When you’ve imagined something for so long, it’s slightly surprising to see it become reality. A passing thought turns into an idea, which turns into a conversation. The conversation turns into a checklist of old cafés, repeat trips to Bademiya, walks on Chowpatty beach. Bombay inspires cooking, words, sketches.
And before you know it, you’re sitting on a bentwood chair at a marble table, looking at sepia portraits of your family, sipping chai and eating a Bombay omelette. In the middle of London.
You can see a replica of that clock we all loved from Victoria Terminus. The Thums Up has just been delivered and is being put on a shelf at the bar. The Rules of the Café sign is up. The fans are rotating slowly. The exposed wiring is a tad scruffy. Passers-by are peering through the windows wondering what has just turned up and made itself comfortable on St. Martin’s Lane in that gap between Jamie’s Italian and Stringfellows.
We’re perched here in the one-day space between our last dry run yesterday and our soft opening tomorrow. It’s an odd lull. Dry runs are not easy. To bring everything together, to make it work seamlessly, to give customers a great experience. All of these things require a lot of sweat and a lot of resourcefulness from a lot of people. It’s the culmination of years of work.
And after all that effort, who knows what tomorrow will bring. Will people buy the Thums Up? Will they love the biryanis as much as we do? Will they come in for our Bombay breakfasts? Will our chai always be tasty? Does London even need a Bombay Café?
One thing is for sure. It’s been truly a team effort. We have so many great people here, with so much spirit and style (so much dishoom!) The team that brought Dishoom to life and the team that is now ready to run it – both full of amazing people. We’re more than a little humbled to be working with such great people.
So, tomorrow morning at eight, we start our ‘soft’ opening. And a week later there will officially be a Bombay Café in London.
Wish us luck!
IT HAS BEEN an annual December habit of mine, these past ten years since we embarked upon this restaurant business, to sit alone, with myself, and reflect on the year gone by. I am grateful to be here in the Permit Room in our restaurant in Shoreditch scribbling and writing, the oddly enjoyable taste of splintering wood from my chewed up pencil smoothed by my decently strong drink.
These are the last few days, the dregs of 2019. It’s my habit to sit here in the Permit Room at this time. I am the be-stubbled and dishevelled regular, cherishing his precious drink at the end of the bar. Weary, I sit here pondering the year, attempting to figure out what it was trying to teach me. What wisdom can I glean from it?
I love to truly understand and appreciate the origins of a dish, and learn how communities have adapted a recipe over time to make that dish unique to them.
We have arrived at a very sad, but inevitable and clear choice. As of now, all Dishooms are now closed to diners.