Last week I met my sister for dinner at Dishoom near Kings Cross. Dishoom is a modern representation of the old traditional Iranian cafes of
Bombay. A very unique
and flavoursome style of Indian food, unlike any of the so-called ‘traditional’
Indian dishes we commonly think of in the UK. They now have a few branches in
the Kings Cross one being located in a large old warehouse which gives it a
great atmosphere and impact the minute you walk through the door. High
ceilings, exposed brick, hanging lights and multi floored dining areas.
The King Cross branch don’t take bookings and as we discovered, it’s incredibly popular. My advice if you want to eat before 8pm is to get there early. We arrived at around 6:15pm on a Tuesday evening and were 4th in the queue to even be let through the door! There was a server with a clipboard taking names and giving you an EET (Estimated Eating Time) and when we got to the front we were told there was 1hr 20min wait for a table – you what?!
As we dithered over whether to stay (we were both very hungry had had been up since the small hours) we were served a complimentary glass of hot sweet house chai tea and told we were welcome to wait in the bar where we could get drinks and nibbles. We had both heard such glowing reviews of the restaurant that we decided to stay (fyi it’s worth the wait!)
The bar area is downstairs/underground and poorly lit. Rather than seeming dingy, this gave it an exciting, hushed yet relaxing feel. I drank a couple of sweet spicy chai teas which was the perfect pick-me-up I needed after a long day, and my sister C had a delicious watermelon cocktail. We shared one of the two bar snacks on offer, described as crunchy banana chips and dips. These were amazing and so addictive. We wanted to save ourselves for the meal but couldn’t stop eating them. The banana chips were thin and crunchy and lightly spiced with chilli. They were accompanied by a fresh onion salsa, a wedge of lime and then 3 little dips. A spiced tomato chutney, some sort of sweet & sour tamarind combo and a yummy fresh mint chutney. We couldn’t decided which was our favourite, each was so different and tasty.
In the end our table was ready after only an hour wait, so not too bad and the drinks and spicy banana chips had kept us more than satisfied. Dishoom are also very well know for their impressive choice of gluten free options. I should think nearly half the menu was gluten free, and naturally gluten free rather than having to be specially adapted which was fantastic.
We had a hard choice choosing what to try from the menu, everything sounded delicious and so authentic. You could have everything from Pau Bhaji - traditional warm buttery bread rolls stuffed with mashed curried vegetables, Prawn Koliwada – prawns in tamarind and date chutney, Black Lentil Daal – a house specialty and even Nalli Nihari with Bheja – a spicy lamb dish complete with lambs brains (yes really!)
As C is so lovely she agreed that we choose two mains that were gluten free so we could both have a taste of each, and then some sides. I went for the house black daal which is one of their signature dishes. It’s simmered for over 24 hours to allow the spices and flavours to fully develop and blend, now that’s dedication! The black lentils give it a dark mysterious colour and the flavour was rich, spicy and surprisingly smoky. It had a complex multi layered range of aromatic flavours that was unique. Cardamom, cinnamon, something smoky and then a bit of aniseed tang combined with the thick earthy lentils. The best daal I’ve ever had and so soothing and comforting. I’d love to have a bowl of this waiting for me after a tiring day at work. I also had a bowl of green veg which again was deliciously flavoured with chilli and fresh lime, I’m going to try adding this combo on my veg at home.
We also had the Mahi Tikka which was fish in a lightly spiced yoghurt marinade before being cooked in a tandoor. This had quite a delicate subtle flavour which didn’t overpower the fish. However, the flavours here too were multi layered and unique, not hot and spicy, but more fragrant and aromatic. There were some spices in our dishes I’ve never tasted before and couldn’t identify. It really made for a delicious and special meal. As the fish is not a saucy dish we had some raita on the side (a colossal amount) and C also enjoyed a paper thin freshly cooked roti.
We were quite full at this point but couldn’t resist the chance to sample some of the desserts. These too were very impressive with everything apart the intriguing sounding pineapple black pepper crumble being gluten free!
C chose mango Kulfi on a stick. This was the richest, creamiest, freshest sort of ice cream you can imagine, presented in a pointy spire for good measure (apparently this shape is traditional. Much more exciting than the
boring cheap choc-ice blocks). You could tell it was made with real mango, it
was very fresh and fruity. The perfect tongue soother and sweet treat after a
meal. C happily devoured the lot.
I decided to be daring and go for the most unusual and intriguing sounding desert I have ever heard of, Kala Khatta Gola Ice. Frozen ice flakes steeped in kokum fruit syrup, with chilli, lime, white and black salt and fresh blueberries. The waiter actually tried to dissuade me from having it – well maybe not dissuade, but warn me. He said a lot of people don’t like it and that it’s very unique. I said it sounded so interesting I had to try it. He looked a little dubious and said they wouldn’t mind if I didn’t like it. As he walked away my sister and I exchanged looks, what had I let myself in for?!
It arrived looking like a harmless tall glass of ruby purple coloured ice chips topped with blueberries. I took my first spoonful and….my mind exploded. Apparently my face was a picture of shock, confusion, excitement and then delight. It was so bizarre, so unexpected, such an amazingly mind blowing assault on my taste buds and senses that I almost felt dizzy. The first sensation is of cold ice, then an intense sweetness and fruitiness from the syrup before suddenly whooshing in with a strong whack of fiery chilli, causing my tongue to tingle and burn while still being cold. Then as you swallow your mouth is flooded with a strong, almost unpleasantly, salty taste which then rushes back to sweet fruitiness and a lingering spice. I am not joking when I say I’ve never experienced anything like it in my life. After getting over the shock I started to laugh and sat there grinning. WOW!
I went back for another spoonful and it was just as multi layered and confusing yet delightful as the first. Cold, sweet, spicy, heat, fruity, salty, sweet, throat burning fire yet freezing cold tongue and a great rush of emotions. The waiter came over to see what I thought and I told him it was incredible. He seemed amazed I actually like it. I was grinning like an idiot and said
‘I want one every day.’
He laughed and said ‘you’re a little crazy, no’
I said ‘oh yes’
To which he replied ‘well at least your self aware’….and walked away.
I’m not sure what to make of that comment, but I’ve decided to take it as a compliment. I enjoy being unique and different and if it means I get to experience things such as this dessert then so much the better. I only managed half the glass, my senses just couldn’t cope after that. I was giddy all the way home. If you try just one dish – try this one. I don’t care if you don’t like it – you just have to experience it!! It is truly a memory that will stay with me for years.
Fantastic food and a fabulous evening. I can’t recommend Dishoom highly enough. The breakfasts are also meant to be legendary – I foresee another visit on the horizon!