A vibrant menu? Check. Queues for dinner? Check. Kitsch Bombay nostalgia? Check. It’s business as usual at Dishoom’s Carnaby branch, but that’s as it should be. Dishoom has really taken off in recent years, with branches opening in a number of cities outside London, but it’s heartening to know that it remains true to its principles. The concept – to pay homage to Bombay’s once ubiquitous Irani cafés which brought people from all walks of life together over food and drink – is as evident here, today, as it was when Dishoom opened its very first restaurant in Covent Garden.
Styling in this sprawling ground-floor bar-restaurant on Kingly Street is inspired by the 1960s: Brimful of Asha in four dimensions. Professional yet friendly staff galvanise the buzzy atmosphere, advising on their favourite dishes and making recommendations, until you’re so immersed you may forget, momentarily, that you’re in central London.
Breakfast and brunch is prime time at Dishoom Carnaby, with punters queuing up for the likes of a bacon, egg or vegan sausage naan roll, a bowl of creamy date and banana porridge or a freshly-baked pau bun dipped in hot chai. Mild spicing characterises the all-day menu of small plates, grills, curries and biryanis, that also caters to children, vegetarians, vegans and anyone gluten-free. Comfort food is a highlight: whether deeply creamy black dhal, a Roomali roti roll loaded with paneer and mint chutney, or buttery pau bhaji. Finish up with a tooth-achingly sweet dessert such as syrup-soaked gulab jamun, or a serving of cooling kulfi.
The spiced cocktail list includes bottle-aged options; wines focus on Europe; and the house chai (served to the often hour-long queue outside) is delicious. With evening reservations for six diners or more only, Dishoom is ideal for parties: it certainly has the requisite vibes, flavours and drinks.