chowpatty beach in bombay is synonymous with snacking and strolling. to celebrate the spirit of beach, sunshine and pleasure dishoom has popped-up on the shores of south banks make-shift faux beach. it is a more than appropriate addition to the festival of britain which is in its sixtieth year of ‘present[ing] to the world and its own people a modern Britain’ [taken from the national archives news release on the sixtieth anniversary of the festival of britain’. there is no doubt that britain today, and london in specific is a microcosm of the globe. dishooom chowpatty beach pop-up is one of many faces of multi-cultural britain.
a and i are particularly taken by the pop-up itself. it’s a riot of bold and neon colour with an emphasis on recycling and reusing old materials to create something new. it is also quintessentially indian with lurid neon coloured bottles decorating the bar and a sound track of old familiar indian classic songs mixed with the cheesy bollywood numbers that recall images of gyrating hips and skimpy clothes.
a sunny sunday afternoon found o, a and i at dishoom to get our fix of desi food. dishoom’s menu is inspired by the old irani cafe’s of bombay which were originally run by the parsi’s who immigrated to india from iran. one of bombay’s iconic irani cafe’s is leopold’s which was mentioned in the slightly racy, autobiographical best-seller shantaram. it also became the face of bombay’s resilience after the two thousand and eight terrorist attacks in bombay as it reopened shortly after the attacks despite being targeted.
the pop-up menu is a pared down version of the one from dishoom in covent garden but had all the things that the three of us wanted to try. o was interested in the egg naan roll, i was craving daal, a decided on the sausage naan roll. essentials for sharing included the quintessential streetfoods vada pau and bhel. we tried the bombay pimms on a twitter recommendation from dishoom itself.
the pitcher of bombay pimms was a combination of tart, refreshing mint and coriander and citrus notes. i was very sad to have not been able to retrieve the beads of pomegranate at the base of jug. as much as we enjoyed the flavour of the pimms we were quite dismayed by the price of the pitcher as it represented half of the bill. it was certainly steep at twenty four quid.
the food was excellent. sharing the vada pau was quite difficult. a super soft aloo tikki (potato cutlet) rendered a saffron yellow with turmeric, sandwiched between a white bun so soft it melted in the mouth. the green chutney, possibly a mix of coriander and mint had a tangy element that added a much needed lift to the otherwise comforting potato. it reminded me of the aloo tikki sandwiches that mama used to make for our school lunches. the bhel was as it should be, texture with sweet and tart flavours of tamarind and pomegranate. the boys despite being content with their rolls had a fair share of my daal and who could blame them for it. a reddish brown urad lentil heavy and creamy with butter, a little bit of spice and a rich sauce was best eaten scooped with naan. i had to exert my territorial influence over my daal as it was it was greatly endangered by the boys appetites.
the only downside to our experience was that when our order was served we were missing the vada pau. o promptly went to retrieve it only to find that the waitress disputed that it was missing. after telling him twice that it was in the bag, she then proceeded to check our table. after checking through all our boxes she finally realised that we were in fact being truthful and went to get the vada pau. neither of us would have minded if she had asked nicely if she could double check our order before getting us the missing vada pau. instead she made us feel like we had been making it up.
in addition, o wasn't fully satisfied with the kulfi. he said it tasted like frozen condensed milk. proper kulfi as we know it from pakistan has a salty exterior that gives way to sweetness. possible room for improvement?