All week long I have tried, unsuccessfully, to write my next Table for ONE at Dishoom – a restaurant inspired by Bombay’s food. Each time I set out on my own the Universe sent along friends, making this post a table for three, four and five. It seems that Indian food, like the Indian spirit is meant for sharing.
I studied at Bombay’s St. Xavier’s college. The favourite days of my week were when we crossed the road to Kyani & Co., where we chatted with the owner Aflatoon Uncle about his childhood in Iran; and Bastani Café, where we would try and break at least one “rule” (see the list below) each time we were there. One of the first things I noticed while waiting for my table at Dishoom was their own list of rules, next to a copy of the Times of India, nestled between old Bollywood and Femina posters.
Dishoom’s design is a tribute to the Irani cafés of Bombay. Marble-top tables, wooden chairs, cutting chai and Bollywood music… if it wasn’t for the sexy open kitchen and less sexy hanging lights I could have sworn I was in Bombay. Each visit to the restaurant was with hardcore Bombay fans and we were not an easy bunch to please. I am so thrilled to share that Dishoom did not disappoint even once.
At last! A place in Central London that serves proper roomali roti (£1.70), lamb samosas (£3.90), perfect black daal (£4.50) and Thums Up (£2.50). It is reassuring to see that the Bombay influence is not purely cosmetic. The menu features dishes inspired by real Bombay eateries… roomali rolls (£6.50) from Bade Miyan, keema pau (£4.50) from Kyani & Co., pau bhaji (£3.90) from Chowpatty, sheekh kabab (£6.90) from Mohd Ali Road and chicken berry biryani (£7.50) from Brittania. I probably won’t order the Pau Bhaji again, nor the Boti Kabab but I have to come back for their breakfast bacon roll, cheesy naan and ice gola.
Owners Shamil, Amar and Adarsh didn’t always run restaurants. You really have to be a special kind of reckless to want to leap out of your comfort zone and commit to something that you believe in so much, that nothing else matters; least of all, logic. My convoys to Dishoom were filled with similar recklessness: a British Asian who went against a traditional family to create beautiful clothes, a gorgeous man who is a magical garden-whisperer, a childhood friend who was born to save lives…
A friend said I was born to have babies, a parent is convinced I was born to write, a boss hopes I was born to be a marketing genius… But I’ve never had that desire to do the one thing I was born to do. Nor did I fortunately ever have to make that choice. I gleefully flow from one adventure to the next in the quest for … well, nothing I suppose. And this has always been more than enough, until recently.
Last week at work I was flung out of my comfort zone and into a cauldron of new possibilities. On any other day I would have leaped for joy. I was surprised, when I finally recognised that what I was feeling was not excitement, but fear. Am I scared because I think I can’t do this, or because I finally feel the need to know what I was born to do… and this isn’t it?