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It’s been a bumpy old ride, but Dishoom has finally launched in Birmingham. The Indian restaurant collective was originally due to open its eighth eatery on 1 April, but the Covid-19 pandemic meant the launch was delayed until the end of the summer.
Paying homage to the old Irani cafes of Bombay, Dishoom opened its first restaurant in Covent Garden in 2010. It has since developed a cult following thanks to the quality of its food and the authenticity of its restaurants.
Occupying part of the ground floor of One Chamberlain Square, overlooking Grade I listed Birmingham Town Hall, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery and the Chamberlain Monument fountain, Dishoom has been a major hit with Brummies since its opening.
Executive Chef Naved Nasir’s menu of Bombay comfort food is served from breakfast onwards. Dishes are cooked in Hindu, Muslim, Irani and Parsi traditions. They include favourites such as Murgh Mali - chicken-thigh meat steeped overnight in garlic, ginger, coriander stems and cream; Paneer Pineapple Tikka - Indian cheese, marinated and gently charred with pineapple; and Gunpowder Potatoes - potatoes with brown skins, smoky-grilled, broken apart and tossed with butter, crushed aromatic seeds and green herbs.
Our feast commenced with Prawn Koliwada and Keema Pau. Originating from the Kolis - a small fishing community - the koliwada recipe involves dipping pieces of fish - or, in this case, meaty king prawns - into spicy batter and deep-frying them. The delicate, crispy morsels boasted subtle hints of cumin, chilli and garlic, and were accompanied by a selection of tasty chutneys - tamarind, mint & coriander and tomato & chilli.
A classic of Irani cafes, the Keema Pau consisted of well-balanced and spiced minced lamb & pea mix - imagine a comforting samosa filling - with a toasted and buttered home-made bun. My partner and I gave both dishes a big thumbs-up.
I already knew I had to try the Chef’s Birmingham Special of Mutton Chaap Korma, and Dishoom's signature dish - the House Black Daal. Cooked over 24 hours for extra harmony, the daal certainly lived up to expectations - dark, rich and deeply flavoured. A term that I often use when describing a cracking, creamy and wholesome daal is ‘the ultimate comfort food’ - and Dishoom’s offering was just that.
The korma was exemplary, too. Featuring marinated chops of mutton lavished with a rich, nourishing onion & cashew sauce, it was up there with some of the nicest curries I've tried anywhere. Mopped up with the accompanying soft and spongy khamiri roti, it was a truly delicious dish.
I adore okra fries, so happily added them to our order too, alongside some nicely cooked steamed basmati rice.
On our waiter’s recommendation we also ordered the spicy lamb chops. Untrimmed for juiciness, the meat itself was beautifully cooked and melted in the mouth. Marinated overnight in lime juice, warm dark spices, ginger and garlic, the two chops were brimming with flavour and served with pomegranate seeds for that extra little burst of sweetness. Superb!
Our waiter then recommended the Basmati Kheer for dessert. Now, although I always favour savoury over sweet, I think this might just have beaten the korma in the ‘highlight of the evening’ stakes. Comprising silky caramelised basmati rice pudding cooked nicely with vanilla-infused coconut milk, cardamom and cashews, every mouthful was an utter joy. Cooled and layered with blueberry compote, this is an absolute must-try if you visit Dishoom! It’s dairy-free too, so unless you have a good reason - a nut allergy, for example - there really is no excuse. Save room for it. Honestly, you’ll thank me for the recommendation.
Dining out, understandably, may not be at the top of your priority list at the moment. You may not feel comfortable being in close proximity to people, or you may find it hard to trust that a restaurant and its staff are fully complying with the current Covid health & safety measures. But from the supervised, socially distanced queue to enter the restaurant, through to the ample hand-sanitising pumps and the sufficient spacing between the tables, Dishoom really does have everything covered. Every member of staff was wearing a mask (and this was before it was legally required) and abided by the correct distancing measures, as much as physically possible, whilst serving. The service itself was exceptional too, with the staff ticking all the boxes - friendly, attentive, knowledgable and informative. Five stars from us.
Many people, myself included, like to champion the independents - and with the current state of the hospitality industry, they need our support more than ever. Whilst technically a chain, Dishoom is definitely worth adding to your list (alongside those independents, of course!) if you haven’t previously done so. The overall experience is one that you won’t forget in a hurry.
And if you needed a bit more persuading... for every meal served at Dishoom Birmingham, the team will donate a meal to one of their long-term charity partners, Magic Breakfast and Akshaya Patra - two charities that provide free, nutritious meals to children who might otherwise go hungry.
★★★★ Lauren Foster
One Chamberlain Square
Tel: 0121 809 5986
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