YOU welcomes acclaimed restaurant critic Tom Parker Bowles and everyone’s go-to wine expert Olly Smith.
Rejoice! Our favourite Indian restaurant has reopened. Tom tucks in at Dishoom
It’s just after seven on a sultry Friday night. And sitting in the softly lit cool of Dishoom, with its art deco curves and artfully aged aquamarine leather banquettes, the past four months seem a long way off. Sure, the staff are clad in masks, tables removed and hand sanitiser now as much a part of the scenery as salt and pepper. But it feels how restaurants should feel. Or perhaps just how we hoped they would be once more.
There’s a happy hubbub of pure, unfiltered hospitality, once so normal, now somehow exotic. Of people, friends, lovers, colleagues, family, gathered in a public place to eat food, cooked by someone else and delivered to your table by a stranger. In short, the eternal appeal of a great restaurant. And Dishoom is one of the best: a small group that has grown slowly, based upon the old Irani cafés of Bombay, serving up a robustly spiced remembrance of things past.
Yet this is no romanticised paean to a fading world, rather modern, pan-Indian cookery, adapted to the cosmopolitan appetites of a modern British city. Chilli chicken, an Indo-Chinese dish, is gloriously sticky, tumbled in a soy-soaked, chilli-packed, spring onion-studded sauce, as thick as jam. Keema pau is a comfort classic, the minced lamb oily in all the right ways, piled into buttery toasted rolls, and eaten in three joyous bites. The sort of dish that envelops the senses in a warm embrace and refuses to let go. House black daal is equally hearty, lustily spiced and swimming in butter and cream. I’d happily drown in its dark depths.
Chicken ruby is a glorious hybrid of butter chicken and something more intense, with a fistful of fresh fenugreek leaves. There’s skill on the grill too. Lamb chops, marinated in lime, ginger and garlic, battered thin, are charred and ‘untrimmed for juiciness’, so the fat is every bit as important as the flesh. Then bread, great folded handkerchiefs of thinly stretched roti with which to mop up every last smudge of sauce. And naan, buttery, just crisp, sprinkled with garlic and delight.
It’s a five-napkin feast. Dishoom is not only a place where the food thrills (they also understand the concerns of post-lockdown eating out), but one that distils the very spirit of good cheer. This is what we’ve missed. This is what we love. This is why we eat out.
Smooth as a sundowner, bold with a barbie – Olly picks the season’s best rosés
TORRES VINA ESMERALDA ROSE 2019 (12.5%), £7.99, robertsandspeight.co.uk.
Delicately perfumed; pair with dishes brimming with garlic and spice. Paella, anyone?
LEFT FIELD HAWKES BAY ROSÉ (13%), £11.99, Waitrose.
Exotic, rich and packed with fruit, this vibrant number is my top choice for a barbecue.
LE METÉORE 2019 ORGANIC ROSÉ (13.5%), £15.50, domainedumeteore.com.
This bright French rosé is vital with shellfish or chargrilled prawns.
COTES DE PROVENCE MIRAVAL ROSÉ 2019 (13%), £19.95, bbr.com.
Elegant, layered and textural. A showstopper with salade niçoise.
LA TERRASSE ROSÉ PAYS D’OC 2018 (13%), £10, Sainsbury’s.
If poolside sunbathing could be bottled, this would be it. Peachy poise.
About £20 a head. Tom visited Dishoom, 4 Derry Street, London W8. There are seven other branches nationwide; dishoom.com