Locations made familiar in Bollywood films, Victoria carriages, a melting pot of communities… and for the days I felt homesick I had Wembley, Southall and Brick Lane. They said I would feel right at home.
Of course I didn’t.
I especially resisted Shoreditch for years. A lot of that had to do with constant invitations to test how authentic the “curry” is. And some had to do with the city’s coolerati constantly trying to put Shoreditch in a box (that it always triumphantly wriggled out of).
And then three years ago, the day I stopped feeling homesick, I set out for Brick Lane. I braced myself for the assault of sweet shops, Bangladeshi curry smells and filthy streets, and instead lost my way to Arnold Circus. I’m not sure if it was the monsoon-like July afternoon or the sudden quiet that surrounded me, but for my first few minutes in Shoreditch I thought I was in Bombay’s Horniman Circle Gardens. I felt right at home.
In that instant I was back in the Bombay of 1992, walking through Horniman Circle to Cafe Mocambo, for my first ever chai at my first ever Irani Cafe, for my first ever date. I remember sitting on a bench in the little garden and asking Bombay to help settle my nerves.
This garden in South Bombay really should not be the sanctuary it is… the Bombay Stock Exchange is a stone’s throw away, the city’s Mint isn’t far either, and one of Bombay’s busiest business districts – Fort/Fountain – kisses the edge of the gardens. And yet the labyrinth of streets that surround Horniman Circle are like caravans of calm, guiding weary visitors to hidden gems like Bombay Paperie, Cafe Mocambo, Jimmy Boy and Apoorva. Is the quiet out of reverence for the imposing Asiatic Library whose brilliant white steps lead into Horniman Circle? Or does Bombay herself need to stop for chai in the middle of a Tuesday afternoon?
Since that day, Arnold Circus has represented all that Horniman Circle does for me. A space to escape from the Suits, the clatter of Brick Lane, and the skyscrapers of the City. Lazy afternoons of ambling around the cafes and stores that weave their protective net around Arnold Circus have found a permanent place on my Greatest Hits of Memories playlist, that I often replay in my mind.
And so London became what Bombay is. Both are cities you can get lost in to never be found; and yet find yourself over and over again. These are cities where destiny, loss and love are just round the corner. Maximum cities where anything is possible. Everything is possible.
From Thums Ups at Café Mocambo to Thums Up Flips at Dishoom Shoreditch, life seems to have started all over again. Thank you, Dishoom.
Many thanks to Pooja for the guest blog post. Visit her blog.
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.