Dishoom: The Bombay Café- A Hidden Treasure in Shoreditch

Kate Melhuish

5th November 2012

Recently the Hidden Art team visited Dishoom, a restaurant which recently opened in Shoreditch.

Iranian cafes have been a part of Bombay – now known as Mumbai – since the 19th century when they were originally opened by Persians who had immigrated to India. The cafés reached a peak of popularity during the 1950s and 1960s, and attracted a wide range of people from rich business men to students and writers.However, since this time, the cafés’ popularity has been in decline; the Dishoom restaurant on Boundary Street in Shoreditch hopes to preserve the traditions of these Bombay cafés.

Dishoom’s Seating Area and Interior Decor- The Portraits are Photos of the Owner’s Ancestors

The restaurant draws heavily from the traditions of the original Bombay cafés. It has something for everyone, no matter what time of day, and is open to people having a chai and reading a newspaper, enjoy a quick lunch, and right up until people arrive for evening drinks, such as the traditional julep cocktails.
The Hidden Art team enjoyed breakfast at Dishoom and tried a range of their breakfast menu, such as their house granola, an exotic take on the breakfast classic, the egg naan roll, the bacon naan roll and the Bombay omelette, as well as a variety of drinks, such as traditional lassi and chai tea.

The items that jump out straight away on the menu are the dishes that are essentially English dishes with a Bombay twist. Whereas a normal café might display a fried egg roll, Dishoom lists on its menu the “egg naan roll” which includes chilli tomato jam, which is mild enough for the morning. There is even a “Full Bombay,” reminiscent of the Full English, served with spicy scrambled eggs.

Although Dishoom already exists in some form in Covent Garden, the Shoreditch incarnation will differ in that it retains the layers of imperfection that make it feel like an authentic Bombay café. As soon as you walk in to Dishoom this is evident in the design of the restaurant.
Designed by the Russel Sage Studio, Dishoom mirrors the slightly strange combination of Art Deco and Art Nouveau styles sitting against aging furniture and dishevelled décor. The restaurant juxtaposes opulent detailing and antique furniture against worn out fittings.

A Bombay Cafe that Inspired Dishoom

Dishoom’s Interior Seating Area and Lighting

This carries on downstairs into the kitchen, where modern cooking equipment works alongside traditional Indian kitchenware that is needed to make dishes such as the signature Chicjen Berry Biryani. There is a terrazzo floor which creates a flow between the cooking area and dining room, where there is a gallery that overlooks the the roomali dome and tandoori ovens.

Dishoom’s “Rules”, Inspired by Writing Seen in Original Bombay Cafes

An important feature is the poems in English and Hindi written on the windows. Based on signage seen in B. Merwan – a Bombay café – London based signwriter and guilder Nick Garrett created a font specifically for Dishoom.
The interior design seen within Dishoom is a result of the design team and Dishoom founders exploring the remaining cafés, understanding the eccentric personalities of each café. Visitors familiar with the original Irani cafés may recognise the specific references, suc as the large column breaking up the central space, and the numerous sepia portraits of the owners’ ancestors dotted around the walls that pay homage to the old Bombay cafés.

Location– 7 Boundary Street, London E2 7JE

There are 3 comments

  1. nickgarrett

    This really tours the new Dishoom love it on all the right levels… having worked with Shamil, Matt and the team for a number of weeks developing the poetic scripts for the feature windows it was a huge pleasure to see the queues down the street on opening – instantly popular – timelessly nostalgic… and the food is (J)awesome!!

    Nick Garrett
    NGS London’s trad signwriters

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