Back in the summer of 2017 it was well rumoured that the London Iranian Cafe was to open its second branch outside of the capital (Dishoom already has one site in Edinburgh).
Now the London chain has confirmed its opening within the old Freemasons building of Manchester House this winter.
From the pictures being shared on social media, the interior has a real authentic feel of India, with its ceiling fans and wooden furniture – finished with the often found red painted NO etc signs, which are everywhere in India (let’s hope no spitting goes on in this building).
Last year I travelled down to Shoreditch to find out a little more of what this Indian/Iranian sensation was all about.
Irani Cafes are said to originate from Zoroastrian (An old and now extinct religion) Irani immigrants, who moved to what’s now India and Pakistan, during the 19th Century.
Once in their hundreds, they are now in huge decline, mainly due to younger generations opting to take on higher paid jobs elsewhere, rather than continue the family business. One of the oldest Irani Cafes is in Mumbai (Bombay) and is said to be well over 100 years old. They serve lots of Chai (An Indian Spiced Tea), Pau’s (A type of butty) and Pilaf rice dishes – along with sweets and biscuits.
Dishoom’s aim was to take this old Irani Café concept and bring it to the masses in the UK, wanting to create the same homely, informal and friendly setting, where you can enjoy authentic flavours in a sociable environment.
Having already been to Shoreditch on a number of occasions, I was well aware of the queues to get into their restaurant and with no option to book, unless you’re a booking of 6 or more, I was determined to experience it on the Saturday night that we were there.
As such we opted to go early, getting to the restaurant at around 5:15pm, however there was already a queue forming, even this early. We were told that there would be a wait of around 30 mins and desperate to try it out before heading back to Manchester we were happy to wait.
While waiting outside, trays of hot drinks were handed out, some beautiful Chai or Mint tea was on complimentary offer. It was only about 20 mins later and we were told we could move inside and wait in the bar area.
The bar area itself was small and we perched against a small table with some large Kingfisher beers and a bottle of Prosecco between us. We had been handed a small pager, that would signal when our table was ready, so were happy to catch up with the friends who had joined us.
It took about another 30-40mins until we were paged and we were then taken to our table.
When I say ‘Table’ I mean a coffee table, with sofas. This wasn’t the standard, as tables and seats around the restaurant vary, adding to the mismatch of furniture you would find in a traditional café in Bombay. Persian style ceramics mixed with grand wooden sideboards and carved frames really embraced both the Iranian and Indian origins.
The menu was also a delight to see. With so many curry houses around the corner in Brick Lane catering for the British Curry House crowds, lacking the true authenticity that you find when actually in somewhere like Bombay, this menu therefore was a pleasure to read.
I immediately started to pick out things that I wanted to try.
The Vada Pau is basically Potato in a Bun – trust me it’s much more complex and tasty than it sounds. This is a dish that I’m very familiar with – along with shouts of ‘Coffee’ and ‘Chai’ , its one of the dishes that gets shouted out by sellers on-board the trains in India. When travelling a 6-9 hours journey, you tend to fill up on these delights as they walk past offering them.
Dishoom Calamari isn’t something I had ever seen eaten in India – however the tastes were as full and complex as anything I had eaten there.
The Lamb Samosas were delicately crunchy, made with a Gujarati Filo and filled with a full on lamb mince, onions.
We also enjoyed a mix of Murgh Malai – A succuuant and aromatic chicken thigh dish, Gunpowder Potatoes, Masala Prawns, a Chicken Tikka Roll – plus a good old English – ‘Chicken Ruby Murray’
The choice of subtly spicy desserts were also just far to irresistible.
Every dish was great – good flavours and tasting as authentic as anywhere I have eaten in India itself.
Plans are already made to go and try another of Dishooms restaurants before they open in Manchester – but that’s the one I’m really excited for. There are a few restaurants that I frequent and I’m confident, should all go well, this could be another of those.