From Bombay with love

If you know a little about us, you may know that our restaurants, our cookery book, our food and drink – in fact, anything and everything we do! – are all deeply rooted in a profound love for Bombay. 

This love springs from treasured childhood memories, hundreds of trips back and forth, thousands of hours spent in dusty archives, many enduring friendships and endless wanderings around the more obscure parts of the city. And of course, many hours sitting in the remaining Irani cafés. (Shamil actually celebrated his first birthday in Koolar & Co, near his grandmother’s small flat on King’s Circle.)

It is a city full of contradictions and extremes, of human existence cohabiting cheerfully, hemmed in tight against each other by the ocean on three sides. And yet between the layers of accumulated history, frenetic development and constant migration, there is much magic to be found and many stories to be told.

It’s easier to show, rather than tell, and so, we're inviting you to explore the city by way of a photo journal, including many dishes and places which have inspired many of our recipes. A love-letter-of-sorts to the city of Bombay.

Our cafés pay homage to the food of all Bombay, and the Irani cafés. These cafés broke down barriers by bringing people together over food and drink – they were actually the first places where people of all backgrounds could break bread together. Bombay became more open and welcoming thanks to their existence.

Bombayites have been enjoying pau dipped in chai in Kyani since it opened in 1904. It’s the sort of place of refuge that helps you to feel comfortable in a city.

Chai is the powerful concoction of milk, sugar, black tea and spices that keeps the city of Bombay running.

No finer mid-morning snacks than the baked goods fresh from the wood-fired ovens at Yazdani Restaurant & Bakery on Cawasji Patel Street. Occupying a former Japanese bank building and run by Mr Zend M. Zend, formerly known as ‘Knock-out Zend’, their brun maska draws hungry patrons from across the city.

Britannia & Co. is one of the loveliest of surviving Irani cafés. Your lunch here should involve a fragrant chicken berry pulao as well as the excellent Parsi speciality salli botti (tender lamb braised in a rich and flavoursome gravy topped with crunchy salli crisp-chips) mopped up with fresh chapati. All pair rather nicely with Pallonji’s Parsi raspberry or a light and refreshing fresh lime soda.

As the sun loses its ferocity towards the end of the day, Bombay relaxes and takes to the seafront to stretch its legs. Chowpatty Beach is a place of relative calm, a welcome respite to Bombay’s hectic manner, where parents rest on blankets, teenagers sit closer than their elders would allow and old friends take their evening stroll just as they’ve been doing for the past several decades.

Groups of children enthusiastically play cricket on Chowpatty as dusk sets across Bombay. With so many Dishoom-wallas being avid fans of the sport, the Dishoom Premier League was set up in 2018 so café teams can battle it out to win the coveted Dishoom Premier Cup at Lord’s Cricket Ground.

During the day, browse shop-cum-treasure-troves of Chor Bazaar for a fascinating collection of antiques, motorcycle parts, old photos and pretty much anything else you can think of. As they close up in the evening, have a second dinner in and around the crowded Mohammed Ali Road. A note: this area is undergoing vast urban redevelopment turning hundreds of buildings into new shiny skyscrapers. As such, a lot of places in this area so dense with character and history may no longer exist if you visit Bombay.

Restaurant Bademiya is the big boss of Colaba, where each night it extends over the road itself as Bombayites dine on their famous sheekh kababs, chicken tikka and roomali rotis.

As you stroll along Marine Drive to Nariman Point, the odd murmur or giggle can be heard as Bombay’s lovers take advantage of the quiet shelter of the sea wall.

K. Rustom & Co. started life as “dispensing chemists, tobacconists and general merchants” in the 1940s before graduating to an ice-cream parlour in 1956. Now run by Roda and Aban Irani, the founder’s daughters, it’s firmly a hit in Bombay, known for its very delicious ice-cream sandwiches.

Don’t shy away from the first-class guava and jackfruit ice-creams. Best enjoyed sitting on the seafront taking in the view of the Queen’s Necklace.

Couples sit on the seafront hand-in-hand and take in the sensuous sweep of Marine Drive where the Arabian sea is lined with Art Deco apartments and palm trees. Co-founder Shamil would be taken on walks here as a child back in the 1970s by his grandparents – it all felt impossibly glamorous to him as a young boy. 

For more eclectic stories and a highly subjective guide to Bombay, do explore our best-selling cookery book.

Read the café stories

Suggested Reading

See the journal

Diwali at Dishoom is back!

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.

The Dishoom Canary Wharf story – Chapter one

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.

Soumik Datta: The Dishoom Interview

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.

An all-new café, coming soon

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.