Everything seems just a bit different over the last twelve months. There’s a chill in the air somehow. An ever so slightly ominous edge to the daily headlines. It’s not a pretty roll-call.
And indeed, a lot happened. The Japanese endured a terrible earthquake. The Arabs sprung. An old Libyan colonel was toppled from his dusty pedestal, his Aviators crushed underfoot. Obama got Osama. Wall Street seemed occupied by protestors, but was actually preoccupied by crashing markets. The Euro shook, Silvio took a parting bow (Ciao, Bunga Bunga!), and Athens ended the year with neither marbles nor money.
People everywhere seemed to be expressing their dissatisfaction. Tents outside St. Paul’s. A Canon fired (well, technically, he resigned). Our own fair city rioting and burning mindlessly in August. It made us deeply, deeply sad, but maybe it’s because we’re Londoners that we still love London so.
In other news Windsor and Middleton became the Cambridges. The Murdochs got pie on their faces, closed the News of the Screws (hacking, what hacking?) and Mrs. Murdoch threw a damned good punch. Charlie spectacularly lost his Sheen (#bigfail) and Clarkson wanted to execute strikers in front of their families. Amy took her fans back to blackness and Steve, in his death, reminded us to toast to the crazy ones. Kim and Vaclav, those polar opposites, said their goodbyes together.
In India Anna Hazare’s hunger struck many Indians as appropriately righteous. It helped us feel that maybe, just maybe, corruption could be stemmed. But where we previously had bulls running up our stock markets, we now just had expensive onions. Why this Kolaveri Kolaveri Di, a few of us sang, and the rest of us wondered.
But the London restaurant scene continued to be wonderfully vibrant. We’re in awe of The Riding House Café and fell in love with the Opera Tavern. Spuntino and Mishkins appeared, effortlessly, and looked like they’d never not been there. More meat comas awaited us at Hawksmoor and now MEATliquor. More than ever, we’re glad to be part of all this, and filled with massive respect for London restaurateurs.
In our micro-world, we continued to boil up chai by the gallon, occasionally adding a tot of the good stuff to make it naughty. Our kitchen felt busier than ever. We uncovered the story of Velantimes’s Day, introducing London to the Desi Couple. The austerity of Ramadan was eased by the deliciousness of Haleem. We delighted in telling the Diwali Story, complete with face-painting and collaborative Rangoli.
2011 was also the year we asked the hitherto unanswered question of what would transpire if an old Bombay Café took a stroll down to Chowpatty Beach and had a mild acid trip, say, in 1965. The result was Dishoom’s wayward little sister, the Chowpatty Beach Bar, a pop-up shack on the South Bank, at the wonderful Festival of Britain. It played host to relaxed summer days (sunlight optional, it being London) and crazy summer nights lubricated with Naughty Coconuts, Bombay Pimm’s and silly instagram photos. After a slightly shaky first 2 weeks (under-ordered food, broken tandoors!) it became a wonderfully bizarre, magical summer – full of so many new friends – you who became cheery Chowpatty-Beach-Wallas.
We were just thrilled to be listed by Time Out as 9th in their list of London’s top 50 restaurants in 2011. And overwhelmed and grateful to be chosen by the voting Zagat foodies as one of London’s top 5 newcomers. Inclusion in the Good Food Guide for 2012 was just brilliant.
In the meantime we got to know even more of you. As the year wore on and newspaper headlines grew increasingly shrill, we took solace from lovely new friendships and deepening old friendships. Whether you jived with us on Twitter, japed with us on Facebook, came to our tweet-ups or just said hello when you came in, we were just happy to know you all. And thanks too for the feedback. We did get it occasionally wrong, and we’re grateful to you for letting us know and allowing us to put it right.
And here’s the thing. 2011 wasn’t easy for our planet, and 2012 may be harder still. The economic and political storm clouds grow dark and ominous. But it’s the relationships we build, the stuff that we do together, the support that we give each other that makes it all worthwhile. Our awesome staff. Our loving families. You, dear readers, our cherished Dishoom-wallas who are with us on this journey, wherever it is leading. Thanks, and thanks again, for being there and making everything possible.
As ever, we think of Ganesh at the end of one year and the beginning of the next. And as ever, may he make your beginnings great and your obstacles a little smaller.
Take care, and happy new year.
With February comes a gladdening of spirits, lighter morning skies and discernibly louder birdsong. It is also the month to bid farewell to our winter cocoons (at least partially) and tune back into the world beyond our blankets. Allow us to ease the de-hibernation process, by sharing some of the things piquing our interest this month.
“Who wants to see some magic?” Chef Arun calls out. He flings the rolled out dough into the air, sending it soaring above the counter. It spins and twists, a graceful dancer in the air. The children watch its arc, their eyes wide with wonder, until it lands gently back in the chef's hands. The children shriek in delight.
January is a most divisive month. For some it heralds the hopeful turning over of new leaves; for others it is a month to trudge begrudgingly through towards the promise of spring. Whichever camp you find yourself in, we have plentiful diversions to share. See them as the cherry atop your already gleeful January cake, or a welcome distraction while you await winter’s end.
I AM HERE, dear reader, slovenly and slouched, staring into my drink at the end of the bar in our new restaurant in Battersea. My mind is still down and out, sifting around in the dregs of ’23 but of course it knows that I should really straighten my back, raise my chin and look squarely up into the cold new light of ’24. My drink – Choti’s Punch – clear and strong, sweet with a little salt, may help.