When the latest branch of Dishoom opened last autumn near Granary Square in King's Cross, only a few minutes' walk from my office, I couldn't wait to dally over some daal or to taste a bit of tikka. I had hoped to take advantage of the half-price food during the soft launch but I was not the only one to have this idea and the queues were insane. I finally got the chance to go with a couple of work chums in February, but there was a queue even at 6 o'clock on a freezing Thursday evening — even just to drink at the gorgeous, teal-accented basement cocktail bar.
Fortunately, it was much easier for my friend and I to get a table on Thursday evening. Perhaps the fuss has died down a bit now or maybe everyone else wanted to sit outside on one of the first truly warm and sunny evenings of the summer. The front-of-house system doesn't seem perfectly set up quite yet — on both visits, there was some confusion (this time, I gave my name and my friend's but when she arrived five minutes later, they claimed ignorance and sent her to the bar instead of our table) — but you can't fault the staff for friendliness. I was given a surprisingly refreshing salty lemon drink to sip while waiting to find out the wait situation, but was shown to my table in under five minutes.
Dishoom's King's Cross site is huge, occupying a multi-floor building that has retained some of the features of its previous incarnation as a warehouse (and before that a transit shed). Dishoom's restaurants pay homage to the Irani cafes of Bombay and the King's Cross branch in particular is influenced by a café near Bombay's Victoria Terminus. There's a big clock, ceilings that look like they are designed to hold a few suitcases, skylights and winding staircases. The 20th century industrial chic aesthetic is stylish, cool and apt.
While I waited for my friend to arrive, I perused the cocktail menu, which takes classic cocktails and quite literally spices them up. When I came before, I tried the 1948 Sour (a fruity syrupy concoction made with an Indian whisky) and my favourite, the beautiful Edwina's Affair (gin, rose, cardamom and mint). This time, I decided to order something quite different, the Chilli Martini (Portobello Road gin with pomegranate, lemon and chilli; £7.50), which had enough fruity sweetness to balance the fiery kick.
Then came the hard part: deciding what to eat. We shared some vegetable samosas (£3.20) to start. There only two of them, but they were also quite big, and nicely spiced. For my main course, I went for the chicken berry Britannia (£8.50), which came in a generously sized pot with rice on top. I didn't realise that it came with rice, so I was glad I had just ordered a garlic naan (£2.20) on the side and not more rice. My biryani was really good: the chicken was juicy and flavoursome, and the cranberry-dotted sauce was warm, rich and just spicy enough to keep it interesting. I also tried some of my friend's chicken ruby (£8.20), which was zingy and citrusy.
I've never been to Mumbai, but the atmosphere in Dishoom on Thursday night was certainly bustling. The wait staff were friendly and we weren't hurried out after we had finished our food — this did, however, mean that I kept on grazing long after I grew full, but it was all just so tasty! Dishoom is open all day — their breakfast bacon naans are also ace — and the food is delicious and good value. And if you go at night, don't forget to check out the dancing fountains in Granary Square; there's even an app that lets you control them!
Dishoom. 5 Stable Street, London, N1C 4AB (Tube: King's Cross). Website. Twitter.