When a restaurant that’s been open since 2010 and boasts five London branches (plus one in Edinburgh) still has queues out the door until late into the evening, you know there’s something special about it. Usually this also means it serves a cuisine that’s full of gluten and I can’t get in on the act, but in this instance, Dishoom is not only a foodie’s dream, but a coeliac’s one, too. This Indian restaurant serves traditional Bombay dishes – everything from small plates to grills and more recognizable curries and biryanis are on offer here; and the gluten free menu is extensive.
From the moment you step inside, you’re enveloped in a bustling atmosphere and vintage-style décor of leather seating, colourful lightshades and tiled walls reflecting that of the cafes on which these restaurants are based. Ask for a gluten free menu upon being seated and the staff will happily bring you one and run through it with you; they’re also able to advise on spice levels if your tummy (like mine, since being coeliac) can’t handle too much heat. Further reassurance of how they take coeliacs into consideration is that gluten free dishes come with little allergy sticks, so it’s clear what you can and can’t eat.
The gf starter options are limited to only one dish, but it’s well worth a try – the Bhel is a deceptively large bowl of puffed crispy rice (think fancier Rice Crispies) that has a satisfying crunch and a lightness that is offset beautifully by the fresh and zesty combination of pomegranate seeds, diced tomato, onion, lime and mint that it’s mixed in with. However, what the gluten free menu lacks to begin with, it more than makes up for in a wide variety of choices for main. On my most recent visit I settled on my favourite Dishoom number – the Mattar Paneer curry. This vegetarian number comprised hearty chunks of paneer cheese combined with peas in a creamy, tomato-based sauce that has a slight spicy kick – but nothing my sensitive stomach couldn’t handle. While many restaurants often trying to scrimp on curry fillings, this is not the case here; not only was there a generous amount of paneer filling the bowl it was served in, but there was enough curry overall to make two good (and three smaller) servings.
For sides, my friend and I shared a portion of fluffy, steamed white basmati rice, and the House Black Daal – their signature dish has garnered somewhat of an infamous reputation, so I knew I had to try it for myself. Black lentils and an array of herbs and spices are simmered in a thick tomato sauce over 24 hours for a beautifully rich flavour. Having been cooked for so long, the lentils were perfectly soft (but not to the point where they were starting to fall apart) and, thanks to the tomato base, perfectly complemented my curry.
There are several gluten free dessert options, and I can never pass up anything involving the glorious cocoa bean, ordered the Chocolate Pudding. This was fairly small but incredibly rich, so the perfect size, and slicing into its smooth exterior revealed a silky, oozing, melted centre. It came served with a good scoop of chilli ice cream – nope, I’d never had this flavour before either, but it’s essential vanilla ice cream with a kick that hits the back of your throat.
If you can stand to queue for up to two hours (really) at peak times, you’ll be rewarded with free cups of warming chai latte for your patience. There’s no denying that the food is delectable, and once ranked the UK’s best place to eat, it’s captured the hearts of critics and public alike. So grab a coat, good company and some patience, and embark on your new obsession with this eatery.