2012 strikes us as a year of contradictions. Yes, it was another year of economic turmoil, of grim declarations from a glum Chancellor about “austerity measures” and “belt-tightening”. And yet we noticed some rebellion, in London at least. A defiantly jubilant response to the bad news, a determination to revel in all that there was to celebrate – and thankfully, we created much to celebrate.
The Olympics and Paralympics, felt like the most spectacular spectacles ever to take place in London. A feast of golds, silvers and bronzes. Ennis, Wiggo, Murray, Simmonds, Farah, Pendleton, Weir, Peacock, and all the rest of the awesome-wallas, we salute you. (And who can forget Mr. Boyle’s brilliant, barmy opening ceremony? We loved Daniel and Lizzie Bonding from the sky, Kenny B in his Brunel hat, Rowan being a (very British) horse’s arse. No greater proof that Britishers are madder than a box of frogs – and all the more endearing for it.)
The cold and rainy Jubilee tested our mettle and our stiff upper lips, but in the end, we still managed to do London proud. The juggernaut that was the American election rumbled across the States, and we breathed a sigh of relief when Barry O proudly declared “four more years” and saved the world from permanent tea-stain damage. Felix Baumgartner made a daredevil dive from the edge of space and lived to tell the tale. A little closer to the earth’s surface, Boris got dangled – and instantly became an internet sensation. The lovely Kate made a nation of grandmothers teary-eyed by getting up the duff. God finally showed us his massive little particle in the Large Hadron Collider, but most people were too tied up with Fifty Shades of Christian Grey or prancing Gangnam Stylee to pay attention to particle physics.
Back in India, we detected a darker mood. Bombay said farewell to Bal Thackeray before putting girls into prison for a Facebook post, the cartoonist exercising mob power from his pyre. Dhoble caused havoc on the Bombay party scene with his hockey stick. Shankarji and Chopraji were mourned. We grudgingly accepted a series defeat to England on home turf – and vowed to turn the tables. Do women really want to be 18 again, when the legal drinking age is 25? Some Bombayites squealed with delight while others heaved sighs of despair when Starbucks opened on historic Horniman Circle, as the nearby old Irani Cafés continued to fade into memory.
London’s restaurant world remained bubble-buoyant; openings continued apace. There truly has never been a better time to be hungry in London. Gourmet dude food, burgers and chicken were on our minds (and plates, and down the front of our shirts) in 2012. We nursed pisco hangovers from Ceviche, and took in the views from Duck & Waffle and drank picklebacks at Pitt Cue. We admired the skilful simplicity of Ollie Dabbous and 10 Greek Street, and celebrated our friends from Flat Iron finding a home in Soho.
Here at Dishoom, we began the year as we often do, with a return visit to Bombay. This (slightly indulgent) trip down memory lane turned into the trigger that inspired us to write another, even more earnest and heartfelt love-letter to that old city, and its beloved old cafés. The seeds of an idea planted in Bombay were nurtured in London, and thus, by the end of 2012, an eccentric old Irani Café had arrived in Shoreditch. (Take a look at how it turned out.)
It was a year packed with excitement for us. When we weren’t covering ourselves in gulal to celebrate Holi, serving up paan and mehendi at Eid and creating collaborative rangolis for Diwali, we were injecting new life into our menu, inventing barmy new drinks, and coming third in chilli cookoffs. But now, as much and even more than ever, we just wanted to do our very best to make our dear Dishoom-wallahs happy. We didn’t always get it right, of course. But we read every single word of your feedback – the good, the bad and the ugly. And we rejoiced in your kind words, accepted our mistakes, and vowed to do the needful.
We are grateful to everyone who came to see the new Café in Shoreditch (and those who stayed faithful to its older cousin in Covent Garden); anyone who got in touch just to say hello, or bantered with us on Twitter or Facebook. Those who held a barmy Christmas party with us, came to celebrate a birthday or a special occasion, graced us with their presence at one of our events, or just stopped by for a Chai on a rainy Tuesday afternoon. It’s been our pleasure to get to know you, and we sincerely hope we’ll know you for a long time yet.
Of course, our team grew in size this year. We now have twice as many solid-gold Dishoom-wallas in our big, barmy family. Running a busy restaurant while opening a new one is, it’s fair to say, bloody hard work, and every single one of these absolute super-wallas has given us far more than we could ever have asked for. To each of you: we are honoured to have you on the team. You are all officially, totally and utterly amazing. We couldn’t do it without you – and indeed, we wouldn’t want to.
So – as 2012 draws to a close, we may all have a few extra silver hairs, just a touch of tiredness around the eyes. But we end the year feeling elated and buoyed up by all the new friends we’ve made, many of whom have grown to be like family to us, and shyly, quietly, just a little proud of our two beautiful Bombay Cafés in London. And most of all, we’re excited for what new adventures 2013 will bring.
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 have a very 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.