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.
IT HAS BEEN an annual December habit of mine, these past ten years since we embarked upon this restaurant business, to sit alone, with myself, and reflect on the year gone by. I am grateful to be here in the Permit Room in our restaurant in Shoreditch scribbling and writing, the oddly enjoyable taste of splintering wood from my chewed up pencil smoothed by my decently strong drink.
These are the last few days, the dregs of 2019. It’s my habit to sit here in the Permit Room at this time. I am the be-stubbled and dishevelled regular, cherishing his precious drink at the end of the bar. Weary, I sit here pondering the year, attempting to figure out what it was trying to teach me. What wisdom can I glean from it?
I love to truly understand and appreciate the origins of a dish, and learn how communities have adapted a recipe over time to make that dish unique to them.
We have arrived at a very sad, but inevitable and clear choice. As of now, all Dishooms are now closed to diners.