When we go to Bombay, we always go to Bademiya. Maybe on the first night we arrive. I’m not sure why, but it helps take the edge off the jet-lag. Some may well argue that there are better grills in Amritsar and Lahore. A few others may point to Ayub’s or Baghdadi’s. But for sheer Bombay tastiness, fun and atmosphere, you can’t beat Bademiya.
It is located behind the sumptuous Taj Hotel and close to the Gateway of India on the tip of South Bombay. By day this road sleeps. However, from early evening, the atmosphere changes. Yellow streetlamps and shop-front neon illuminate the street and Bademiya Alley comes alive until the small hours.
Tables are crammed together on the uneven pavement, though there isn’t a spare seat to be seen. The delicious aroma from the sizzling grill floats over the crowd. BMWs and Toyotas jostle for space at either end of the street, people eating from the plates on their bonnets. Harried waiters rush around taking orders while delivering plates piled with searing hot sheekh kababs. Everyone knows Bademiya for its amazing grilled food.
The only time Bademiya has ever closed up, is for the forty-eight hours after posh Bombay was held hostage by terrorists at the Taj hotel in 2008. But it was quickly back to business as usual. Regulars have included the actor Amitabh Bachchan, the famous artist MF Husain plus almost all of the kitchen staff at the nearby Taj hotel (some of whom will be in the Dishoom kitchen). Hilary Clinton allegedly wanted to visit Bademiya but her security detail didn’t let her.
The kitchen is no more than a stall on the pavement around the flaming grill. However, it is world-famous for its succulent sheekh kababs, feisty lamb chops and juicy paneer, all served straight off the grill with amazing speed. To the side, a tireless man wearing a chef’s hat stands beside a hot round dome. He tosses dough into the air, catches it, stretches it over the dome, and pulls a light and delicious roomali roti off the dome onto a serving plate. His hands are a blur as they move, making these ‘handkerchief’ breads.
Bademiya opened for business in 1940 (when Gandhiji was still busy persuading the British to leave India) by a 17 year old immigrant to Bombay, Mohammed Yaseen, with 20 rupees in his pocket. People say that when he grew a beard, regulars started calling him Bademiya, which means ‘old man’ or ‘elder’. Over the years his much-loved grill has become a Bombay institution. And a Dishoom inspiration.
This year, on Thursday 20th October, we will celebrate the festival of light at Studio Spaces in Wapping. A night-time affair filled with poetry, live music and bespoke dance performances curated in partnership with our good friend Sweety Kapoor.
Tuesday 12th April – 1973, BOMBAY. It is almost light outside. It must be about six. He’s been awake half the night trying to figure out what to do. Lying on his bed, he stares through the rotating blades of the ceiling fan which only serve to stir the close warm air of his room. He needs to think – he’s running out of time. But his eyes feel salted and his head throbs.
In August, we held a series of events to commemorate 75 Years of Indian Independence and the creation of Pakistan. Before the events took place, we were delighted to sit down with Soumik, a super-talented musician, composer and sarod player, who composed the musical score to accompany the 75 Years series. It was a real pleasure to discuss music, identity and inclusivity, amongst many other topics. We invite you to read on to learn more about how he created such a joyous atmosphere at our events.
With greatest delight, we are beyond excited to share that this November we’ll be opening the doors to the brand-new, most fine and gorgeous Dishoom Canary Wharf! Our newest home, nestled in a little corner of Wood Wharf, will bring to life the glittering-shimmering, big-business, metropolitan scene of ‘70s Bombay. When fortunes were made and lost, swindles plotted and uncovered, and dreams were dreamed and broken.