Picture this: a sign of rules by the entrance, long walls covered with Indian ancestors in monochrome, posters from 20th century Bombay, aging mirrors plastered on the remaining walls, overhead ceiling fans running with exposed lighting wires. Now imagine a large art deco clock, a close replica of the one in Victoria Terminus (Bombay’s St. Pancras) ticks as waiters are buzzing around through diners seated at marble tables and bentwood chairs carrying incredibly-smelling food.If you’re thinking I’m describing a vintage café in Mumbai, then you’re wrong. This is the scene at Dishoom King’s Cross. Yes, my donuts! Dishoom was a must-visit on my list of places to visit on my last trip to London, and it was worth the struggle of planning. I opted to go to the King’s Cross branch because it is wheelchair friendly (seriously, London, time to step up the game and make all your tube stops wheelchair accessible!).After a short stroll through a lovely courtyard, we found ourselves at Dishoom. Dishoom King’s Cross is located within a restored Victorian industrial building — a former railway transit shed, built in 1850. Since we visited at lunchtime, there were no long queues, but I had asked my cousin to book us a table to avoid disappointment. They take reservations during the day, however for dinner, they only take bookings for larger groups.Upon entering, we were guided to a table immediately. The décor paid homage to the Iranian cafes of Bombay, and I fell in love almost instantly. We were escorted from the bar, which had a Gola machine (my mouth was already watering thinking of the meal ahead) to the seating area, whose decoration immediately transports you to the Bombay of the 1960s. The simple yet graphically eye-catching style aroused a sense of nostalgia. The choice of music – Mohammed Rafi and jazz – added to the 60’s Bombay feel.
The Dishoom King’s Cross branch pays homage to Homai Vyarawalla, Indian’s first female photojournalist who was a champion chronicler of history, capturing iconic moments of India’s history from the independence and post-independence eras. Girl power AND food? It doesn’t get better than that.
We settled down quickly. There was a pile of plates and cutlery on the table, and all you had to was serve yourself. Assorted chutneys were placed to complement the various dishes ordered. Our friendly server came quickly and we placed our orders. The Dishoom menu made me feel like I had time-travelled to Bombay during the 60s. The dishes are suited for café style eating – easy, flexible and ideal for sharing with anyone from all walks of life, like the cafes originally.We ordered some cocktails first. Mom got the Bhang Lassi, Diva got an East India Gimlet and I got a Chaijito. Mom’s Bhang Lassi was a unique take on the traditional Holi drink, that replaced the happy-go-lucky hemp with fresh shredded mint, along with ginger, grenadine, candied fennel sprinkles, coconut milk, and of course, some rum. A rich creamy drink, the Bhang Lassi was divine in the summer heat.Diva’s East India Gimlet came looking pretty. An old-established drink devised for sailors to evade scurvy, comprised of Portobello Road gin with Rose’s lime and a touch of celery bitters. On the sour side, this drink was delightful.My Chaijito, a desi take on the mojito, was a smoky rum and Dishoom sweet-spice chai syrup muddled with fresh mint, coriander, ginger, and lime. It was quite enchanting and unique as compared to the other mojitos I’ve tasted.Dishoom has an incredible range of drinks, ranging from tipples (cocktails), lassis, Indian sodas, wines, beers and an eclectic selection of chais and coffees. Their entire drink menu is heavily influenced with vintage Indian drinks.
We then ordered our starters from their Small Plates selection. We got the Vegetable Samosas, Okra Fries, and Pau Bhaji.
The Vegetable Samosas were delicious – I’m quite a picky samosa eater and would eat nothing other than my mom’s, or the ones that are served at our community centre. But these filled with peas and potatoes, spiced with cinnamon and cloves, in a fine Gujarati filo pastry were scrumptious.Now I don’t like Okra – something about their slimy texture puts me off, but these Okra fries were quite appetizing. Crunchy. And each finger had a bite to it. I enjoyed these.Next, the Pau Bhaji was a bowl of mashed vegetables (mostly potato based) with a hot buttered “pau” bun, Chowpatty Beach style. As the menu declares, “No food is more Bombay.” This was one of my favorite dishes here. The curry (bhaji) was spicy and the flavors went well together, while the bun was hot and buttered generously to scoop the bhaji. This dish was recommended to me by my cousin, and I would definitely return for more of this.After devouring the starters, we decided to order some mains. Diva and I decided to share a Paneer roll under their Frankies and Rolls selection. This was grilled Indian cheese (paneer), green leaves and mint chutney in an open-ended Roomali Roti roll. The Roomali Roti is a delicate handkerchief-thin bread, made by throwing, stretching and griddling to order on an upturned tawa (pan). This was tasty and the mint chutney complimented the paneer really well. The paneer was not chewy and rubbery as it sometimes can be, it was soft but firm.My parents decided to share a Chole Bhatura, a hearty Punjabi dish, comprising of spiced chickpeas combined with potatoes served with fried bread. This, again, is something my mom makes at home and I believe no one makes it better than her. But this was really tasty and quite filling too.Of course, you didn’t think I’d end the meal without any dessert, did you?
I had spied Kala Khatta Gola Ice on the menu, and instantly knew I had to end the meal with this treat. I remember eating gola at Diamond Plaza when I was a child, but now I only get to indulge in this icy treat when it is offered at local funfairs.The fluffy ice flakes steeped in kokum fruit syrup, chilli, lime, and white and black salt, topped with blueberries for a burst of fresh sweetness. While the ingredients may sound bizarre, every spoonful made it even more captivating! I love the Kala Khatta flavor and this may have just been the highlight of my meal at Dishoom. Their dessert menu also has various puddings and Kulfi on a Stick in different flavors.
Dad opted to end the meal with a Baileys Chai that came in a traditional glass, as served on the roadside in India. The hot spicy chai was dessert-drink that had a nice cushion of cool Baileys cream. I could imagine sipping on this (despite not being a chai person) after a long, hard day.With that, our meal came to an end. I also visited their washrooms downstairs. The wheelchair washroom was huge and the best part was that it had a full-length mirror – which many wheelchair washrooms don’t have. I particularly appreciated that even the washrooms had tastefully-themed decor as the rest of the restaurant.
Overall, the service was wonderful and though the prices may be steep, the quality of the food and the atmosphere is lovely. I’m already looking forward to coming back.
Have you been to Dishoom? What other dishes do you recommend I try? And what other Indian restaurants in London would you recommend to me? I’d love to hear in the comments below.
Dishoom King’s Cross is located at:
5 Stable St
(Located in Granary Square)
Photos by Hitesh & Diva Shah