Gabe Zaldivar | July 27, 2015 10:00 AM ET
Digging Deep Into London's Delightful Dishoom Restaurant
Photos by Gabe Zaldivar
Dishoom is a machine, gobbling up hungry London travelers and spitting out masses of satisfied diners onto the streets of Covent Garden.
It’s almost a crime the purveyors of some of London’s best food don’t also provide beds on which you can slumber after stuffing your face for the last hour.
Thankfully, the city is replete with window and people watching opportunities to work off your massive meal.
Dishoom, for the uninitiated, is a Bombay café with three locations in London. Its website paints a beautiful picture on which these locations are based: “The old Irani cafes of Bombay have almost all disappeared. Their faded elegance welcomed all: rich businessmen, sweaty taxi-wallas and courting couples. Fans turned slowly. Bentwood chairs were reflected in stained mirrors, next to sepia family portraits. Students had breakfast. Families dined. Lawyers read briefs. Writers found their characters.”
Now I have to say that I only enjoyed the Covent Garden location on my stay in London, but that I carved out enough time to visit twice should signal how much I enjoyed the experience.
And the décor and ambiance is as you might expect if you read that brief entry on its website. However, modern technology is added to the multi-level location to squire diners amid the oft-congested locale.
Simply, there are far too many people in the know, which would normally mean waiting in a ridiculously long queue.
Oh, you will wait, but the machine is well oiled and prepared to meet the demands of your starving patience.
On a busy night you will wait in a line that is occasionally peppered with prepared tea from delightful Dishoom staff.
From there you enter for a moment inside until there is an opening downstairs in the bar, which chapters out your stay rather nicely.
The experience is enough to whittle a 45-minute wait into a delay that goes relatively unnoticed.
Staff speak to one another by headphone, alerting colleagues as to when there is room at the bar and subsequently the table.
We need to get to the amazing food, so let me just say that this restaurant is efficient, more so than I have experienced in my travels.
But then, at long last, after sipping beer and tipples, you arrive at your table, which is more of a canvas upon which the chefs paint.
That the meal consists of various items with which to share means you get a choose your own adventure experience.
Here is a link to the menu, which abounds with items guaranteed to make your mouth salivate, so cover your smartphone or keyboard accordingly.
And if you do read the menu, you will appreciate the fact that I couldn’t figure out what to order. But when you are traveling, and don’t know when you might return to a place, you over order and worry about the consequences later.
Over the two nights I visited I sampled (Read: Devoured) the following: Lamb Samosas, Okra Fries, Calamari, Black House Daal, Raita, Chicken Ruby, Chicken Tikka and Mahi Tikka.
Oh, right. The wife and I also got the necessary naan and rice to go along with the extravagant meal.
Aside from beating our stomachs into submission, there were some nuanced takeaways from the meals.
The most important is that Dishoom grills its meats, in all forms, extremely well. The fish was buttery and succulent without ever devolving into a flakey mess.
And the chicken, well, it was sublime.
Dishoom is working on a whole other level when it comes to items like its Chicken Tikka, which paired so well with the provided chutneys. The meat was seared beautifully while leaving so much moisture in every bite you would think there were wizards in robes in the kitchen.
The Chicken Ruby had a nice sizzle to the bite, which kept the senses guessing as you danced around the table filled with culinary treasures. The meal felt like a trip through a resplendent food bazaar, one that thankfully replaced walking and sampling with sitting and devouring.
By the end of the meal, there was a very real concern that I wouldn’t make it back up the stairs; gravity working against the calories I just ingested. But this, my friends, was the good kind of hurt. I left with a bit less pep in my step but far more zeal in my spirit.
While there are myriad restaurants in London that deserve your money, Dishoom demands yours with a refined meal of items prepared with superb talent and care.
In the end, you will undoubtedly lean back in your chair; look out on a messy table of tantalizing treats and stare. A sigh will come out of nowhere as you realize that this experience was well worth the wait.
More by Gabe Zaldivar
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