If I had to identify one of my overarching strengths, it would have to be sniffing out epic bars and restaurants. I have just been blessed with the knack. Breakfast at Beauty & Essex and dinner at Root & Bone when we were last in New York City spring to mind. Just sayin’.
My weakness? Milking it until the end of time. I mean, the miniature grilled cheese spoons I had at Beauty & Essex are still my cover photo on Twitter. [Insert shrugging blonde girl Emoji]. Here they are again for good measure…
Epics I do, have and will still continue to bang on about closer to home include the legendary Indian street food eatery which is taking over the country as we speak – Mowgli.
The place I have long branded my-favourite-restaurant-if-I-had-a-gun-to-my-head (alongside Salthouse Bacaro), Mowgli is pure authentic edible magic. The place to be for home-style Indian food that is a far, far cry from the bastardised takeaway joints us Brits are so accustomed to.
That was until a new kid came stomping around the block…
Enter: Dishoom Manchester.
The Dishoom story is as cool as a cucumber raita.
Far from a new kid in the grand scheme of things, Dishoom first opened its doors in Covent Garden way back in 2010 but the Manchester instalment is but a few months old.
The brand is owned by Shamil and Kavi Thakrar who had an unsatiated desire to bring authentic, homemade Indian food to Britain. The family actually formerly owned the Subway franchise but Dishoom is a trillion miles away from flaccid sandwiches and garish highstreet branding.
Each of the beguiling Dishoom establishments is heavily inspired by the Irani cafes of mid-20th Century Bombay (now Mumbai) and the community hubs of traditional Parisian café culture.
Dishoom Manchester takes up residence in the Grade-II listed Manchester Hall – a 1920’s Freemasons hall with bags of architectural charm and a striking stained-glass window.
Portraits across the walls celebrate Bombay’s own history in Freemasonry, complimented by a whole host of cultural bric-a-brac reportedly required from the modern-day Mumbai ‘thieves’ market’ bazaar.
It’s a cosy, dim-lit vibe – the kind of ambience that means your dad will likely light up the entire place with his iPhone torch to get a good look at the menu.
A place you can really feel at home, I’d say and I think this is definitely enhanced by the limited booking policy which means parties of 6 or more are only allowed to reserve a table post-5.30pm. This aims to make the restaurant accessible to all and maintain the liberal and all-inclusive hospitality synonymous with old-time Irani cafes.
The Dishoom Manchester food menu
The main dining room where we were seated is named after Brother Cursetjee (the first Indian Freemason) and strikes the perfect balance between boujie and laidback. Oh, and the SMELL in the air! I can’t tell you how much I wished my Instagram Stories had been scratch ‘n’ sniff.
Our fabulous waitress for the evening talked us through the fascinating Dishoom narrative and explained that the menu has been designed for sharing. Two to three plates each were her recommendation which we maxed out and ended up having to take a doggy bag of leftovers away as a result.
The 2-3 plates each might have been fine had we not included the impressive (and sizeable) Chef’s Manchester Special (£16.90) in our order. Entitled Nalli Nihari Biryani, the city-specific Dishoom delicacy is a stunning combination of tender lamb shank, fragrant rice and caramelised onion nestled under a pastry blanket and accompanied by a chicken liver raita and rich nihari gravy. Just incredible.
Other highlights from our vast selection were the skin-on Gunpowder Potatoes (£6.70), the buttery House Black Daal (£6.20) which is cooked over 24 hours to deepen its flavour and the beautiful Chicken Ruby Murray (£10.90) with tender chunks of meat and a crimson Makhani sauce. Seriously, seriously good stuff.
Portions are generous and flavours are HUGE are so just be wary of this when picking and mixing from the extensive Dishoom food menu. What’s nice to know though is that for every meal purchased, Dishoom donate a school meal to a child via two organisations they work with who provide nourishing food to children in India and the UK.
The bar at Dishoom Manchester comes with an equally charming backstory. It goes by the name of The Permit Room and pays homage to the Bombay Prohibition Act of 1949 when only permit holders were allowed to consume alcohol.
The drinks list is plentiful and features everything from standard wines, beers and spirits to bespoke cocktails, ‘dry’ drinks, chai tea menu, a plethora of lassis and even Dishoom’s very own IPA (Indian pale ale).
I went for the Chevalier’s Sour (£8.50) which was a pretty pink muddle of Rangpur gin, raspberries and spices. It was delicate but punchy all at the same time, despite my mouth still being mildly ablaze after our fiery Chilli Chicken starter.
Dishoom was voted Yelp!’s best place to eat in the UK two years on the run so I think that probably speaks volumes. I, myself, have already made you endure volumes about the place in this mammoth blog post so all that’s left to do now is answer the question that is (read: probably isn’t) on everybody’s lips…
Has Dishoom lured me away from Mowgli?
Never! Mowgli will always have a soft spot in my hungry heart and to be completely honest, the food – while it’s all authentic Indian street food – offers an entirely different experience in each. Maybe while I’m in Manchester I’ll stick to Dishoom and Mowgli when I’m in my mother city of Liverpool,
Seems fair, right?
I was very kindly invited to review Dishoom but all words, photographs, opinions, teeth, hair, boobs and nails are my very own.