New India-themed restaurants in London and Paris

Dishoom Carnaby: Rewind to 1960s Mumbai

The mini Irani cafe revolution that is taking place in London, courtesy the Dishoom team has spread wider in the city. This time around, their fourth outlet on Kingly Street in Soho, will give a taste of 1960s Bombay (Mumbai) to discerning gastronomes.

The food at Dishoom aims to capture the essence of the Irani café culture in Mumbai
The food at Dishoom aims to capture the essence of the Irani café culture in Mumbai

As a loving homage to the beloved Irani cafe, the team, comprising of Kavi and Shamil Thakrar and the rest, as well as designer Macaulay Sinclair, worked overtime to recreate the look and feel of the era within the 7,000 sq ft space, and will also include a permit room, several rooms for all-day dining, an open kitchen and an enclosed terrace.

Shamil Thakrar, co-owner
Shamil Thakrar, co-owner

R&D for rewind mode
To recreate the heady vibe of 1960s Bombay, the team spent time with Sidharth Bhatia, author of India Psychedelic, a book that charts how Western music, primarily Rock N’ Roll, caught the fancy of the city in that era.

This photo of Dolly and Dilip Thakore can be seen at the restaurant
This photo of Dolly and Dilip Thakore can be seen at the restaurant

They met with personalities like Dolly Thakore, Farrukh Dhondy, Gerson da Cunha, Alyque Padamsee, Roger Pereira, Padmini Mirchandani, Adil Jusawalla and others who crisscrossed both cities, and were at the heart of this rocking scene.

Dishoom Babus (as Shamil and Kavi are called) also explored iconic 1960s landmarks in the city, around Churchgate and Nariman Point. They also dropped by some of Mumbai’s surviving Irani cafes and scoured around town for antiques and memorabilia that are integral to the Irani cafes of the time. Over 150 such pieces have been artfully restored to furnish Dishoom Carnaby.

Just like home
Revealing the reason for a fourth outlet in London, Shamil says, “People have responded really well to our food, and certainly, if they hadn’t we wouldn’t be able to open another Dishoom! In a way, much of our menu is fairly traditional Bombay comfort food — Keema Pav, Sali Boti, Akuri, Pav Bhaji, Prawns Koliwada and so on.”

When asked about it standing out from the curry house phenomena that hit UK decades ago, he summarises, “It’s not something that Indians or non-Indians in the UK were that familiar with – the ‘curry house’ was many people’s main experience of Indian food. However, it seems that they have really taken to our type of food. Bombay comfort food, after all, is generally delicious.”

At: Dishoom Carnaby, 22 Kingly Street, London, W1B 5QB.
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Desi Road by the River Seine

Stephanie de Saint Simon is back to give Parisians a taste of India. Her latest venture, Desi Road, serves Indian comfort food, with a diverse menu and beautiful thalis that pay tribute to the country’s diverse culinary traditions. Excerpts from an email interview:

Tandoori Salmon with Fried Samphire
Tandoori Salmon with Fried Samphire

Q. What was the driving point/desire to open another India-themed restaurant?
A. The owners of the famous Indian and traditional restaurant Yugaraj approached me as they were very fond of our modern cuisine, and were about to retire. The challenge was very tempting, as MG Road, our Right Bank (on the River Seine) address, was already a big success. So it was a great opportunity to have a Left Bank address, so close to the mythic Pont Neuf on the River Seine, which is one of the most beautiful place 
in town.

The Veg Thali
The Veg Thali

Q. How are Parisians warming up to Indian food? What are some of the unique challenges that you face while serving Indian food to Europeans?
A. Parisians like Indian cuisine, but don’t visit these restaurants a lot as most of them offer the same kind of meals in a typical decor. Our offer is different, chef Manoj Sharma was a student of Vineet Bhatia, and has been working in London for 10 years. Our challenge was to change the image of Indian cuisine in Paris to a creative one. Our menu offers a lot of plates to share, so people can experience different flavours, and also a traditional basis, the thalis. We added some street food specials that are a great surprise to discover for our clients. I guess our only limit is the chilli; French people are not used to having chilli in their culinary heritage. We had to adjust our dishes to a low level.

The interiors of Desi Road
The interiors of Desi Road

Q. What was the research required prior to opening this restaurant?
A. Nothing special. Apart from my fifty trips in India in the past 15 years! I am an intuitive person and always follow only what I’d like to have rather than what could people like to get. India is an inspiring country; it is so big and rich that I feel many different projects could be done. For that second restaurant, I wanted the decor to be an Anglo-Indian comfortable style mixed with tribal contemporary art.

At: 14 Rue Dauphine, 75006 Paris.
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