Bun Maska Chai and a Slice of Dejavu

Article & Picture Courtesy – Gauri Yennawar

10th May 2013

Bombay’s Irani Café in London: Dishoom – an experience in itself. This article is about History of Food from Irani cafes to its design engraved through its experience straight from people’s hearts.

Bombay’s Irani Café in London: Dishoom in Shoreditch

Bombay’s Irani Café in London: Dishoom in Shoreditch

As always my class at Architecture school at Prabhadevi finished at 1 so a few friends and me rushed to celebrate our project submission. It was really sunny in the afternoon and we entered the 102-year-old Kyani & Co. Café, a heritage landmark in south Mumbai. Pleased with the hospitality of the fun filled waiter, I decided on the all time classics Kheema Pav, Irani Chai and Bun Maska. Coming from India which is a culinary birth place to some of the finest cuisines in the world, I shall focus on Irani cafes from its food, culture and design value.  Hidden Art recently visited Dishoom for a complimetary Breakfast. Its my pleasure to share my personal experiences as I relate to the Bombay cafes where I grew up as well as Dishoom in London.

The essence of the Irani Café -Bun Maska & Chai

The essence of the Irani Café -Bun Maska & Chai

The old Irani cafes in Bombay which were started in the late 19th and 20th century by Persian immigrants still retain their menu and the interiors.  These cafes form the main arteries in Bombay’s (Mumbai) urban life. These walk you through the historical existence of Bombay’s rich history which encompasses its past and the future. The cafes started by the parsi (Zoroastrians) welcome people from all walks of life. In short, I relate it to the tradition of Dhabas (roadside restaurants specialty for local cuisine) on the highways were truck drivers and travelers are the main visitors. And the cafes in Mumbai had taxiwala’s, workers and business people going there for Chai, Bunmaska & bakery items which is affordable to any classes.

Dishoom Cafe in Shoreditch - Bombay’s Irani Café

Dishoom Cafe Interiors in Shoreditch

Unfortunately, Iranian cafes found it hard to sustain themselves because of the new restaurant culture. In the 1950s, there were 350 Irani cafes in the city of Mumbai and today hardly 15 remain. London has got the Bombay inside it. Dishoom certainly tries to sustain the legacy of the Bombay Irani café here in London. It closely replicates the menu and the interiors to celebrate its style. Not only does it resemble the physical forms of the cafes but also its emotional and cultural form.

 

Retro interiors of Dishoom, the Bombay Irani café here in London

Retro interiors of Dishoom in Shoreditch, the Bombay Irani café here in London

The classic format of these Irani cafes is the Colonial décor. They have developed their own special style and ambiance which was very different from other Indian eateries and restaurants. They had high ceilings with mezzanine seating, languid ceiling fans, black and white tiled floors, Italian marble-toped tables or tables with table-cloths under a pane of glass, bentwood or bent-cane chairs, walls with mirrors and portraits of old pictures hanging on the walls. Dishoom replicates a similar interior character of the place. Designed by the Russel Sage Studio, Dishoom mirrors the 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.

Walls filled with fun-filled instructions is a feature of the Irani cafe interiors

Walls with fun-filled instructions is a feature of the Irani cafe interiors

Some insights into the friendly culture, menu & style of cooking ~

I got to interact with the people working inside the café, they were really friendly and welcoming. They follow the friendly interactive culture which is a tradition of a irani cafe. Eileen welcomed us with a super happy smile.  Oscar comes with a menu where he explains you the idea behind eating in an irani cafes. Common who does that? Isnt it amazing? They explain you the culture of sharing food between each other before you could order your meal. The notion of provenance, where something comes from, has become highly important in this new value system, with people expecting transparency and honesty about the origin of foods and their cultural context.  So it is not only the interiors and the menu its also about paying homage to the Bombay cafes. The refill chai option is one of the great ways for inviting people to feel comfortable in an informal way.  You can sit here all day working on your laptop and chatting with the people while sipping your pipping hot irani masala chai. Sapna was generous enough to take me around and introduce me to the chefs (Yash Pal, Rishi Anand, Naveed Nasir, Mubarak) who then explained me the secrets of the delicious Iranian menu.

Breakfast

Breakfast we tasted at Dishoom:  (Left) Full Bombay - Abundant Akuri (spicy scrambled eggs), char-striped back bacon fresh off the flames, cumberland sausage, fire toast and tomatoes grilled on the vine; (Centre) House Granola - handmade with oats, cashews, almonds, pistachios, cinnamon, toasted in butter and honey. Served with fresh fruits and creamy yogurt infused vanilla flavour; (Right) Bacon Naan Roll, a best seller, Freshly baked naan wraped around a char-striped back bacon direct from the grill, with a most palatable combination of chilli tomato jam, cream cheese and herbs

Breakfast we tasted at Dishoom:
(Left) Full Bombay – Abundant Akuri (spicy scrambled eggs), char-striped back bacon fresh off the flames, cumberland sausage, fire toast and tomatoes grilled on the vine; (Centre) House Granola – handmade with oats, cashews, almonds, pistachios, cinnamon, toasted in butter and honey. Served with fresh fruits and creamy yogurt infused vanilla flavour; (Right) Bacon Naan Roll, a best seller, Freshly baked naan wraped around a char-striped back bacon direct from the grill, with a most palatable combination of chilli tomato jam, cream cheese and herbs

Lunch

Lunch Menu:  (left) Chutneys:  A personal touch with three varieties of chutney in front of you to savor food with these delicious dips made from mint, mango, chilli; (centre) House Black Daal, dishoom's signature dish- dark, rich, deeply flavoured which is simmered over 24 hours; (right) Roomali Roti, being the mouth melting soft handkerchief-thin bread which is grilled to order on an upturned tawa

Lunch Menu:
(left) Chutneys: A personal touch with three varieties of chutney in front of you to savor food with these delicious dips made from mint, mango, chilli; (centre) House Black Daal, dishoom’s signature dish- dark, rich, deeply flavoured which is simmered over 24 hours; (right) Roomali Roti, being the mouth melting soft handkerchief-thin bread which is grilled to order on an upturned tawa

Lamb Raan – Dishoom Special Dish – highly recommended

Sapna showing me the Laamb Raan - highly recommended- A whole leg of lamb marinated in chilli, garlic and ginger, braised overnight with spices so that it become super tender and full of flavour. It is then flame-grilled, sliced and dressed with fresh lemon. Also served as Lamb Raan Bun with Dishoom slaw, sali crisp-chips, and friend green chillies.

Sapna showing me the Lamb Raan – highly recommended- A whole leg of lamb marinated in chilli, garlic and ginger, braised overnight with spices so that it become super tender and full of flavour. It is then flame-grilled, sliced and dressed with fresh lemon. Also served as Lamb Raan Bun with Dishoom slaw, sali crisp-chips, fried chillies.

Design and Food ~

The design of the plates is a unique way to capture the history of the experiences of the visitors to these cafes. You feel just amazing to be served in these plates where you can relish the Iranian cuisine with some memories which take you back to Bombay itself. Eileen told me that few days back they received a message from a guy in Spain who wanted to design a plate for his proposal to his girl friend. He then had dinner at Dishoom during which he presented the plate to his girl friend with a question mark saying, Will you marry me? People actually become part of a tradition which lays a foundation for perfect memories for the future. This is indeed a creative way to keep the spirit of Irani cafes alive!

Dishoom Plates Design pay homage to the Irani Cafés through design and food. A perfect way to capture the memories of the cafes which are fading away

Dishoom Plates Design pay homage to the Irani Cafés through design and food. A perfect way to capture the memories of the cafes which are fading away

Let the tradition of dipping Maska Pau in steaming Chai live on!

Let the tradition of dipping Bun Maska in pipping hot Chai live on!

Let the tradition of dipping Bun Maska in pipping hot Chai live on!

With the Lovely people at Dishoom in Shreditch

With the Lovely people at Dishoom in Shoreditch

Location: 7 Boundary Street, London E2 7JE, United Kingdom
Tel: 020 7420 9324
Opening Hours:
Monday – Wednesday 8am – 11pm
Thursday – Friday 8am – 12am
Saturday 9am – 12am
Sunday 9am – 11pm
Website: www.dishoom.com
Twitter: @Dishoom
Facebook:
Dishoom Shoreditch

previous article about Dishoom here

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