Bambai se aaya mera dost

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?



Filed under Bombay, Brunch, Cafe, Design, Indian, London, Open kitchen

15 responses to “Bambai se aaya mera dost

  1. Padmini

    You do it so well – the smooth transition from food to deep thought!
    You were born to write, my dear – don’t you know it yet? 🙂

  2. Ah, Kayani’s mutton sandwich is still to die for. but incredibly grotty the place has gotten – and my grot threshold is quite high, and yet i quailed a bit this time at the uniforms of the waiters and the overall grime. Please get your Mum to buy you a copy of the Xavier’s book – spectacular pics by David deSouza and text by Shabnam Minwala. I am gifting it to several alumni friends (i’m not from the place, I’m from Fergusson College – or Phurrrgyuusunn as we say it here).

  3. Grishma

    Super Super Super……………You are going to be my favourite author for sure!!

  4. Jaya

    I hear you, Pooja…so clearly.

    Whatever it is you’ve landed yourself in, I’m sure you can do it. And if you feel the need to figure out something else, then here I am cheering luck and smiles for you…

  5. Deepika

    I’m going to Dishoom ‘finally’ tonite! Really looking forward to it and I’m sure its gonna be yum yum all the way! I enjoy your writing! Keep it up girlie! 🙂

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  8. Unfortunately I did not have a good experience at Dishoom….I visited on a Thursday night and it was packed, the service was aweful and the waiter rude. I complained on Twitter and got offered a bottle of Prosecco next time I visit…not nearly enough to convince me to go back!
    Shame, cause I liked the food (albeit the small portion…) and the decor. My Mumbai-born boyfriend also liked the food but he’s not keen on going back… 😦

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  10. Great review, but I do wasnt throughly crazed by my experience, maybe i need to go for a dinner rather than brekkie or lunch?

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