DISHOOM – IT STARTED WITH LUNCH BUT ENDED AS A BREAKFAST AFFAIR!
I knew all about Dishoom long before they opened their Edinburgh cafe, mainly due to all the wonderful food pics on Instagram from various London pals. I had drooled over the menu, fantasised about the fluffy naans and hungered after the breakfasts. Everyone I spoke to just raved about the food, whether a morning chai and the soft, warm buns draped in butter or the spicy chicken thighs with a side of Black House daal; I could almost smell the rich aromas wafting from my computer screen; and as for the chicken livers, all will be revealed!
I’m getting a bit ahead of myself here, so let’s do a quick recap as the livers come into play a little later on.
When I heard Dishoom were opening in Edinburgh back in December, I could hardly contain myself. And, it wasn’t until the week before Christmas I had chance to visit. Lunchtime was heaving, thinking there would be no room, we were whisked upstairs and seated at a table near the arched windows overlooking St Andrew Square and all its festive shenanigans.
Despite being busy, service was swift with cocktails arriving with a basket of rainbow coloured far far (a multi-coloured lemony, prawn crackery type snack). Choosing what to eat was difficult. My companion, Sharon, wanted something light and decided on the chicken and pomegranate salad, far too virtuous for me.
I, on the other hand, was drawn to the chicken berry Britannia biryani. Did you know that biryani is Iranian by birth? No? Neither did I!
We also opted for cheese naan, a compromise to the chilli cheese toast, which seems to have its own cult following.
We soaked up the atmosphere while we waited. I had no idea what an Irani cafe was (apparently they are unique to Bombay aka Mumbai) but our surroundings evoked some bygone era of a bustling Indian railway station where travellers would while away time waiting for their trains. During the 60s, there were over 400 cafes, now there are less than 30 – an endangered species.
Food arrives. Sharon’s plate got a nod of approval and mine received a nose quiver as I lifted the lid from my black pot. Cranberries dotted the dish like tiny rubies. The flavours were subtle, separate grains of rice were moist, the chicken succulent; a dish for the greedy or for sharing if you’re feeling charitable. I was in the former group of gluttons.
The salad was refreshing, according to Sharon, with tangy bursts from the pomegranate punctuating the spiky chicken. We both agreed Dishoom could easily become a firm favourite, and for me, this became a reality.
After my luncheon jaunt, I extolled the virtues to BOGG (Big Ol’ Grumpy Git – the husband, Simon), cajoling him to try breakfast one Sunday (cheaper to park).
This is when I discovered the joy of Dishoom’s chicken livers! My path to yet another addiction (I have many, dear reader, of that you can be sure!).
BOGG wasn’t convinced about breaking our fast, in what he saw as an Indian restaurant; I on the other hand, with guidance from my London spies, was going to crash and burn. We ventured into Edinburgh city centre early one Sunday morning (if you can call 10.30 early). No problem with crowds, but even at that hour, there were quite a few occupied tables.
Those in the know had already told me of the breakfast naan rolls, stuffed with bacon, sausages, eggs – handmade, freshly baked to order, not to be missed.
Another tradition, I was informed, is to have the chai and who am I to break with tradition?
Chai ordered and with rumbling tums, it’s not long before we decide on what to eat. Now this is where the livers enter my life! It was almost an afterthought as I had already ordered the egg naan roll as my eye caught sight of the side dishes. No description, just two words – Chicken Livers – throw me a line and reel me in!
The naan had a thin scraping of cream cheese, chilli tomato jam and a sprinkling of fresh herbs that was then folded over my two eggs, the same for him except with the addition of bacon.
The livers came in a small dish with a slice of lime, now that was really key; the citrus wedge wasn’t just a garnish, it was integral.
The creamy, lightly spiced coating that warmed your mouth with a little chilli heat needed that aromatic kick to quieten everything down. It was a merry-go-round of flavour. From that first sensual bite, I was well and truly smitten; the dangerous eggs (what we call runny yolked fried eggs because they explode as soon as you bite into them) were a well-deserved distraction.
His bacon naan was good, but nowhere near as enticing as my plate.
I couldn’t stop thinking about them on the way home, I just needed an excuse to head into the city early enough to feed my addiction as soon as possible.
I’ve been back to Dishoom several times, alone, just me and my guilt tucking into the soft buttery buns and lime-drizzled livers, oh and not for getting copious amounts of delicious chai.
Last week we were back. Grappling with my conscience, resisting the temptations of the offally sirens, breakfast had to be something different. As we sat down, I asked for a couple of Bun Maska.
Having encountered these she-devils from previous clandestine meetings, the pillow-soft rolls toasted on the outside, with a slice of butter inside, are ready for dipping into the spicy chai. An absolute Bombay classic.
Meanwhile, back to the menu. The Big Bombay was my choice, a twist on the full Scottish; an array of local ingredients with an Indian influence – char-striped smoked streaky bacon from Ramsay of Carluke, peppery Ayrshire pork sausages, masala baked beans, grilled field mushroom, grilled, tomato and Akuri, an Irani staple of spicy scrambled eggs served alongside buttered pau buns.
BOGG, on the other hand, was going to spice things up with Keema per Eedu – spicy chicken keema studded with, yes you’ve guessed it, delicate morsels of chicken liver, topped with two runny-yolked fried eggs and sali crisp-chips. See there is no escaping these wee vixens!
Mine was a manly dish, and with eyes bigger than my belly, I plunged in. His was a more refined, dainty dish with the chipsticks adding a delightful crunch. I looked on like a jealous lover as BOGG dipped into the soft eggs.
There was a look of surprise as the heat from the keema wrangled with his taste buds. I encouraged him to squeeze the lime over it, which he appreciated. Perhaps the mince was a little too spiced as it certainly brought colour to his cheeks.
With pau buns untouched, I asked to try some of Dishoom’s homemade pineapple pink peppercorn jam and tangy orange marmalade with star anise, just to taste test you understand.
Before we knew it, we had scoffed the rolls and preserves, drunk more chai and could barely move.
This has definitely become one of my regular haunts and I encourage friends to throw aside caution and have an Irani breakfast. And as for me, it will forever be Bun Maska and chai with a side of chicken livers followed by another bun or two with the glorious homemade preserves. I might even pluck up courage to ask for the recipe for those plump livers!
3a St Andrew Square
Edinburgh EH2 2BD
Tel: 0131 202 6406
Monday to Wednesday: 8am to 11pm
Thursday to Friday: 8am to midnight
Saturday: 9am to midnight
Sunday: 9am to 11pm
(C) Lea Harris, Off the Eaten Track, 2017.