Edinburgh's toast to Parsi theatre

Updated: Dec 06, 2016, 18:19 IST | Krutika Behrawala |

A London-based Irani cafe-style eatery chain pops up in the Scottish capital to offer concoctions that pay homage to Tirangi Tehmul and Adi Marzban

Lamb Raan Bun
Lamb Raan Bun

After serving Kheema Pau, Chicken Berry Britannia and Eggs Kejriwal across four outposts in London, Dishoom is ready to move to the Scottish capital, Edinburgh. Themed on Mumbai and its much-loved Irani cafés, the eatery chain was launched by Shamil and Kavi Thakrar and Amar and Adarsh Radia in 2010, first cropping up at Covent Garden and later, at Shoreditch, King’s Cross and Carnaby. “When we opened, there weren’t many places where you could enjoy Indian food besides curries. Now, many restaurants are offering regional or Bombay specific fare. To an extent, we believe we have capitalised on it and it is a privilege to educate the customer,” says Shamil over the phone, adding, “We decided to open our fifth outlet in Edinburgh because it is a city with cultural heritage, which is similar to the fabric of Bombay.”

Shamil and Kavi Thakrar of Dishoom
Shamil and Kavi Thakrar of Dishoom

Comprising two upper levels and a basement, the restaurant is located in a 1920s-era listed building. This outlet pays homage to the distinguished Scotsman Sir Patrick Geddes (1854-1932), a town planner, social reformer and botanist, who shared a deep connect with Mumbai. Excerpts from an interview with Shamil:

How did you stumble upon the story of Sir Patrick Geddes?
When we zeroed in on Edinburgh, we searched for connections between Scotland and India, and the strongest was that of Mr Geddes. He spent his early life as a town planner in Scotland and moved to Bombay in 1915. He was engaged in town planning there and was also pro-Independence. He loved spending time at Irani cafés and Parsi theatre too.

Tell us about the interiors.
Since Geddes spent a lot of time at reading rooms such as the David Sassoon Library, we have created an academic vibe here; it resembles a reading room. We have used huge, old maps of Bombay and Gujarat from the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Did you include any of Geddes’ favourites in the menu?
(Laughs) Unfortunately, we didn’t find his food choices in our research. The Permit Room (bar section) is an ode to Parsi theatre since Geddes loved theatre. We have new drinks on the menu. These include Tehmul’s Tangle, based on a mad 1968 Parsi theatre caper called Tirangi Tehmul, which retold the original Boeing Boeing. It is the story of a hapless fellow juggling a trio of women in his life. We have created a trio of flavours with cinnamon, gin, lemon juice and ginger. Then, there’s Marzban’s Chikoo Fizz — made with chikoo, whiskey and topped with soda fizz — that honours Adi Marzban, one of the foremost playwrights of Mumbai.

For this outlet, we have also invented Copy Tipples, non-alcoholic drinks, which replicate the warmth and dryness of alcohol using botanicals and herbs. For instance, Sober Martini uses grape and cucumber water as a base and a Virtuous Tulsi Sour that actually tastes like whiskey sour because it includes ginger, lemon and basil. These were tougher to create.

And what about the food menu?
It’s similar to the rest of our outlets. Here, we are also serving our chef’s special Lamb Raan in a bun (12 pounds). In modern times, the raan has become an expensive dish. Since it originated on a battlefield (where Alexander the Great defeated Porus), I believe that it isn’t a rich person’s dish but something that should be enjoyed by everyone.

Opens on: December 5 
At: 3a St Andrew Square, Edinburgh
Call: 0131 2026406 
Log on to: www.dishoom.com

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