WITH EACH NEW CAFÉ that we open, we write a story deeply rooted in Bombay history or culture. In Carnaby, the setting is Bombay’s rock scene, which flared up briefly in the 60s and 70s. In King’s Cross, the setting is a notional godown near Victoria Terminus, the struggle for Indian Independence the historical backdrop. Our story informs all aspects of the restaurant’s design. We spend months researching the Bombay of the period and combing the city for the right furniture, both vintage and new. In a way, you walk across our thresholds into our stories.
In Battersea, our story is of Choti Dishoom, a girl who lives in Bombay in 1953 and is transported to an imagined 2023, where she discovers she has superpowers. Her story – at least the beginning of it – is on the pages that follow.
I grew up reading all the comics I could get my hands on, from the Amar Chitra Kathas often from Indian railway kiosks, telling stories of Indian history and mythology, to Tintin and Asterix, to DC and Marvel comics. I still hoard most of the originals in my attic. It was inevitable that we would one day tell a story as a comic.
Our stories (perhaps like immigrants) are rooted twice; once in Bombay and once in the locale of the restaurant. Battersea has been a place where the future was imagined. The bold architecture inside the power station speaks of the dreams of a brave electric metropolis. In the meantime in newly independent Bombay, architects, town planners and writers had grand futuristic visions of their own.
We’ve loved creating Choti Dishoom and may one day continue her story. In the meantime, she has helped us – light-heartedly – to bring past and future, Bombay and London, together for the retro-futurist design of Dishoom Battersea.
And while you’re here, her story – at least the beginning of it – is below for you to read.
Shazleen Khan is an east London-based rising star in the indie comics scene, renowned for the webcomic "BUUZA!!", a story of found family, diaspora and religion. Khan has won the prestigious Broken Frontier Award for Best Colourist and Best Webcomic. We are honoured to be collaborating with them to bring the world of Choti Dishoom to life.
Dishoom Battersea will formally throw open its doors on 6th December. We'll mostly be a walk-in café. All are welcome (canines included), any time, no reservations needed. However, if you'd like to make a reservation, we hold a handful of tables back for groups of all sizes every day until 5.45pm. After 6pm, a small number of tables are available to be reserved by parties of six or more, at specific times. To make a reservation, kindly click here.
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.