Friday, 30 November 2012
Dishoom Restaurant Review - Covent Garden
Do you remember Tamagotchi? Tiny little computer key rings that held a 'pet,' which you had to remember to 'feed,' and 'play,' with.
My friends and I carried them around like they were our newborn babies, immediately succumbing to the demanding egg-shaped robocritter's every need.
Then, we realised that actually, we had just paid £10 to effectively have a electronic thing bitch at us every time it needed something.
We also realised, that a Tamagotchi just provided all the crappy parts of having a pet without the good bits, like being able to cuddle it, make it fetch things, dress is up in animal fancy-dress clothing.
I quickly came to the conclusion that if I wanted a pet I should just ask for one, rather than having a strange, hybrid, naff version of one......
You may wonder how but this brings me to my opinion of Dishoom, a 'Bombay-cafe' themed restaurant in Covent Garden and Shoreditch.
The restaurant boasts an all-day menu which is supposed to pay homage to the old cafes of Bombay which are all but disappearing.
The romantic description of Dishoom was what drew me to take my Papa there for lunch and upon arrival, the beautiful, rustic but elegant decor at least, seemed to fit in with their 'Bombay,' theme.
We were greeted by a very friendly waitress, immediately shown a table and brought some little crispy things with three pots of dippy things. That's the end of the praise.
The little crispy things tasted and looked like the polystyrene bows you get in the box when you buy a new T.V but dipped in the various chutneys and dips they picked up a bit of flavour. It's different from a poppadom (which is what you normally have with these kind of dips) but once you get over that gimmick you are left with the fact that a poppadom would have made it taste better.
I ordered the Chef's Covent Garden special, 'three whole crabs in a rich, flavoursome curry of tomato ginger and subtle spices, mellowed with coconut milk'. Obviously I ordered it based on that description. In fact, in honesty, reading menu's online (this is what I do when I'm trying to avoid a work deadline) I decided to go to the restaurant based on this dish.
Unfortunately, my big food first-date was a bit of a no-show. The sauce for my curry was the best part, it was a thick gravy with deep, spicy flavours, which benefited at that same time from a light zesty tang that went along with the fish stock. However, the crab, for me, didn't really work. I assumed the crab would have been broken up and mixed within the sauce, instead, it was literally a whole crab, placed in the sauce which meant I had to be super-conscious of each forkfull, picking away the sauce so I could see what I was biting into. It made the whole thing a lot more high-maintenance then a meal should be, especially a meal in a 'Bombay cafe'.
Along with my main I ordered a basmati rice because they had no other rice on offer. Now, call me a glutton but I really don't want to go to a restaurant and eat plain, tasteless, white rice. The only time I expect to wolf down a bowl of that is if I'm suffering from food poisoning, or, have been put in a Thai prison after a 'misunderstanding,' at the airport.
My dad ordered the Chicken Berry Britannia Biryani, "The Dishoom variation on the legendary Irani Cafe special, with cranberries". His description was, "dry old rice that's been hanging around with a measly portion of dry chicken and a mean serving of berries".
After one forkful we had to order him a raita (minty yoghurt) just so that there was some moisture and flavour so he could soak up the bullets of rice which made up the majority of his meal. There just didn't seem to be the seasoning or flavour you usually associate with a Biryani.
I so wanted Dishoom to be incredible but it really wasn't. In fact, our experience wasn't even OK. That night, with a indian-shaped-food-void and a rumbling tummy having hardly eaten any of my lunch, I ordered a takeaway curry from The Holy Cow (acclaimed London Indian takeaway). There was no gimmick, it was just delicious Indian food, pungent flavours, moist chicken, delicate but deep seasoning and it made me realise that if you want decent Indian flavours you should probably just go to your favourite Indian, not explore a gimmick which serves up a white-washed version.
Just like the Tamagotchi, Dishoom probably seemed like a good idea when it was thought up but in reality, it's just an unnecessary gimmick, taking something lovely, over-complicating it and removing everything that made it wonderful in the first place.