Bombay, 1949. A sultry June evening. Lights glow golden. Candles flicker in the warm breeze that arrives gently through the large open windows of the café.
I watch, entranced, as Ruby brings the last bars of her song to a wistful close. Cheers erupt from the audience. She stands at the microphone, grins bashfully. Her sari, draped and perfumed, is bottle-green and gold. The glamorous of Bombay, members of the band, old friends, wayward sailors all clap and shout their praise. She bows slightly. Ruby seems to float off the stage. A gramophone clicks and crackles to life and music starts again.
Dishoom is mostly a walk-in café. All are welcome, any time, no reservations needed. However, if you'd like to make a reservation, we hold a handful of tables back for groups of all sizes every day until 5.45pm. After 6pm, a small number of tables are available to be reserved by parties of six or more, at specific times.
Bombay, 1949. A sultry June evening. Lights glow golden. I watch, entranced, as Ruby brings the last bars of her song to a wistful close. Cheers erupt from the audience. She stands at the microphone, grins bashfully. Her sari, draped and perfumed, is bottle-green and gold. The glamorous of Bombay, members of the band, old friends, wayward sailors all clap and shout their praise. She bows slightly and floats off the stage.
She glides between tables, past where I am sitting, making her way to the bar. “Come beti, sit with me,” suggests her mother, Yasmin, at the bar, drink in hand, strikingly beautiful in deep blue chiffon. Yasmin loves these evenings in her café-cum-club like nothing else. Each performance a hit, attended by all manner of Bombayites and revellers passing through this slightly wild port city. The obviously wealthy hobnob with the beautiful, the rakish and the occasional ne’er-do-wells. Jazzmen, languid on rattan chairs, unwind to swing and jazz sounds. Cine stars, at home on the page 3 society photos, chatter self-importantly about the latest talkie showing in the new cinema next door. I remember when this was just a large, sleepy Irani café owned by Yasmin’s father. I used to idle here over Bun Maska and Chai and read my newspaper while fans stirred the warm air gently.
For the young Yasmin, life in the café had been dull and stuffy. She had dreamed of a different life. Wilful and rebellious, she drank and smoked and you might say that she found herself where she should not be, at the bar at Green’s Hotel. There, she encountered a certain straight-backed Lt. Calum Hourston-Gordon, Highland Light Infantry. I’ve been told that there was little that could have kept them apart that warm night in Colaba.
BEGIN YOUR DAY AT DISHOOM with breakfast, which might be a Bacon Naan Roll, a Kejriwal or a Big Bombay. Then lunch lightly on Roomali Rolls and Salad Plates, or linger with a feast. Refresh your afternoon with a drop of Chai and a small plate or two. Dine early or dine late. Or just join us for a tipple - perhaps an India Gimlet, a Permit Room Old-fashioned, or our very good Dishoom IPA?
Since 1949, and to this very day Bombay has been under a state of prohibition. Set apart from a family room, there is a special place where only permit holders may consume liquor which has come to be known unofficially as a Permit Room. Our Permit Room – the bar within our Covent Garden café serves the most delicious and sincere old cocktails, recalling the days before Independence, such as Gimlets, Juleps and Sours; Fizzes and Old-Fashioneds, and a Bombay Presidency Punch.
Dishoom Covent Garden
12 Upper St. Martin’s Lane
Tel: 020 7420 9320