Tag Archive for: Indian

I relish a certain symmetry in my metropolitan dining out patterns. Take Bouchon Racine and BiBi. The former has just been named Best New Opening by the National Restaurant Awards and placed at no.5 in their prestigious top 50. I’d already visited it in Farringdon, driven there by word of mouth and a residual reverence for its previous incarnation in Knightsbridge.

Flash back to the 2022 NRAs and flying in at no.5 and as best newcomer, yes, BiBi, a very different beast from Henry Harris’s take on a classic French bistro. In a discreetly glamorous Mayfair setting chef patron Chet Sharma nods to his Indian heritage both in decor and what’s on the plate but applies culinary methods learned in the development kitchens of our own Michelin heavies L’Enclume, The Ledbury and Moor Hall. The latter’s Mark Birchall is a particular culinary inspiration. He also worked a stint at the Basque Country’s Mugaritz, a respectable 31st in the 2023 World’s Top 50 Restaurants list announced this week. 

No more lists I promise, just take on board that there is high-powered operator a couple of metres across the counter from me, assembling small plates in front of the sizzling sigree grill. The fish and meat that feel the heat are the best of British, the premium spices and other exotics sourced from across the Indian sub-continent. There’s a little map showing you locations on the back of the Chef’s Selection Menu.

At lunchtime there is an à la carte offering and a new four course set menu for £35, but that Chef’s Selection is the only evening option at £125 a head (an optional and top notch wine flight costs £75). The reasoning behind this no-choice direction, which pointedly avoids calling itself a ‘tasting menu’? Even though seven courses plus additional snacks sounds just that… with a certain welcome brevity.

“There’s some bad branding around the phrase ‘tasting menu’,” Chet Sharma tells Tony Naylor for a fascinating  Observer Food Monthly article that dropped just as I started to gather my thoughts for this appraisal of BiBi’s cuisine.

The piece goes on: “BiBi’s £125 dinner menu is expensive. But crazy as it may sound, says Sharma, it was introduced to provide value. In London, he argues, you can easily spend £70 or £80 a head on fairly average food, whereas BiBi’s food (“complex enough to sit alongside the most complex dishes in the country”) aims to provide far greater bang for your buck.

“BiBi’s chefs are not wasting hours of costly labour prepping ingredients that aren’t sold. They are focused on perfecting a streamlined number of dishes. This helps Sharma keep tight control of his fluctuating food costs, and enables him to flexibly gild dishes: ‘Let’s add morels to this dish, for example’, when prices allow.”

So did the BiBi food live up to its reputation?

Easily. The snacks signal the playful intent, so far removed from stuffier high end London Indians (BiBi’s owners JKS are also responsible for Trishna, Gymkhana and Brigadiers). Take the papad scrolls flavoured with pungent cave-aged Wookey Hole Cheddar to be dunked in the dankest of green chutneys – pure chlorophyll pesto. Or a single Louët-Feisser oyster (from Carlingford Lough, also, incidentally, favoured by Bouchon Racine) dressed with passion-fruit Jal Jeera, a kind of tart cumin-scented lemonade. 

In the second course proper there’s a similar culinary conceit, where an Orkney scallop sits ceviche like in its shell, loaded with a spiced up Nimbu Pani (lime soda, the Sub-Continent’s  favourite soft drink). In between there’s the punch of a BiBi ‘tartare’. The tenderest of Belted Galloway beef is studded with fermented Tellicherry peppercorns to create a ‘chaat’ of pepper fry. Street food elevated, as they say in the trade. 

Next up a is a Parsi special occasion classic called a macchi, where white fish fillets, often pomfret, are coated in a paste of ground coconut and sour mango, fresh coriander and mint, and steamed in banana leaves. In the Sharma version, with the emphasis on pickled green chillies, the fish is halibut and the result is hot and gorgeous.

Now that grill kicks in. It’s a £20 supplement for the Aged Swaledale Lamb Barra Kebab (main image). I couldn’t resist and it proved the dish of the evening (against a strong field). This traditional Mughli chop, charred and yet tender, comes encircled by spirals of a sensational Kashmiri doon chettin (walnut chutney), which is fiery but also in perfect balance.

Suddenly and surprisingly the counter in front of me fills up with a parade of dishes that signify ‘this is your main’. A pillowy roomali naan and a goodly helping of rice are there to mop up the juices from an ex-dairy goat Galouti Kebab and Sharmaji’s Lahori Chicken. Galouti means ‘melt in the mouth and this dish involving minced mutton or goat (interchangeable in North Indian cuisine) was created for a toothless old Nawab in Lucknow. The Lahori chicken has been marinated in yoghurt and spices before being barbecued. The whey collected from hanging the yoghurt combines with cashew to make a remarkable sauce alongside some wild garlic puree and a sharp cauliflower chutney.

Strained yoghurt is the base for the delicate shrikhand dessert featuring strawberry and meadowsweet. To conclude a kulfi ’lolly’, given an equally neat presentation to conclude a beguiling experience that redefines high end Indian restaurant food.

BiBi? A homage to Grandma with a contemporary cutting edge

You’ve been waiting for me to explain the name BiBi? There are echoes of some Sixties boutique there and isn’t there a Korean pop chanteuse with that moniker. Actually it’s an Urdu title roughly translating as ‘lady of the house’, often applied to grandmas and yes there are decorative touches honouring Chet’s own bibis – a wooden beaded curtain similar to the one in his grandma’s own kitchen, while Kashmiri Paisley motifs on walls and bar stools is inspired by her shawls. Antique mirrors and lamps add to the surprising homeliness in a tight 33-cover space.

All this is slightly at odds with the back story of Chef Chet. All that high end culinary discipleship that followed his physics doctorate at Oxford and an obvious commitment to sustainability that is very much of the moment. The kitchen grills with sustainable Holm Oak charcoal from the South Downs; the menu paper is compostable. You do sense though that at BiBi he has come ‘home’. And there is heart there. Utterly surprising and revelatory in the oligarch’s playground that most of Mayfair (and Knightsbridge) has become.

BiBi, 42 North Audley Street, Mayfair, London, W1K 6ZP. Vegetarian and pescatarian tasting menus are available.

Take in the Indian food shot above. The mutton keema is adapted from a recipe by my beloved Dishhoom, the paratha was bought in frozen, while the date and tamarind chutney and coriander/mint dip were both home-made. Star of the impromptu tiffin, though, is hidden under that tangle of radish sprouts. Step into the spotlight Gurdeep Loyal’s Punjabi Ranchero.

It comes from his Mother Tongue (4th Estate, £28) and follows the template of this utterly utterly distinctive cookbook, whose playful manifesto proclaims: “Food is a living form of culture that evolves: its boundaries are fluid, blurred, porous and dynamic… authenticity is an unending reel of culinary snapshots, an evolving spectrum that captures many transformative moments along flavourful journeys in generations of kitchens.”

So where we are at with this “second generation British Indian food writer and home cook, a descendant of Punjabi farmers and Leicester market traders with big appetites” is a dish such as this ‘Aloo Chaat Wedge Salad with a Pink Peppercorn Ranch Dressing’. Potatoes and chaat masala meet American iceberg lettuce dressing. His aim? To marry the “same splendidly kitsch garnishing skills as Indian street snacks” with the “Fanny Craddock meets breakfast buffet school of culinary arts.” Cue some ‘visual mood board’ fantasy about the iconic Fanny sporting a sari on Christmas Day!

Like all the 100 determinedly hybrid recipes in his debut collection, it works a treat. Hard to imagine in advance Gurdeep’s anarchically fusion take, Lasagne Rolls with Kasunda Keema (the recipe for which is at the end of this piece), but I was won over by his introduction to it. A charming, accomplished writer, he is as good on intros as tweaking traditional food styles.

“It was the daytime clubbing scene where the boundaries of bhangra and Asian underground were pushed, blending Punjabi folk music, classical Indian melodies and Bollywood anthems with hip hop, R’n’B, soul, dance and garage. I remember South Asian friends bunking off college on Wednesday afternoons, heels in their bags, to get to afternoon raves. 

“Created by and for the diaspora, they served a generation of young adults, united by a need to party coupled with a need to be at home in time to make roti. I encountered offshoots of the scene much later, through the queer-desi night Club Kali and sporadic bhangra DJs that played Popstarz at the Apollo. Those 2am moments on the dance floor were rare times I could be every layer of my identity at once, illuminating with lasers what was often concealed by the code-switching of my life by daylight. Identity is like lasagne: each layer unique, but transformed when brought together as a whole.”

A professional level cellist, 39-year-old Gurdeep can’t resist peppering his food writing with musical analogies. Born in Leicester, he has pursued his passion for flavours across an eclectic career path that has included helping grow Innocent Drinks and exploring global food trends for Harrods and Marks & Spencer. All this while coping with plural identities as a British-born son of Punjabi immigrants. He recognises the irony of the title Mother Tongue when his mother will never have the English language skills to read it.

And, of course, there is another Loyal identity – as a gay man. It’s not the kind of memoir that dwells on prejudice and the struggles that brings. For that try The Go-Between by the equally flamboyant Osman Yousefzada (Canongate £14.99). He wrote: “My parents come from an underclass; they were illiterate and couldn’t read or write in any language.…they came from humble rural areas in Pakistan and Afghanistan and moved to the UK in the early 1970s to fill the low-level jobs no one else wanted.”

Much of his account is of a child perceptively exploring the confines of the immigrant ‘ghetto’ that was Balsall Heath, Birmingham and the restrictions on women, particularly his beloved mother and sisters. Eventually, he breaks through the barriers to reach university in London, starting his own fashion label (Beyoncé and Lady Gaga were clients) and more recently becoming renowned as a multi-disciplinary artist.

Brought up in America, another gifted gay writer Mayukh Sen trades less on his Asian descent (Bengali). His own breakthrough book of 2021, deals with the marginalisation of female voices within a patriarchal 20th century culinary culture. Taste Makers: Seven Immigrant Women who Revolutionised Food in America (Norton, £11.39) profiles cookery writers familiar to me on this side of the Pond – Italian champion Marcella Hazan and Indian Julie Sahni, restaurateur and recipe rival of the higher profile Madhur Jaffrey – but the remaining five were equally fascinating in their struggles to promote their authentic cooking styles.

These may seem yesterday’s battles when we now have a bewildering proliferation of cookbooks defining authentic cuisines of nations, even regions. And with one click online you can source multiple variants of one exotic recipe or other. In the midst of this tumult my tip is to seek out those second generation Asian writers who are not on repeat, who have loyalty to tradition but bend it to their own culinary will. 

I’d first recommend the remarkable Nik Sharma, California-based molecular biologist/photographer/cookbook author and, a theme developing, also gay. Start with Saison (Chronicle Books, £25), then move on to the more challenging, science-based The Flavor Equation (Chronicle Books, £26) and perhaps his A Brown Table website.

In the UK women writers are to the fore. Sumayya Usmani blends an expectation-defying memoir and a contemporary take on her native Pakistani cuisine in Andaza (Murdoch £20). Meera Sodha’s Made in India and Fresh India (both Penguin Figtree, £20) are my go-to weekday meal gospels. Her story, too, is one of emigration. She was born in Lincolnshire to Ugandan Indian parents and the cross-fertilisation shows in a dish like a brussels sprout thoran and she is not too purist to promote a curry featuring a Lincolnshire sausage. On the fipside, I’m not sure how much beaching up in Coventry from the Tamil northern tip of Sri Lanka has influenced Cynthia Shanmugalingam’s recently restaurant Rambutan near Borough Market. Her cookbook of that same name is a retro look at the (delicious) family food she grew up with and its transformation in exile, while not shying away from the tragic sectarian strife of her homeland.

More recently another second generation Punjabi, Sarah Woods, in her Desi Kitchen (Penguin, £30), has charted the diaspora of a variety of regional Indian cuisines in assorted UK regions, again recognising the mutations of ‘authentic’ dishes. Ravinder Boghal, Kenyan-born to Indian parents, doesn’t even claim, in her Marylebone restaurant Jikoni and the cookbook of the same name to be remotely ‘traditional’. ‘Proudly inauthentic recipes from an immigrant kitchen’ is the sub-heading of Jikoni (Bloomsbury, £26).

I’m a big fan of Ravinder’s paneer gnudi with saag or clove-smoked venison samosas with beetroot chutney but, for the moment, I‘m loyally smitten with Gurdap. Oh, those Coconut Crab Crumpets with Railway Crispy Eggs (I kid you not), Tahini Chalai Chicken Wings, Hariyali Coconut Fish Pie, Miso-Masala Fried Chicken Sando, Desi Kofta Meatballs with Sticky Mango-Lime Tomatoes, Sweet Chilli-Gunpowder Roasted Cauliflower, and Chocolate-Orange Jalebis. Pure genius. Meanwhile, finally, lasagne as you’ve never known it…

Kasundi keema lasagne rolls

(Serves 4) 

For the kasundi keema: 

2 tbsp ghee 

2 large onions, finely chopped 

1 tbsp coriander seeds, crushed 

1 tbsp black mustard seeds 

1 tbsp cumin seeds 

8 garlic cloves, very finely chopped 

2 tbsp finely grated fresh ginger 

2 tsp chilli flakes 

500g minced lamb (20 per cent fat) 

2 tbsp Garam Masala (see page 23) 

2 tsp fine sea salt 

5 tbsp tomato purée 

2 tbsp dark brown sugar 

3 tbsp apple cider vinegar 

½ x 400g can of chopped tomatoes 

For the cheese paste: 

200g mature Cheddar cheese, grated 

2 tsp cumin seeds, crushed 

3 tbsp coarse semolina 

1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper 

1 egg, lightly beaten 

For the greens: 

200g cavolo nero, coarse stalks removed 

1 tbsp English mustard 

4 garlic cloves, very finely chopped or grated 

4 tbsp lemon juice 

For the lasagne rolls and tarkha: 

10-12 lasagne sheets 

500g jar of tomato pasta sauce 

2 tbsp vegetable oil 

30–35 fresh curry leaves 

1½ tbsp black mustard seeds 

1 tsp chilli flakes


To make the keema, heat the ghee in a large pan, add the onions and cook for 7–8 minutes until golden. 

Next add the coriander, mustard and cumin seeds, cooking for another 2–3 minutes, before adding the garlic, ginger and chilli flakes. Now add the lamb, browning for 4–6 minutes before mixing through the garam masala and salt. Finally add the tomato purée, sugar and vinegar, along with the tomatoes. Simmer and reduce for 5–7 minutes, then set aside. 

To make the cheese paste, mix all the ingredients together into a crumbly mixture. 

For the greens, boil the cavolo nero in salted water for 5–6 minutes until tender, then blend with the mustard, garlic and lemon juice into a thick smooth paste. Add a little water if needed, then let it cool. 

Preheat the oven to 200°C fan. 

Cover the lasagne sheets with boiling water and leave for 4–5 minutes to soften a little. Slice each lasagne sheet down the middle lengthways, making 2 strips ready for rolling. 

Take one pasta strip, spread with 1 tablespoon of the mustard greens, sprinkle over some cheese paste and finally add a spoon of keema. Roll up tightly into a snail. Repeat to form all the lasagne rolls. 

Pour the jarred tomato pasta sauce into an ovenproof dish and tightly pack in the lasagne rolls. Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for a final 10–15 minutes until piping hot and crusty on top. 

Meanwhile, for the tarkha, heat the vegetable oil in a pan, then add the curry leaves, mustard seeds and chilli flakes. Sizzle for 1 minute, then drizzle over the baked lasagne rolls just before serving. 

‘Want to go for a Chinese?’ may have lost its cool cachet in the UK, but for a new generation in India the casual dining out choice is definitely Indo-Chinese. You don’t go out to order dal. Manchurian chicken? Bring it on.

There won’t be any chicken on the menu at Bundobust as they launch a quartet of Indo-Chinese specials across their sites in Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool, available until August 29. The veggie/craft beer formula rightly rules. They’ve done cauli and mushroom Manchurian mash-ups in the past, favouring a sweet-sour sauce that’s a bit chippie-like. 

And they’re not the only Manchester city centre Indian to put the Asian hybrid on the menu. Indian Tiffin Room confirmed its street food credentials by featuring diaspora dishes that originated in the old Chinatown of Kalkota (Calcutta) with influences from far beyond. 

Take Hakka Noodles. To the traditional base of Indo-Chinese spices and soy sauce coated noodles the Bundobust chefs add stir-fried green and red pepper, mushroom and white cabbage. For a fiver it’s a gorgeous combo but begs the question: who were the Hakka? 

It’s tiffin time in Kalkota’s teeming Tiretta Bazaar – the link between Chinese and Indian street food

In the late 18th century these folk emigrated from Northern China. A magnet for their silk and tanning skills was Calcutta, established by the British East India Company as capital of colonial India.

Two areas there vied to be Chinatown for them and other Chinese arrivals – Tangra and Tiretta Bazaar. Only the latter remains today as a food and cultural destination. Its restaurants are testimony to the inevitable fusion that quickly occurred to accommodate the deep-fried, chilli/spicy flavours Indians love. Key elements  soy sauce, vinegar and the Hakkas’ essential Schezwan sauce substituting dried red chillies for Sichuan peppercorns

Nowadays you’ll find this Indo-Chinese cuisine across the Sub-continent. It’s especially popular in my favourite Indian city and great melting pot, Mumbai. In Kolkata, though, the influence goes much further, where’ll you’ll find the likes of Chinese bhel and Schezwan dosa. Any resemblance to authentic Cantonese or Sichuan food is fanciful.

Alongside is a more authentic approach to Chinese regional food, too. Around 1974 India’s first Sichuan restaurant opened up at the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai. A different kind of hot.

Chicken Manchurian was invented in Mumbai, by Nelson Wang, the son of Chinese immigrants in Kolkata. And that’s how umami made its entry into Indian cuisine. And made the Wang dynasty!

Indo-Chinese has been a slower burner in the UK, perhaps the flagship being Hakkaland in Harrow-on-the-Hill, but I recall a visit to Asha Khan’s much-missed Darjeeling Express off Carnaby Street, where some sizzling Tangra Prawns were on the menu.

Bundobust’s entry onto the scene is as playful as you’d expect, plugging into their own Gujarati-inspired small plate evolution. 

Gobi Toast (£5.25) is deep-fried pav soldiers crowned with garlic and ginger minced cauliflower crusted with mixed sesame seeds. Served with coconut korma dipping sauce. Salt & Pepper Okra Fries (£5.50), where the Bundo top seller is tossed with peppers, onions, chilli flakes and soy sauce. And from leftfield, Tofoo 65 (£6.75), a Bundo debut for the bean curd, filling pakoras in a sauce rich with Chinese five spice, curry leaf, garlic, ginger, fermented red chilli paste and mustard seeds. 

The sauce is “a Chinese spiced reimagining of the classic Chennai Hotel Buhari 1965 sauce recipe.” More research for me to do, then.

Bundobust has venues in Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester Piccadilly and Oxford Road (the Brewery).

I was impressed by the Manchester deli just opened by Lily’s, long time champions of Indian vegetarian food in Ashton-under-Lyne. When I first ate at the original mothership, named after the Sachdev family matriarch, it was very much a case of teeming thalis on formica top tables. Very much a cafe. The new generation have upped the style offering (check out the Ashton HQ murals) without compromising the food quality. Not that I’m ever likely to acquire a taste for any of their  mega-sticky mainstay sweets.

In its gleaming new Henry Street outlet offering takeaway and store cupboard staples (but alas no fresh veg or herbs) there are ranks of these technicolor treats above a counter of samosas, pakoras, bhajis and other savoury snacks that are more to my taste.

So I couldn’t resist picking up a couple of Gujarati samosas on a flying visit, but my focus was elsewhere. I’m well stocked with every variety of Indian spice, but it is a while since the Anardana jar has been refreshed. OK, not a phrase you hear everyday; let’s just call me a sub-continental completist.

I scanned the alphabetically arranged spice shelves in vain but no anardana in sight. What is this elusive culinary enhancement? It is basically dried pomegranate seeds ground into a powder to serve as an intense acidifying agent in dishes, especially those from the Punjab. The seeds and pulp are separated from the rind of the fruit and shrivelled in the sun for up to a fortnight, turning reddish brown. According to the great Alan Davidson in the Oxford Companion to Food, the best example comes from the wild pomegranate known as daru, which grows in the lower Himalayas.

I eventually sourced my anardana replenishment in the foothills of Levenshulme at the Noor supermarket, which stocks two rival brands. You could, of course, substitute Iranian pomegranate molasses, popularised by Yotam Ottolenghi, for the same effect.

Rival souring agents vary according to region. Kerala ha th pumpkin-based cambodge, while the Konkan area flavours its dal with kokum, but anardana’s main rival is Amchoor, which provides a sourer, resinous oomph to curries, chutneys and especially chaats. The base here is green, unripe, out-of-season mangoes, again sun-dried. then pulverised, with the advantage of adding no extra moisture to dishes. Like papaya, it can be used to tenderise meat. It is packed with potassium, magnesium, calcium and assorted vitamins. Whatever, use it sparingly.

Which brings us to a third ‘A’ that to me is a prime sensory component of Indian cooking but can overwhelm a dish – Asafoetida. The ‘foetid’ gives the game away about this gum extracted from a pungent variety of giant fennel. John O’Connell in his essential The Book of Spice describes it as smelling like “pickled eggs covered in manure”. The French call it merde du diable (devil’s dung). And yet… in its powdered form temper a dish with what the Indians call ‘hing’ and all that rankness dissolves. It recreates the aromas of onion and garlic, staples deemed impure by certain Hindu castes, so it is the perfect substitute. No Indian pickle is the same without it. Amazingly until recently India imported the entirety of its hing from colder climate countries such as Iran and Afghanistan. Now there’s an initiative to ‘grow their own’, according to a Guardian report.

According to O’Connell, there are strong Ayurvedic medical claims for asafoetida as both sedative and stimulant. A further plus is its ability to suppress flatulence. That’s the calling card too for Ajwain (or ajowan). It’s the prime constituent of Omum Water, the Sub-continent’s version of gripe water, once given to babies for colic, and has a range of antiseptic properties. I’m quietly addicted to it in spice mixtures, especially for dusting chaats (above, the moreish  Bundobust version. Known familiarly as the bishop’s weed, it’s an obvious cousin to fennel, cumin and caraway. https://bundobust.com

In the Noor Stores along Levenshulme’s global main drag ajwain was there in the spice section, neighboured by three varieties of anardana. Back of the net! And irresistible giant fresh pomegranates were also on sale for a pittance. The benefits (and excitement) of buying ethnic.

My favourite chaat recipe – Meera Sodha’s New Potato + Chickpea


75g pitted dates; 3tsp tamarind paste; salt; 2tbsp Greek yoghurt; 600g baby new potatoes; 2tbsp unsalted butter; 1tsp cumin seeds, roughly ground; ½tsp ground black pepper; 1tsp ground ginger; 1 green finger chilli, finely chopped; 400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed; 1 large banana shallot, finely diced; juice of 1 lemon; large handful of coriander, chopped; handful of thin sev (fried chickpea noodles).


Prepare the date and tamarind chutney first. Blend the dates together with the tamarind paste and a pinch of salt and 100ml of water, then leave to one side.
Mix the yogurt with a couple of tablespoons of water until you can drizzle it using a spoon, then leave to one side. Wash and boil the potatoes for 15 minutes, until they are tender and a knife can slip through them easily. Drain, tip out onto a plate, and crush them slightly with a fork or the bottom of a sturdy cup.
Put the butter into a wide-bottomed frying pan over a medium heat. When melted, add the ground cumin seeds, black pepper, ginger, chilli, and ¾ teaspoon of salt. Stir, then add the potatoes. Leave the potatoes to crisp and char for around 5 minutes, to heat through. Toss together and throw in the chickpeas, shallots, and lemon juice. Then add the date and tamarind chutney. Stir to mix and take off the heat.
Serve warm in individual plates or bowls with a couple of dollops of yogurt, a scattering of coriander and sev. (I sprinkle over a couple of teaspoons of chaat masala spice mix. You can make your own (amchoor, coriander, cumin, black pepper, kala namak, cinnamon, ginger). I bought a packet from Lily’s.

From Fresh India by Meera Sodha (Fig Tree, £20)

One trip down Manchester memory lane for me is to check my Bhangra Beatnikz beer cocktail recipe remains on the Dishoom website.

Still there. It won best cocktail at the last Too Many Critics charity dinner held in the city with seven food writers battling it out in the Manchester Hall kitchens of the newly arrived Indian restaurant group. It was all about raising money for Action Against Hunger. If you must know, my hake moilee was also awarded best dish – mainly thanks to copious amounts of coconut milk and head chef Naved’s team holding my hand.

The date? Monday March 18. The last time I crossed the threshold of Dishoom’s latest loving homage to the Irani cafes of old Bombay (now Mumbai). Opened early last century by Zoroastrian immigrants from Iran, there were almost 400 of these cafés at their peak in the 1960s. Now fewer than 30 remained before Covid. Who knows what the future holds for them?

“Their faded elegance welcomed all: courting couples, sweaty taxi-wallahs, students, artists and lawyers. The cafés broke down barriers by bringing people together over food and drink. Bombay was more open and welcoming for their existence.”

That warm hospitality applied equally to Dishoom Manchester – even if the ‘faded’ bit was a mite more studied – until the lockdown closures.

During those barren, frightening periods I kept my passion for Dishoom’s food alive by cooking from the pages of Dishoom ‘From Bombay With Love’ (Bloomsbury, £26). With its evocative photographs and a retro design, it’s arguably the most vivid and elegant cookbook of recent times. Not just about food, it was also an eccentric travelogue about a city that has captivated me on both my visits.

I cooked from it a lot, even essaying their signature black daal via a short cut recipe that didn’t require 24 hours in the pot and much sturdy stirring. To attempt their bacon naan (pictured above with Ghanesh) seemed sacrilege, though. The home kit for that groundbreaker did tempt me, but I never ordered. Now finally when all the Dishooms – in London, Manchester, Birmingham and Edinburgh – are thankfully open again, I couldn’t resist a home delivery ‘taster’ before resuming direct Dishoom fan duties. No, not as a punkah wallah, just a punter.

What a line-up that arrived on our doorstep with full instructions


Feast is the right word, a well balanced selection of Dishoom classics: House Black Daal, Mattar Paneer, Lamb Sheekh Kababs, Murgh Malai, Bhel, Kachumber, and Tawa Rotis. To accompany it there’s a bottle of Mango Lassi, and for pud a sweet, creamy Gulkand Mess. A very attractive line-up.

The whole assemblage held its own against my favourite menu kits – from Northcote, Hakkasan and Clays Hyderabadi Kitchen. Few real kitchen skills were required. Accompanying printed instructions were clear (I didn’t bother with the videos).  Preparation time was posited at 45 minutes, which was about right. They never warn you of the washing up time after!

Trying to balance grilling the lamb (Sheekh Kababs) and chicken Murgh Malai) with stove top cooking the Tawa Rotis was the only bit that got me hot under the collar (oh for a couple of chilled Bhangra Beatnikz at my elbow). Standout dish was the paneer with peas, but all the dishes felt restaurant standard and authentic, not the cobbled together, outsourced disappointments of certain home deliveries. Not naming names.

The whole package costs £60, to serve two to three people. We augmented it with our own saffron rice and a Sri Lankan coconut dal (Meera Sodha recipe) to ensure it fed four. It was more than ample. Leftovers? A stylish Dishoom tea towel and four metal skewers (for the lamb and chicken) we shall treasure.

Buy Home Feast here. You can also upgrade your kit to include a bottle of Int3gral3 Italian natural sparkling wine for an extra £20. For every kit Dishoom donate a meal to charity partner Akshaya Patra.