The newest Dishoom takes up residence on the ground floor of Manchester Hall, a 1920s Grade II listed building, originally used as a Freemasons’ Hall. The space is – as ever – a loving homage to the old Irani cafés of Bombay and will accommodate 231 covers between the two dining rooms and the Permit Room cocktail bar.
The dining rooms are open every day from early until late serving Executive Chef Naved Nasir’s first-class menus of Bombay comfort food.
The breakfast menu includes Dishoom’s famous Bacon Naan Roll and Sausage Naan Roll. Then there’s Keema Per Eedu: a Parsi power breakfast of eggs and spicy chicken keema studded with delicate morsels of chicken liver; Irani caféstaple Akuri: spicy scrambled eggs, with soft home-baked bread buns; and plentiful (bottomless!) House Chai.
This is followed by the all-day menu of small plates, grills, biryanis, salad plates, hand-made breads and sides. Of course, Dishoom serves its signature House Black Daal, cooked over 24 hours for extra harmony. And the Chef’s Special is a decadent Nalli Nihari Biryani.
Nihari – a famously hearty and robust dish – is synonymous with celebration. Made into a biryani, it is doubly so. This indulgent special sees tender shank of lamb layered with rice and caramelised onions then sealed beneath a pastry blanket. It is then enriched further with kaleji (chicken liver), raita and nihari gravy on the side.
As with all Dishoom restaurants, for every meal served at Dishoom Manchester, the team will donate a school meal to a child who would otherwise go hungry. A meal for a meal. Dishoom work with two fantastic charities – the Akshaya Patra Foundation in India and Magic Breakfast in the UK – who provide nourishing meals to children in schools. So far, Dishoom has donated over 5 million meals (… and counting!)
While there we tried a host of fantastic dishes such as:
A BOWL OF GREENS
LAMB BOTI KABAB
The Permit Room and tipples
The Permit Room bar – named after the official term for all Bombay drinking establishments, in which, according to the Bombay Prohibition Act of 1949, only permit-holders may consume alcohol – will serve Dishoom ‘Daru-walla’ Carl Brown’s lovingly curated list of cocktails.
As well as old favourites such as the East India Gimlet, Hoppy Butter Paanch and Monsoon Martini, the Permit Room serves a range of Dry Cocktails, which earned recognition from Spirits Business: best non-alcoholic cocktail list in 2016. These include the Sober Martini, Dry Old Fashioned and Virtuous Tulsi Sour. Each one is a clever drink with a top-secret spirit base that looks and tastes like alcohol, but does not contain a single drop.
The design and story of Dishoom Manchester is set in Bombay, 1923. And so, as part of their rigorous design process Dishoom co-founders Shamil and Kavi Thakrar and long-time collaborators Macaulay Sinclair spent many days in Bombay researching the architecture and design of the late 19th and early 20th century. Their research took them to buildings that would have set the tone of 1920s Bombay – such as the (delightfully frozen-in-time) District Grand Masonic Lodge of Bombay, The Cotton Exchange Building, The Theosophical Society, The Ripon Club, and of course, the remaining Irani cafés.
Their findings informed the design principles for Dishoom Manchester. The floor tiles in the Permit Room bar replicate those of the entrance to the District Grand Masonic Lodge of Bombay. In the Dining Hall are specially commissioned portraits of past District Grand Masters of Bombay, matching those hanging in the Framjee Cowasjee Dining Hall, along with a portrait of the great grandmother of a dear friend of Dishoom. The clock in the ‘Family Room’ is a close replica of that in the Cotton Exchange Building, and the team sourced almost 150 pieces of furniture and fittings from the 1920’s period in Bombay and restored them for use across the café.
The original building is Grade II listed and the Dishoom team and Macaulay Sinclair were keen to retain some of the original architectural features. The build of Dishoom Manchester has involved a careful restoration process. The entrance hall still has the original marble green skirting which dates from 1929. The parquet flooring and lead-framed windows in the Front Room have been restored. Extra care was taken in the Dining Hall where the team have retained two enormous stained-glass windows on the South and West sides, the original ceiling and parabolic dome in the centre of the room, and three glass droplet chandeliers.
Through the course of their research the team were also delighted to make the acquaintance of a (perhaps unique) Bombay-Manchester mason! Michael Holland was initiated into Alexandra Lodge in Manchester Hall in 1978, and then joined Lodge St George in Bombay’s Freemasons’ Hall in 1983, where he became Master in 1985. Michael shared photos and memorabilia from his time in Bombay, which supported the Dishoom Manchester story beautifully.
BOMBAY, 1923. In which an elusive Irani dupes Sexton Blake in a Freemasons’ Hall Bombay, 1923. A smartly dressed Englishman sits on a bentwood chair in Café Excelsior, an Irani café on Ravelin Street. He breathes in the aroma of baking bread, takes a sip of his strong chai and studies his surrounds carefully. The place and the people (families, students, businessmen – all sitting cheek by jowl) make him more relaxed than he perhaps should be. He arrived in Bombay that morning, called by the note now placed in his jacket pocket from enemy-turned-ally, Beram. Its few but forceful words are etched into his memory: “You must come to Bombay. Meet me in the Irani café behind the Freemasons’ Hall – I will know when you are there. Your debt has been called.”
To read the story in full, visit dishoom.com/introducing-dishoom-manchester