My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Several years ago, a friend from the blogging world introduced me to Dishoom in Shoreditch. It was an instant love affair (with the place, not the friend) and now, whenever I’m in London, I always make sure I go there for lunch or, better still, breakfast. And if you’re ever in London and want somewhere different to go for a business lunch – Dishoom is the place.
Such a fan I am, that I receive the newsletters for the company by email. They have made upsetting reading over the last year, going from excitement of opening a new place to then having to say ‘sorry, closed due to pandemic’ not just once, but several times. I have genuinely feared that my favourite place to eat will not be there the next time I come to the capital. Disappointment drips from their messages.
On the up side, Dishoom has been doing take-aways with a difference. They send you the ingredients, part-made, and the instructions to cook the food yourself. I’ve not had opportunity to try it myself but I’m told they are delicious.
And then, there’s Dishoom’s cookbook.
I received this as a Christmas gift and, oh my, what a wonderful gift it is too. And I say this despite not yet even beginning to attempt the recipes within. Indeed, if it wasn’t for the fact that Dishoom’s food is utterly scrumptious, the recipes wouldn’t matter at all. Even if every one proves to be a flop (and I know they won’t), this book will still have been a wonderful addition to my library.
Why? Because Messrs Thakrar, Thakrar and Nasir have brilliantly created the book around an imaginary day tour of Bombay (Bombay mind, not Mumbai) stopping off at cafes and restaurants, hotels and Jazz gigs to pick up refreshments along the way. Subtitled ‘From Bombay with Love’ and with a note on the cover disclaiming the book as a ‘highly subjective guide to Bombay’, the pages are crammed with essays revealing the love the Dishoom creators have for this yesteryear part of India.
There are times when people have critcised Dishoom for giving too much homage to colonial India, the British Raj. I’m a fierce critic of any British person who wants to deny the damage and many wrongs done during the imperial era, or wants to justify the actions of the British. But that doesn’t mean everything was bad. There is a glory to the period too. India is a beautiful, beautiful place and the British made their mark, as they do, and it isn’t unattractive despite the wrongs – which is exactly why so many landmarks remain in the country today. Dishoom pays homage to the good that there was in those days – such as the bringing of Jazz to the city – that came about despite, as well as because of, the British. The essays absolutely make you fall in love with the place and the urge to visit it and redo these imaginary tours for real is strong.
Indeed, perhaps because I have visited India several times as well as living many years in Bangladesh, its cousin, but I felt like I HAD visited Bombay after reading these chapters, so vivid is the authors’ descriptions. I heard the sounds and saw the sights; I even tasted the food and drinks and had the conversations with the characters they introduced me too.
Not many writers manage to excite my imagination in this way. If these authors weren’t in the restaurant business, they should be writing for a living. In fact, they love literature so much they include a reading list at the back of the book which includes Rushdie’s ‘Midnight’s Children’ and Seth’s ‘A Suitable Boy’, but not, noticeably, Robert’s ‘Shantaram’ – a book I’m wading through at the moment and agree wholeheartedly with the authors’ damning appraisal. These men want you to know the real Bombay – as was and as now – not some romanticised fictional version. There’s no need for fiction, the real thing is good enough.
My only complaint is this: how do we get a sequel to such a cookery book? I’m left loving Bombay and wanting more. It is not fair of the writers to do this to me, to leave me high and dry like this.
The answer is, of course, to reproduce the smell (and taste) of Bombay; to do the cooking. And that’s the next step to undertake, with care and great respect to the wonderful work these guys have done. And then, when this virus is finally dealt with and travel becomes possible again, a visit to Bombay is in order; via London and a ‘quick’ two-hour breakfast in Shoreditch, of course.
Social Entrepreneur, educationalist, bestselling author and journalist, D K Powell is the author of the bestselling collection of literary short stories “The Old Man on the Beach“. His first book, ‘Sonali’ is a photo-memoir journal of life in Bangladesh and has been highly praised by the Bangladeshi diaspora worldwide. Students learning the Bengali language have also valued the English/Bengali translations on every page. Listen to his life story in interview with the BBC here.
His latest book is ‘Try not to Laugh’ and is a guide to memorising, revising and passing exams for students.
Both ‘The Old Man on the Beach’ and ‘Sonali’ are available on Amazon for kindle and paperback. Published by Shopno Sriti Media. The novel,’The Pukur’, will be published by Histria Books in 2022.
D K Powell is available to speak at events (see his TEDx talk here) and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, he is available for one-to-one mentoring and runs a course on the psychology of writing.
Ken writes for a number of publications around the world. Past reviewer for Paste magazine, The Doughnut, E2D and United Airways, and currently reviews for Lancashire Life magazine and Northern Arts Review.