One day, an eccentric old Irani Café (born circa 1930, Bombay), creaking slightly at the seams, made the long trip from Bombay in 1970 to London in 2012. Tired from the long journey, it shuffled into an empty space in Shoreditch and made itself comfortable. This old Café had for some time been maintaining correspondence with its slightly more showy cousin who had made a similar trip and had found a home in Covent Garden.
However, while the cousin in Covent Garden had worked hard to polish, primp and style itself, this Café was less concerned. It knew instinctively that the layers of imperfection and eccentricity built up over the many years of serving customers in Bombay weren’t merely clutter to be cleaned up and scratches to be polished out, but were in fact its very memory and character. It decided to leave its disheveled corners right where they were, as little reminders of home.
Gradually, as it grew to know and love its new community, it realised that it felt very much at home in it. The customers enjoyed hearing its stories of old Bombay, many of which were even true. They liked the faded pictures of the relatives on the walls. They smiled as they gradually grew to know the quirks of this old Café – which seemed constantly to be hankering after a lost mid-century Bombay. They seemed to care little that the shininess of the Covent Garden cousin was absent.
And most of all the Café loved serving food and drink with so much enthusiasm. The food which came quickly out of the open kitchen. The Lamb Raan which had been cooked overnight and seemed completely at home in a burger. The warm baked biscuits and Keema puffs, just like those still being served at Sassannian Café in Bombay. The endless cups of chai, the best thing to revive energy levels on a wilted Tuesday afternoon. The bar, which served the most delicious and sincere old cocktails – Flips, Gimlets, Juleps and Sours, felt even a bit pre-‘47.
Brunch on Sunday would be deliciously lazy, laced warmly with the aroma of the bakery. Lunch with colleagues on a Wednesday, busy and brisk, waiters bustling on to the verandah with trays of abundant food. Afternoon chai would provide a calm refuge from the East London street. Meanwhile, dinner and drinks on a Friday or Saturday night would see the place at its liveliest, buzzing with Londoners coming to a good old knees-up hosted by the eccentric old Café.
Throughout, the Café smiled inwardly to itself. It was never happier than when it was being true to itself and serving its guests – sharing its love for Bombay, serving its food, telling its stories. And before too long, the Café began to feel as if it had always been there wedged comfortably into Boundary Street, accumulating its own East London layers.
DISHOOM SHOREDITCH, 7 BOUNDARY STREET, LONDON E2 7JE. (OPENED OCTOBER 2012.)
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We began working with Magic Breakfast in 2015, supporting them in their goal of ending hunger as a barrier to education in the UK. Over the years, we’ve developed lasting and loyal friendships with the incredible team and their partner schools. This month, we celebrate reaching the milestone of donating 10 million meals to hungry children in partnership with Magic Breakfast and Akshaya Patra. Magic Breakfast’s Head of Schools, Rachael Anderson, has kindly taken the time to reflect on the last six years of our work together, as well as sharing her thoughts on the profound impact the past twelve months have had.
Since 2015, for every Dishoom meal you’ve enjoyed (whether in the cafés, via delivery, or as a meal kit), we’ve donated a meal to a child that might otherwise go hungry. A meal for a meal. This month, as we reached the milestone of donating 10 million meals, we had occasion to catch up with our dear friends and long-term charity partners, Magic Breakfast and Akshaya Patra. The work both charities do to end hunger as a barrier to education is simply incredible and we’re extremely proud to be able to support them and the communities they serve in the UK and India, respectively. We kindly invite you to take a moment to hear their reflections on our partnership and on the impact of the very important work they do.
Uttapam are a fluffy savoury dosa, made with rice. They're usually enjoyed with savoury toppings but we particularly like ours with lashings of jaggery syrup and a thick, strained yoghurt. Chef Naved has shared his recipe for making an extra fluffy stack at home.
Our Old-Fashioned bottled cocktail takes its name from the Permit Room bar, found in every Dishoom and so named after the official term for all Bombay drinking establishments, in which, according to the Bombay Prohibition Act of 1949, only permit-holders may consume alcohol. Herein, liquor can be sold and imbibed, but only for the goodness of one’s health.
Though the doors of the Permit Room are closed for now, you can still enjoy our tipples in bottled form at home. Follow our lead to achieve the perfect pour, and transport yourself back to a cosy corner of the bar.