NOTE: IF YOU ARE READING THIS BEFORE 19 NOVEMBER AT 5PM, SKIP TO THE FOOD PICTURES AND SOFT LAUNCH INFORMATION AND THEN GO IMMEDIATELY.
I work half my shifts from home, and while our little study is a great space for Getting Things Done, I try to leave the house to do creative writing. Partially because a change of place helps you think in new ways, partially so that when I’m famous and dead, London tour guides will have somewhere to take people and go ‘and here’s the very place where she wrote Bard For Life: No Seriously The Globe Won’t Let Me Back In, in fact just at this table here’ and everyone will go ooh and imagine me sitting there thoughtfully crafting sentences about boners in Coriolanus.
This has mostly been Yumchaa in Camden, an excellent tea shop with a lot of light that is just not-busy enough that I don’t feel bad about parking it with my laptop for four hours, but they don’t do savoury hot food and I get grumpy when I’m hungry. I tried making regular writing visits to Dishoom in Shoreditch, where we had an amazing Christmas lunch last year, but the ten-minute walk from Old Street tube is a bit annoying especially now that it’s November and rainy.
Then Dishoom opened a branch right behind King’s Cross last week and all my problems in the world were solved, especially since it’s still in soft opening and everything* is 50% off, including drinks* which isn’t always true.
Dishoom (the Bollywood equivalent of “Kapow!”, the sound a punch makes when it connects – “DISHOOM!”) is the result of one of those wonderful culinary-historical things that happen in an open world: in the 19th century, large numbers of Persian Zoroastrians emigrated to Bombay/Mumbai and brought with them Iranian café culture, which was already influenced by European high-ceilinged all-day coffeehouses. Iranian cafés in Mumbai flourished in the middle of the 20th century, but have been falling off from nearly 400 in the 1960s to around thirty now. And in London eight years ago, three British Indian cousins opened the first Dishoom restaurant – in other words, bringing these cafés to London, from India, from Iran, from continental Europe. I don’t think I’ll ever stop being excited by the ways history makes food culture happen, and vice versa.
I’ve been eating at the King’s Cross Dishoom literally every other day since it opened (days it has been open: 7, days I have eaten there: 4, though I plan to bump this up to 5 tonight) and although reviewing a restaurant in soft opening is a bit like reviewing a play in previews, I feel pretty confident in saying:
- The food’s really good
- The service is really good too
- It’s definitely worth going while it’s half-off but also
- Even after it isn’t.
Here is what I have eaten there and photographed (photos behind cut):
Bollybellini cocktail – prosecco, rose syrup, other pink tastes, cardamom.
Bhel: Puffed rice, spices, pomegranate, tomato, onion, lime, tamarind, mint. First ever dish here and possibly my favourite one of all, tied with the lamb chops maybe.
Lamb chops: Marinade includes lime juice, jaggery, ‘dark spices’. Really very good.
Chicken biryani with cranberries.
Paneer and mango salad: the one dish I wasn’t too sure about, though I might like it better in summer.
Gunpowder potatoes: Grilled potatoes (yes!) tossed with butter, crushed seeds and spices, greens.
Garlic naan: Nearly had a row with Ewan over this until we realised we could just order more. The staff ask you if you want it with or without butter, which I guess is thoughtful, but does raise the question of why would you ever want it without butter.
Naan with bacon. Genius. Also has cream cheese, which I thought would be weird but adds a good round shove-it-in-your-face breakfast-ness.
Chocolate mousse with cream, chocolate, a bit of chilli, a bit of salt, dark berries.
Thums up flip: egg, cream, bourbon, Some Spices.
As well the ones I bothered to take pictures of, I have also tried: every single cocktail on the menu and one not on it (a version of a gin diamond fizz, with Tanqueray Rangpur and something that made it slightly green and herby) – my favourite is the Bollybellini but the Bombay Colada (like a pina colada with a whiff of coriander and spices) is going to be excellent in summer. With the help of game dining partners, I have tasted all the vegetarian dishes and a pretty good variety of the meat ones, and nothing has been bad or even disappointing.
It’s been fairly rammed in the evenings (ie after 5:30 pm), with some people on Twitter citing two-hour waits. I’ve been getting in easily after my shifts end at 3pm but that may change by next week, who knows! I’m hoping the queues will let up once the soft opening is over (ends November 19 at 5pm), since I plan to be back a lot. When the people come to see where I created my great works, they will come to 5 Stable Street, out the back of King’s Cross, off to the left of Granary Square, and gaze upon the row of tables on the first floor with the power sockets (so convenient!). And they will say to the bartender, ‘I’ll have her signature drink!’ But lo the bartender will stand amazed and know not what to do, because my signature drink is all of them.
*Champagne is not 50% off during the soft opening. I know this because on my day off this week I went in at 10am for a breakfast naan and champagne, doing the tough investigative work for you, readers, and was informed that champagne is full-price always. However, at dinner the next night I stole the bill of the table next to us after they left and saw that their prosecco bottle had been included in the discount, so there are still half-off bubbles to be had. JOURNALISM!