On the Road Dining, London: Dishoom
If you ever need to use food as an excuse to travel, I would suggest going to London to eat at the unbelievable Indian spot, Dishoom. If you don't need an excuse, well, book your ticket already!For those familiar with England, over the past decade there’s been an influx of Indian restaurants and many of them are noteworthy. When I made a quick trip to London recently, finding a scrumptious Indian spot was on my short list. I didn’t have much time to research, but one location near Covent Garden (Leicester Square tube stop) showed up on everyone's list: Dishoom. Last year this spot won Yelps! favorite London dining spot, passing up even the Michelin star Tamarind. Plus, it was relatively close to where we were hanging out.
The place doesn’t take reservations and we had read the wait could be 1 – 1 ½ hours long, so when we saw the line 20 people deep, we almost bailed. However, we had walked about two miles along the Thames to get there, and felt we should try.
Fortunately, we struck up a conversation with a family waiting in line with us which cemented our decision. The couple was there with their parents who were visiting from Bombay, and, they said, the wait was “absolutely” worth the payoff.
Hmmm. An Indian family waiting a ridiculous amount of time for Indian food. Well, OK. I’m in.
First, I was wildly impressed with how they handled the process. After guests “queue” up, a hostess passes through the line and asks for your name. She was wearing a headset and listened to the people inside for exact time estimates.
Then she chats with everyone in line. Seriously, I think being friendly was in her job description:
She was named Georgia (her parents loved the Ray Charles song), she was learning Hindi (and spoke briefly to the guests from Bombay), and she was very happy we were being patient enough to wait (you’re welcome).
I never saw her mention my name, but for the rest of the evening everyone who shuffled me around knew I was Joy.
We waited for 15 minutes outside, and they brought everyone complimentary chai tea or green tea drinks. Then we went to an upstairs standing area and after 5 minutes were brought downstairs to the bar. There the manager greeted us, by name, and introduced us to someone who would take care of us from the bar. We also received a pager with this message…
Clearly someone did NOT want the wait to put us off. American restaurants, take note!
We "coped" with the wait by having a Bollylini (think Belini with Indian flair) and the calamari.The calamari was lightly breaded, fried and served with classic Indian sauces: mango, spicy, green. Wow! Wow! Wow!About the time we were finished, our pager buzzed and a woman appeared simultaneously. “Joy?” she asked, “your table is ready.”
We were whisked away and settled into a perfect spot downstairs.The menu is vast and our server spent a good bit of time leading us through our options. Between the noise and the unique (Was it cockney?) accent, I struggled to keep up. Fortunately, online sources had raved about a few dishes.
To start, we had to try the Fried Okra. Oh my!!
The okra was cut in half and prepared just like the calamari. This dish was also served with the three sauces. So, so great. I’m now on a mission to figure out how to make this myself. Good GRIEF it was SO divine!Next up - Chicken Tikki
Absolutely perfect. A menu says the dish is a family recipe, using a marinade of sweet vinegar, not yoghurt, and is laced with ginger juice, turmeric, garlic, and green chilli. The chicken is served with lime, cilantro, and red onions.
This dish required no further sauces. Melt-in-your-mouth great (though my pictures are kind of lame).
Kaccai Lamb was a dish our waitress sold us on.
This marinated lamb and rice are cooked together in the traditional Hyderabadi style. This dish was perfect with the raita yogurt mint sauce. LOVED their version of this sauce. Makes me want to add to my recipe (here).
Delectable (but again, a lame picture!!).
Of course, we ate naan with everything which about sent me over the edge. While the menu offered garlic and cheese naan, we stuck with the plain because the sauces were so tasty any way.
This is a good time to note that Dishoom is open for breakfast, and the word on the street is Bacon Naan Roll is incredible, but I didn't have enough days in town to go back!!
My only regret was not saving any space for dessert. The table next to us had the ice cream Popsicle, and I was more than a little jealous.
I’m definitely going back!