I love Dishoom. I practically work above the newest outpost and waited patiently for what felt like years for it to open. During the soft launch period I was SWAMPED with work (sod’s law) and never made it down there for 50% off before the mobs arrived each day – I’m very temperamental with queuing for a table, even if it is for lush, juicy Indian treats.
Dhaba Lane is a cosy, subterranean café between Shoreditch and Old Street, run by Arti and Upma, who left their existing jobs to run their own food business, focusing on the fresh, healthy Indian food they grew up eating and cooking. I joined the lovely Jason and Chiara from Goan to London on a freezing Saturday afternoon for their traditional Indian high chai, or afternoon tea.
High tea in India is an intrinsic part of the culture, and the time when marriages are decided on, disputes settled and deals made. It’s all about several rounds of sweet and savoury morsels, and of course the tea itself. Now I’ll confess, I don’t really like tea, but this one was deliciously sweet and full of the lovely flavours of cardamom and ginger, which completely made up for the actual tea aspect.
The first course was several rounds of little sandwiches, including cucumber, mint and apple, spicy mixed veg and garam masala chicken. They were nice and spicy, and an interesting twist on the English varieties.
Hot bites followed, with onion and sweetcorn fritters, aloo samosas, mini uttapams (semolina pancakes) and little raw banana and pea fritters. I was dubious about the banana but it was subtle, adding texture and sweetness rather than a full-on banana taste. All these dishes were delicious, spicy and warming, and there were plenty – they just kept coming.
Sweet dishes followed, with coconut and carrot halwa (sweetened balls), saffron and cardamom shrikhand (yoghurt) and sweet, syrupy bread with cream. The balls were slightly too sweet for me ( I don’t have a sweet tooth), but the yoghurt and bread dishes were lovely.
The food just kept flowing, and I was stuffed by the end, making it really good value. The atmosphere is cosy and friendly, and they use gorgeous crockery that I loved. Definitely worth a visit for something a bit different, and I’d love to go back to try their curries.
Get your high chai tickets here and more info on Dhaba Lane here. They also do takeaway and delivery of all sorts of Indian dishes, not just high tea – try their delicious curries for a lovely winter lunch – I’ll certainly be back.
*The Indian high chai experience is £25 per person, but we were guests of Dhaba Lane.
Having enjoyed huge success with their Shoreditch and Covent Garden outposts, Bombay café Dishoom has opened the latest jewel in the crown at Granary Square near King’s Cross. Based in a restored Victorian industrial building, it was once used as a trade interchange between London and the British Empire, with the workhorses under the building powering the canals and turntables.
The place is cavernous, with a 250 seat restaurant and another 92 in the bar downstairs, with another bar area at the front. It’s been designed in the style of Bombay cafés from the late 19th/early 20th century and there are plenty of beautiful items of furniture, sepia photos and other little details from the period – although the old weighing scales are definitely not what you need having just enjoyed dinner there, even less so the sticker saying ‘do you weigh what you should?’ Not right now, no.
And that’s because the food is beyond incredible. Even the crunchy, salty fried okra, which I normally hate. We ordered a selection to share, including the house black dahl, chicken ruby, calamari, paneer tikka, cheese naan and masala prawns, all perfectly delicious, with the exception of the calamari – tender but the coating was so sweet it could’ve just been sugar. But the prawns were huge and juicy, the chicken curry used big chunks of leg meat (I wish more places did this) and the dahl was soupy, comforting and perfectly spiced, my second favourite of the selection.
The best dish by a mile was the King’s Cross exclusive, Nalli Nahari, described as: ‘a robust lamb-on-the-bone stew with generous spice , for strength and protection against faintness of heart. First relished by Nawabs who then employed its fortifying properties to fuel their labourers’. The lamb dropped from the bone, the rich, dark sauce was spicy but not overly so, and was smooth and silky. It feels like it’s doing you good, although I’m aware I’ve probably been sucked in by the lovely description.
Service wasn’t great; on arrival, although my friends were seated and had given a name, I was told to just go and find them. Our waiter was aloof at best, staff wouldn’t turn off the air-con (it was about 1 degree outside) and were very reluctant to move us, although did in the end.
The most pleasant surprise of the evening was the dessert course – I’ve never had much luck with Indian desserts so came to the conclusion that I just don’t like them – until yesterday that is. We pretty much ordered them all – cinnamon ice cream, Memsahib’s mess (Eton mess), guju chocolate mousse which was rich, velvety and incredibly chocolatey, and was the best of friends with the heavy, tangy Gujarati yoghurt it was served with. Against the advice of our waiter (!) or maybe because of it, we also had the kala khatta gola ice – pretty much a slushie with fruit syrup, chilli and salt. It was bizarre, somewhat refreshing but not particularly pleasant, especially compared to the other choices.
Definitely get to Dishoom – the atmosphere is great, it’s reasonable – £30 each including wine and service, and really is lovely lovely food.