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Journal entry

The King’s Cross Godown

In which a young Irani opens a café in a Godown behind Victoria Terminus, c. 1928

ONE JANUARY MORNING in 1928, a young Irani – not long arrived in Bombay – was waiting to collect a parcel at Victoria Terminus. Unusually, the train was running late. The Irani waited, patiently; then, growing hot and bored, he decided to stretch his legs. He wandered amongst the station crowds and then down a side track, off the main terminus.

Quickly, he found himself in a vast, airy shed filled with the hubbub of a thousand industries crossing paths: freight trains pulling in with a squeal, wagons being loaded and unloaded, men and machines labouring with their cargo. Railway workers shouted to one another in a dozen languages: Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Bihari. Goods of every conceivable sort ebbed and flowed through the station, a veritable artery linking the Indian subcontinent to the Western world via the trading port of Bombay.

The Irani was of an astute business mind. He had come to Bombay with almost nothing, and he was always seeking an opportunity to strengthen his toehold there. He also understood how this city could be hard on her people. That day, standing there in the vastness of that old godown and watching the men at work, he felt a keen sense of opportunity. These men, weary from their toil, should surely be able to quench their thirst and sate their hunger.

The very next morning, he began selling his Irani chai and a few baked goods from an impromptu stall in an inconspicuous corner of the godown. The railwaymen came in their dozens to sample his offerings. The news spread, passed on from worker to worker, supervisor to babu, and the little stall flourished. The Irani introduced a few additional items here and there: a rickety table, some chairs, a shelf displaying plump fresh pau, a wooden bench to sit on. It wasn’t luxury by any means, but all who spent a moment there were glad of it.

Although at first wary of being ousted from his borrowed corner, he soon became bolder: the station guards were grateful for a ready source of chai, and would happily take their baksheesh in spicy keema. The Irani ‘café’ inched outwards appropriating its own space in the large transit shed, buoyed by the burgeoning number of loyal patrons. In almost unnoticeable little steps, it gradually started dominating the godown.

Decades later, the Irani’s hair has turned from jet black to grey, his jacket is cut from better cloth, but his smile is just as it was. His beloved India has changed dramatically. She has fought for her independence and has been torn asunder by partition. The gora sahibs are long gone, and a young nation is forging its identity. And from a small corner of the shed, the humble stall has grown into an established café – in truth, even something of an institution. The renown of the Irani and his hospitality has spread far; everyone – labourers, smartly-uniformed train supervisors, well-heeled sahibs – comes for a cup of cutting chai, a quick breakfast, a hearty meal. Railwaymen, angadias and passengers meet there and dawdle together, reading their newspapers, loudly exchanging jokes and political opinions, mopping their plates clean with the Irani’s hot pau. And at the end of a long hot day, a refreshing beer (discreetly passed from a hidden box of ice) is a most welcome reward.

Even after so many years, the Irani never fails to greet each one of his guests with a nod and a smile. Whether it is an omelet at daybreak, a big bowl of Nalli Nihari at lunch, an afternoon snack or a sly peg of liquor from a bottle before home-time, his welcome is as warm as the chai is hot, and every guest goes on his way feeling that he has found a small source of solace and joy in the old godown behind the great Victoria Terminus.

 

Dishoom King’s Cross – 5 Stable Street, London N1C 4AB – opened on on November 20th.

 

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Alison Hutchinson

Hi I would like to make a table reservation for 14 people on the 12th December at the new Kings Cross resturant at 4pm. I have tried to book the Shoreditch and Covent Garden resturants but they're fully booked on this date. This is for my team's Christmas night out so I really hope you have availability for this day? Thanks Alison

Sara

Hi Alison, please email reservations@dishoom.com. Many thanks!

Divya Shah

Please can a member of the reservation team call me to discuss a party booking for 24-28diners on 20 December. I have also sent an email, which has all my contact details.

Sara

Hi Divya, the reservations team will reply to your email - sorry it's taken a while, they're pretty busy at the moment...

Gill

Please can I book a table for 830 on Sat 13 December for 6 people...! Please confirm. Kings X !

Sara

Hi Gill, you can book via the online reservations page dishoom.com/reservations or by emailing reservations@dishoom.com. Many thanks.

Zareen

Dishoom evokes the tastes, sights and sounds of a colonial bygone era. I love it and have loved every meal I have enjoyed there.

Gian

Had an excellent time here at your venue in Kings cross yesterday. Food was great, lovely atmosphere but above all the service we received from Gintaras was exceptional! He's professionalism and overall knowledge and helpfulness was second to none. We will definitely be back!!

Jasbir

It was an amazing experience , very polite friendly staff and service the best of all Dishooms, great ambience and spacy ,must say great location... Keep the service as it is.

Gwenda

Hello, i am arranging a get together at the permit bar on the 15th jan. Can i reserve an area at the permit bar for my group?

Sara

Hi Gwenda, we don't take bookings in the bar but you can book for the restaurant by emailing reservations@dishoom.com - thanks!

Ben Horridge

Hi, we would like to eat on this Saturday night (4 people).Are you able to recommend what time we should arrive if we wanted to eat at about 8? Thanks, Ben Horridge

Dinesh

Very good

Ann Price

Hi Good luck with the launch! I realise you are not taking reservations during this period but I would like to book a table for seven AFTER the launch on Saturday 12th December at 8.30pm. Could you confirm if this is possible please? Many thanks Ann Price

BNPatel

Please could you reserve table for six people on 11th November at 7.30pm. We did try to ring you without any success.Your confirmation will be appreciated Regards BNPatel

Ginny

Hi there, Sorry that you weren't able to get through. If you could email our reservations team on reservations@dishoom.com, they will take a look for you. Thanks.

Ginny

Hi Ann, please email our reservations team on reservations@dishoom.com and they will be able to help you :-)

Deborah Waterts

tried to book a table for 4 on Sat 28th Nov but you are full. Please can you let me know if you have any cancellations etc. ideally 8.30 for food, 7.30 from drinks thanks

Ginny

Hey Deborah, Just drop our reservations team and email on reservations@dishoom.com and they can look at any cancellations for you :-)

Lopa

I would like to book a table on 10th December at 8.00pm for 4 please

Mohammad

Are you doing halal? I want to book a table for 15 people on 24th December. Thanks

Ginny

Hi Mohammad, We do indeed serve Halal food. Email hello@dishoom.com if you would like more details :-)

Ginny

Hi Lopa, Email reservations@dishoom.com and they will be able to help :-)

Kulsum

I would like to know if the food there is halal please. I would be grateful if you could provide me with that information. Thank you

Ginny

Hey Kulsum, Can you drop me an email to hello@dishoom.com and I will send you some more information. Thanks