In a nutshell
Dishoom was founded by Shamil and Kavi Thakrar and Amar and Adarsh Radia: the first Dishoom opened in Covent Garden in 2010 and a further three restaurants in London followed. Now open in Edinburgh, their first outing outside of the capital is proving a huge hit.
Serving up food inspired by the Irani cafes of 20th Century Bombay expect all day hospitality in a 1920’s era ‘Grade A listed’ three storey building formerly used as a warehouse for Forsyth’s department store.
Naved Nasir is executive chef across all the Dishoom restaurants, and he has a huge team of chefs operating on the ground floor where guests can watch the cooking on their way past to the basement level bar, the ‘Permit Room’, or as they take the stairs up to the dining room. The open grills emit smells well worth hanging around for and creates a welcoming atmosphere as you enter the restaurant.
What are they cooking
Legendary breakfasts are served until 11:45am, bacon naans, steaming house porridge (with free top-ups) and chilli cheese toast with fried eggs should surely be served all day? Casual all day dining follows and comes from a sharing menu of authentic Bombay comfort food with plenty of choice for all dietary requirements.
Dining at Dishoom enables you to pick and choose from small plates, side dishes, salad plates, grills, rolls, biryanis, naans, rice and there’s even a couple of ‘Ruby Murray’s’. They’ve elevated the concept of Indian food to a whole new level. Fresh, delicately spiced dishes are neither overpowering nor too filling meaning you’ll manage at least 4 or 5 plates between two no problem at all.
The Dishoom signature Black Daal simmered for 24 hours to create a rich deeply flavoured dish deserves to be mopped up with a soft Roomali Roti bread, truly delicious. Prawn Koliwada are the tastiest morsels of crunchy crispy prawns you’ll ever have, and dipped in a tamarind and date chutney provide a great starter dish while awaiting the rest of your dishes.
There are two Edinburgh lamb ‘specials’ on the menu (meat is sourced from Ramsay’s of Carluke) – Lamb Raan – a leg of lamb marinated in chilli, garlic and ginger and braised overnight, falls off the bone, and is tender and juicy and The Lamb Raan bun – a soft white hot buttered bun filled with slow cooked pulled lamb and accompanied with Dishoom slaw (shredded cabbage, pomegranate seeds and mayo). Eating with your hands is strictly encouraged here and makes your dining experience even better.
Vegetable dishes such as the Pau Bhaji, a mash up of vegetables you can pile high on a bun, and Chole Bhatura, a hearty bowl of spiced chickpeas served with fried bread are confidently spiced plates of food and a side dish of Raita is encouraged should you need a spoonful of minty yoghurt to cool your mouth.
Any dish from the grill is a must particularly if you have lingered around the kitchen on your way up to the dining room. Mahi Tikka, a sustainable Asian basa fillet is moreish, delicately flavoured with a subtle marinade then gently charred. Spicy lamb chops are blackened by the grill but are still juicy and tender inside.
If you can squeeze in a dessert then the Kala Khatta Gola Ice is an interesting choice. Fluffy ice flakes steeped in kokum fruit syrup, blueberries, chilli, lime, white and black salt at first tastes bizarre but somehow you’ll end up eating all of it. A true taste sensation you’ll never recreate at home!
What’s the room like/atmosphere
This three storey building has been converted with great attention to detail and pays homage to Sir Patrick Geddes, a Scottish botanist, sociologist and town planner who worked tirelessly to improve living conditions in Edinburgh’s Old Town.
He visited Bombay in 1915 where he founded the department of Sociology and Civics at Bombay University and his portrait can be spotted around the restaurant. Old family photos from Bombay adorn the walls as you walk up the stairs which giving off a warm welcoming feel.
Bentwood chairs and ceiling fans, reading lamps, booths, wooden bookcases and partitions, it’s cosy despite the number of tables and customers. The view across St Andrew’s Square from the window seats is lovely should you be lucky enough to get one.
The Permit Room is worth a visit even if you’re not in for one of the fantastic cocktails on offer. Housed in the basement it’s a space dedicated to ‘delicious tipples’ and the decor reflects the rest of the building.
Menu must-orders and misfires
If you’re in for breakfast the Kerjiwal – two fried eggs on chilli cheese toast – accompanied by a bottomless chai provides a great start to the day.
The House Black Daal is a must order whether for lunch or dinner, true comfort food heaven. Accompany this with a Murgh Malai – chicken thigh meat steeped overnight in garlic, ginger, coriander stems and a little cream – and a bowl of greens tossed in chilli and lime and perhaps a Roti bread and you’ll be full.
In the dining room order tipples, lassis and coolers, sodas or wine and beer from the menu. Dishoom’s specially crafted IPA by Mondo Brewing Company is a great accompaniment at lunch or dinner. All wines on the list are available by the glass and won’t break the bank.
The Permit Room basement bar serves drinks until 2:30am seven days a week. Specially designed cocktails for Edinburgh have been created by Dishoom’s award winning Daru-wall who has also come up with some amazing alcohol free tipples which look and taste like serious drinks. Great music and good cheer are guaranteed.
Dishoom is a ‘mini’ chain but you would never know. What they’ve created in Edinburgh is pretty special and somewhere you could visit regularly and never be bored with either the menu or your experience. Staff are so welcoming you feel like you’ve made new friends when you visit and if you think you know Indian food then think again, Dishoom have nailed it. If you’re looking for a chicken rogan josh you’ve definitely come to the wrong place.
3A St Andrew’s Square
Reviewed by Hilary Sturzaker, April 2017