If you happen to be scrolling on social media, somewhere in between the talk of no-shows, money off, VAT reductions, customers being rubbish, and generally awful times for hospitality, you may have noticed a little ray of light in the form of bacon naans, a pretty interior and a mutton dish designed especially for the Midlands.
There’s one word you need to know for all of that to make sense. Dishoom. Finally, after years of us Midlanders lusting after our own outpost of the much-loved Indian restaurant based on the Irani Cafés of Bombay, we got one.
I actually managed to squeeze in a visit to Dishoom just before lockdown, when they were about to open but had only just got the staff trained and the doors open when coronavirus stopped everything.
At the time they were offering free trial meals for people who wanted to pop along – something they’re doing again right now as part of a soft launch – so it was a good opportunity to go and get a sneak peak.
I’ve written about Dishoom before on this blog, and each time I’ve been I’ve feared that it was a rose-tinted spectacle scenario and I might have just been won over by the bright lights of a London establishment, or the beautiful interior, or the menu that can put a smile on your face no matter what time of day you visit. Because yes, my friends, you can do breakfast at Dishoom too.
In the past I’ve visited the labyrinthine branch of the King’s Cross branch, where you feel transported far away from London by its cavernous ceiling, nooks and crannies and multi-floored seating, all designed to mimic somewhere far, far away.
Compared to this, I was worried Birmingham would disappoint, but whoever has done the interior of the branch at One Chamberlain Square – part of Paradise Birmingham – has created the same sense of scale and size, and the feel of far-flung climes and cultures in this brand new building.
But enough about the interior. You’re here for the food, and if the interior is somewhat superlative then that’s nothing on the food itself. If you think Indian food is about a chicken tikka masala and a soggy naan then a visit to Dishoom will most likely leave you a bit slack-jawed.
Yes, you can get a good old ‘Ruby Murray’ but many of the dishes will be unlike those on your local curry house menu (not that there is anything wrong with those – I personally love a decent Pathia on a Friday night). You can also enjoy small plates, grills, and the aforementioned breakfast, as well as riffs on British classics like Vada Pau – Bombay’s version of a classic chip butty.
When I went, we opted for pretty much everything. Light, crispy samosas filled with fragrant, spiced fillings. Gunpowder potatoes, one of my favourites – slightly crispy on the outside but still soft inside, tossed in butter, crushed seeds and green herbs. The Pau Bhaji is a must-try too – a hot buttered bun with mashed veg.
If it’s grill dishes you like, there’s everything from the classic sheekh kebab to spicy lamb chops or masala prawns, and from the classic menu you HAVE to try the house black daal, one of Dishoom’s signature dishes and unlike anything else you may have tried. Smokey, full of layered flavours and spice and the comfort that we so often find in Indian food.
There’s also a dish exclusive to Birmingham – a mutton korma that I imagine could become my go-to at our own Midlands venue. Everything you’d expect from a top-notch curry. Meat falling off the bone, with all the flavour that you get from mutton and goat but so often miss out on with some other meats.
The sauce swerves the sickly sweet, creamy mess that is so often served up under the name of korma and instead offers the same rich tapestry of flavours that comes with an array of different spices all working in sync and cooked by a team that is keen to impress its new home.
On top of all of these great options, Dishoom dishes up roti, sides, biryanis and menus that cater for children, those with a dairy intolerance, and people who are gluten-free. Genuinely something for everyone.
Desserts include a combination of classics and Dishoom’s own interpretation. When I went, a gulab jamun was everything I had hoped for (though I’m not sure it’s on the menu anymore, you’ll have to check) while Basmati Kheer – a kind of Indian version of rice pudding elevated by the infusion in coconut milk, cardamom and cashews – was the winner of the sweets.
Needless to say, Dishoom Birmingham lived up to the hype – both my own personal expectations and the buzz around the city at the arrival of such a much-loved name.
On top of great food and the impressive surroundings, the service was pretty much on point despite the fact they’d only been open a matter of days, and I imagine it will be the same now they’re open again.
There’s a lot going on in the hospitality world right now – much of it sad and depressing. So the fact that Dishoom is back open again and we have another great place up in the Midlands is something to celebrate.
On top of that, they’re running their soft launch again until 5th August which means you get 50% off food, so don’t take my word for it. Get booked in and try it for yourself.
I attended an initial trial run soft launch of Dishoom earlier this year so our meals were free but it wasn’t because I was a blogger. Anyone can sign up for the soft launch – just visit the Dishoom website.