July 2019: this original branch of Dishoom is to expand into the building next door, formerly a Jamie's Italian. It will close in January 2020 for a six-month refurbishment.
Harden's survey result
“There aren’t many restaurants where I will queue for nearly two hours to get a table but it’s worth the wait!” – This “madly popular” Mumbai-inspired chain “has taken London by storm” and is now the capital’s most mentioned chain. Even if the heady days of its Covent Garden debut are long gone, criticisms that it’s “too popular for its own good” are most notable by their absence; and instead its “a firm favourite” for its massive army of fans who feel “it never fails to impress”. The “buzzy, Indian, faux-retro vibe” (“I felt transported to the Parsi eating houses of Bombay in the 1960s”) helps set up a “crazy, frenetic atmosphere”; and even if the “noise levels are pretty bad”, “somehow it all comes together”. It helps that service is “always punctual and friendly” (respect: it’s such a busy chain), and the tapas-y food – though no longer as bleeding edge as it once seemed – still feels “vibrant”, with a selection of dishes that’s “far from run-of-the-mill” (“recommended by all our Indian friends!”), plus “an exceptional list of drinks”. Breakfast here is unexpectedly “a true thing of beauty” too: “so different” in a brilliant way. “You can book during the day, but not at night” – “the wait is tedious, but the buzzer system works well” and cocktails at the bar help blur time. In mid 2019, the chain acquired the former Jamie’s Italian site next to its original WC2 branch in order to expand its footprint. Top Tips – “black dahl is still the best” and “the bacon naan is the greatest restaurant breakfast dish of all time!”.
“No wonder people queue out the door!” – “it feels like you are actually in Mumbai, even the smells wafting round the room”, at these “terrific” and “incredibly busy” outlets, whose “distinctive” interiors generate a “vibrant atmosphere” that’s reasonably faithful to the buzz in India’s Irani cafés. “The bar areas with good cocktails help make the long and boring wait bearable” and, once seated, servers “are full of fun and energy” (admittedly probably with one eye on “efficiently maximising table turnover”). For most customers, any hassle is “worth it for the absolutely yum-tastic Indian street food” – special shout outs go to the “the reinvention of the bacon butty (naan with crispy cured Ginger Pig bacon) which is the perfect breakfast”; and “the black daal and Ruby Murray, which are standout dishes”. But declining ratings do support the doubters who feel that “quality has declined following the brand’s extraordinary rise in popularity”, or that “while it’s good enough, the chain definitely doesn’t excite like it once did”. Even most critics would acknowledge that “the glow hasn’t worn off Dishoom yet”, however, and if you haven’t been already, you should go: it can still provide “a real revelation”.
“My daughter in law (born in Delhi) says it reminds her so much of Bombay food – and that is really high praise!” These “high energy” replicas of Mumbai’s Parsi cantinas are “quite exceptional” for a chain, with Indian reporters feeling “nostalgia for my childhood… the noise, the bustle, the products on display in the loos!” “The evening queues are deeply tedious” (“you can only book for 6 or more”) but the payoff is “exceptionally flavoursome Indian street-food with a difference”, “a fun cocktail list” and “a real buzz”. “Breakfast with a twist” is another option and it’s easier to get a table. Top Menu Tips – black dhal, or, for breakfast, their “reinvented bacon butty” – “a bacon naan with spicy ketchup is a great start to the day!”
“Buzzy, bordering on frenetic” – these “wonderful replicas of Mumbai’s Parsi cafés” have exceptional energy levels for a fast-expanding chain, and offer “deeply satisfying, colonially-inspired, street-food style dishes” (including “terrifically interesting breakfasts”), plus “excellent cocktails”. The catch? – the limited-bookings policy leads to “massive” queues “out of all proportion to reality”. Top Menu Tip – “the black dhal is a must”.
Dishoom Restaurant Diner Reviews
"I only go at times when there is no queue but I have never been disappointed with my meal."
A smart and comfortable chain-prototype Indian, which makes a very useful addition to the West End.
What do you want in a chain-style restaurant in the heart of the West End? Comfort? Space? Perhaps an interior with a bit of drama? Good food? Friendy and efficient service. Looked at a whole, this Covent Garden newcomer - which feels as if it may be the prototype for a chain - seems to fit the bill pretty well.
A particular success is the spacious interior which, especially if you get a banquette seat, is as comfortable as any restaurant in London. (Let's hope lingering lunchers don't upset the economics too much!) It's been done tastefully and with an eye to drama too. The proprietors of the deadly dull US import, Cantina Laredo - pretty much a neighbour - could learn a lot here.
Service is certainly friendly, but on our visit it was a bit disjointed, with drinks we hadn't asked for being brought to the table, and the service of a wrong dish. The staff were clearly trying, though, so one hopes they'll sort it out. Perhaps if you had to be away by a particular time for curtain up, you might be a bit less forgiving.
The food on our visit was remarkable largely for being Indian: Indian food may be widely available in the UK, but usually from independents, rather than from chains or proto-chains. The standard of the cooking (like the range of dishes on offer) didn't strike us as in any way remarkable, but nor was it disappointing. A lamb biryani, lubricated with daal, was curiously more-ish, as was the rather crispy nan we had with it. A vegetable samosa was decent enough. A guest enjoyed her salmon salad, even if the taste didn't do much for us. A mango and yoghurt dessert was refreshing, and an espresso - for a subcontinental establishment - was surprisingly good.
Is this the best Indian food in Covent Garden? No. (Although, in truth, this is hardly the hottest area for the cuisine of the subcontinent.) But, as noted above, we think that's the wrong question. The answer to the right question - is this comfortable restaurant a really useful addition to the dining possibilities of London's ever more glittering West End? - seems to us to be a resounding 'yes'.
Last orders: 11 pm, Fri & Sat midnight, Sun 10 pm