 New Road. Tel: 07247 0648) and Tayyabs (83 Fieldgate Street. Tel: 07247 9543). Take the Tube to Aldgate East or Whitechapel.

        1. re: muushupork

          When are you in London - we're going to have a Chowmeet at the Bombay Brasserie next Tue ( It's a fabulous restaurant - I still remembered my first visit to the Bombay Brasserie back in 1995 when it was voted best Indian restaurant in the city by Time Out London - and Bombay Brasserie's food has improved greatly since that time (

          Of course, in the past decade or two, I'd come across other newer Indian spots in London that were also worth trying: Tamarind, Zaika, Benares, Amaya, Rasa Samudra, Cinnamon Club.

          1. re: klyeoh

            Im actually in South Florida, I'm coming to london for 5 days out of a 2 week trip to the UK in December. I'll be staying at the Park Plaza County Hall right next to Waterloo Station. I'm hoping to have plenty of great Indian while I'm there, it's very hard to come by here. So far though it's been hard to find any real consensus on anything other than Tayabs and Moti Mahal. I would love to try the latter but my gf is picky and only had Indian her first time very recently, so I feel like the expense would make it too risky.
            Maybe I can convince her once we're there. I was told about Delhi Grill and also the lunch at Bombay Brasserie so might try those, but again, mixed reviews. I really just want some Keema Pau and an authentic Rogan Josh!!!

            Other than that I am going to be in Birmingham for the first week and a half and have a feeling I will be able to get some solid balti meals and/or just good authentic curry.

            Thanks for your suggestions I will look into them!

            1. re: muushupork

              Bear in mind that the Birmingham balti is entirely, and proudly, a local invention that should not be considered as authentic Indian (or authentic anything from South Asia) - but you may wish to research for the most authentic Birmingham balti.


              The city is also home to a growing number of upscale "Indians", of which Lasan probably gets most acclaim (and is deffo on my list to try when we're next there)

              1. re: Harters

                John - I suspect you did not grow up on Balti as I did (I am an ex resident of Sparkbrook in Brum). If anything a good Balti house is a lot more "authentic" than the standard high street curry. Most Balti houses evolved from the local sweet centres and the standard veg, chicken, meat or mince curry which came mild medium of hot with spinach of veg as an extra (in the curry never as a side).

                They did go through quite a weird patch with weird and wonderful combinations and table sized naans, but these days they are back to normal and really do compete on good food (more like Tayabs than Bombay Brasserie though)

                1. re: PhilD

                  You're right, Phil. My intro to the food of the sub-continent was Manchester's "Curry Mile" - which, almost without exception, was your bog standard high street curry house offering. It's better now, but not much.

                  I always think of the really big naans as being a Brum thing but there's a couple of places in Manc that do a "family sized" one that comes on a holder, so it sits there on your table, hanging vertically like a yacht's sail. Doesnt half go cold quickly like that.

                  1. re: Harters

                    Happy memories of the curry mile. Good friend of mine lived in the "deck access" flats near the old Kestral Brewery. A good night out was a curry, the Mark Addy (when it was a great pub) and then on to the Hacienda - Manchester was always a cracking night out.

                    1. re: PhilD

                      Like most things, it's "not what it was".

                      Don't know if you've been to the Mark Addy recently but there's very decent food there now. Chef, Robert Owen Brown, is a bit of a character and very committed to British produce and cooking style - the story goes that he doesnt do "petit pois" but does do "little peas". Just checking the menu I see a new item amongst the bar snacks - Crispy Manchester Thingymabobs - you've just gotta try, havnt you?

              2. re: muushupork

                Truly Indian on Borough High Street (near Borough Market, 2 stops east on the jubilee line tube from Waterloo): favourites include saag paneer, prawn coconut curry, aloo chaat, lamb biryani as well as their desi chinese dishes. Probably up to £20 for food.

                1. re: muushupork

                  i feel your pain. i would murder for the keema pau of my youth.

                  1. re: howler

                    What do you think of this? :-)

                    I find it interesting, the use of "pau" as the word for those buns...and think of the Chinese "bao" or 包 for buns, pronounced (in Cantonese) exactly as "pau" would be as an English word. :-D

                    1. re: huiray

                      it comes to us indians from portugese.

                      1. re: howler

                        Then I wonder about the Portuguese–Chinese etymology/origination...

                        But - what do you think of that recipe for Dishoom's Keema Pau?

                    2. re: howler

                      I only had it the once and Its the only meal I remember from a 3 week trip I had 10 years ago.

              3. re: klyeoh

                Needoo really isn't worth it when you can stay on the tube for 10 more minutes and eat at Lahori Nihari. If you want to get a meal there sometime just send me an email as I live about 30 seconds (literally) from the restaurant. I'd be happy to show you some excellent local snack shops as well. Vada pao, dabeli, alloo tikki chaat, pani puri, etc all made fresh to order for £1-£1.50.

                Lahori Nihari
                50 Plashet Grove
                About 3 mins walk via the shortcut from Upton Park tube

                1. re: JFores

                  Sounds good - sometime next week (besides our Parsi Chowdown & Brixton Mkt crawl).

            2. couple of things for you - the parsi cafes in mumbai are called 'irani' restaurants. and they are dying out, sadly enough.

              dishooms menu has very little to do with a proper iranis.

              1 Reply
              1. Only in London - bacon & naan :-)

                For me, breakfast at Dishoom's actually more interesting than dinner. Akuri eggs dish was substantial & tasty. Tomato chutney has a nice tinge of cumin.

                The breakfast lassi was a combination of yoghurt, mango, banana & oats. A sprinkling of fennel seeds on top provided a pleasant spice surprise.

                Love the ambience in the early morning - warm glow in the dining room from the sunshine, calm & quiet - unlike the maddening crowds in the evenings.

                2 Replies
                1. re: klyeoh

                  You've inspired me to try out the new opening in Shoreditch tomorrow morning for breakfast! Hopefully the standard is as consistent as Covent Garden.

                  1. re: klyeoh

                    I'm glad you tried Dishoom at a fairly off hour. If I get there, it's usually for a very early lunch when things are quiet. I went a few times when Dishoom first opened, and the front of house man (I think he's the owner?) seems to remember me. I think it's my accent. :-) I'll have to try a breakfast, thanks to your recommendation.