Back in early 2020, there were (not-so-quiet) whispers about Dishoom opening up in Birmingham. Every time I’ve been down to London recently, I’ve had plans to visit one of their restaurants, but we’ve never quite made it. The whispers got louder, and as we moved out of Brum city centre, Dishoom moved in. And so did coronavirus.
Dishoom Birmingham reopened back in July with a soft launch, 50% off all food. Try as I might I couldn’t get a reservation at a time that worked for us. My Instagram feed and favourite Brum foodie blogs filled with tempting descriptions and beautiful photos. Dishoom announced that they were taking part in the Government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme throughout August, and I managed to snaffle us a booking for the last Wednesday of the month. An extra bonus was their announcement that they would lift the £10 per person discount cap, meaning 50% of all food and soft drinks.
The Eat Out To Help Out Scheme has sadly ended now, but this was an excellent way to get people back into pubs and restaurants that struggled through the great COVID-19 lockdown of 2020. You can find out about our EOTHO visit to JQ favourite 1000 Trades here.
You can make a reservation at Dishoom Birmingham via their website. Walk-ins are welcome but be prepared to queue if you plan to go at a busy time. The outside terrace overlooking Chamberlain Square was sadly closed thanks to Storm Francis which was lurking around.
At the moment all waiting is strictly outside. Within 5 minutes of checking in, we’re collected by a member of the team and shown to our table. The majority of staff were wearing masks and we were asked to collect our own paper menu from the check-in desk. The tables were reasonably spaced out, but not any more than I’d expect to be comfortable. This means that under “non-COVID” conditions they would probably squeeze as many tables in as possible. A hand sanitizer bottle is bought directly to our table, and there is also a sanitizer station at the front door.
You can read more about the precautions taken by Dishoom here.
There is absolutely no doubt that the restaurant looks wonderful, all dark wood, teal and yellow banquettes, glass cabinets, whirring ceiling fans and lots of tiny details paying homage to the Irani cafes of Bombay. Not for Dishoom the flocked wallpaper and tinny sitar music soundtrack of many a UK curry house. And this desire to provide a different experience is reflected in the menu.
Designed to share, the focus is on small plates, with a few standout larger dishes. You won’t find a vindaloo, or a jalfrezi, or a balti on the menu here. There are a couple of options though should curry be your Indian food of choice. The signature dish, created exclusively for Birmingham, is indeed a curry. The Mutton Chaap Korma feature marinated mutton chops in a rich and flavourful korma sauce. Don’t expect this to be your everyday creamy korma though. Along with the accompanying khamiri roti and steamed basmati rice this was perfect for two (or one person with a larger appetite). The additional garlic naan was in fact unnecessary. Our server kindly let us have cartons to pack up the leftovers for a fancy WFH lunch the next day. Beats a cheese and ham sandwich.
We also selected a few dishes from the small plates menu. Khichia & Chundo, Dishoom’s take on poppadoms and chutney. Flaky and fragrant vegetable samosas. And crispy, sticky chilli chicken, which lightly warmed the inside of the mouth, before leaving a lingering tingle on the lips long after the plate had been cleared.
The ubiquitous Kingfisher was to be found on the drinks menu, along with a selection of craft beers, cocktails, lassi and chai. There’s also a decent selection of low- and no-alcohol beverages. Dishoom also cater for vegetarians, vegans and food intolerances – just check with your server for an alternative menu.
Finally, a big shout-out to the staff, who were all attentive, friendly and unashamedly enthusiastic. They also clearly had a good knowledge of menu, and were able to make recommendations based on our preferences.
In a city famed for it’s Indian restaurants, you have to stand out. After all, us Brummies often have the pick of the best family-run establishments, although they may not come with quite the same elegance or reputation as Dishoom. So it’s good to see that they have a menu which prides itself on being different – although fans of Indian Brewery, Zindiya and The Indian Streatery will already be familiar with this small plate, street food style.
With the Eat Out To Help Out discount, our bill came to just over £30 (with one beer each). Considering we chose the most expensive dish (the mutton chaap korma, which was £19.50 on it’s own) this was pretty good value. However, we have reasonably small appetites – some people may well eat what we shared on their own, in which case it would probably get quite expensive. One lovely thing that they don’t really shout about is that they donate a meal to a child in need for every meal ordered. All of a sudden that bill doesn’t seem at all pricey.
There’s still plenty on the menu that I’d like to try though. Dishoom may well be getting a return visit from me in the future. If only for their famed Bacon Naan Roll for brunch.
One Chamberlain Square