One of my favourite restaurants.
And perhaps the most unusual thing about me expressing this preference.
Is the fact that I have never been.
I met Dishoom founder Shamil Thakrar in London.
In November 2019.
And I am so certain that Dishoom is one of my favourite restaurants.
(Despite having never ever been).
Because of just two things that Shamil told me.
The first was this.
Shamil said that Dishoom is not a restaurant.
Well, not according to Shamil it isn’t.
According to Shamil, Dishoom is:
A love letter to Bombay told through food and stories.
I love the pictures this creates.
And the sounds that it creates.
And the smells.
And the tastes.
And the atmosphere.
I love the promise that that statement makes.
And because Shamil delivers on that promise.
I love Dishoom, too.
But it was the second thing that Shamil said to me that sealed it.
And it is a simple story.
It is a story about something that happened shortly after Shamil had been explaining his interior design vision to the team that creates his restaurants.
And his builders.
(It is important to note, by the way, that Shamil bases his restaurants on precise eating experiences from a very precise period of time in Bombay’s history.
The year 1960).
The pictures that Shamil creates in the minds of his team are alive!
They are so vivid and beautiful that anyone visiting Dishoom today can breathe in the authenticity of the Irani cafés and the food of all Bombay from that wonderful era.
And it was against this backdrop that Shamil spoke to me about something quite simple.
And something quite surprising.
He spoke to me about flathead screws.
As Shamil stood in one of his completed restaurant interiors.
A restaurant that he had painstakingly overseen the refurbishment of for weeks.
Shamil had a niggle.
Something wasn’t quite right.
Shamil walked over to the bar area.
And gently touched one of the exposed screwheads with his finger.
It was a crosshead screw.
And whilst such a thing existed in the world in the 1960’s.
Shamil knew that this is not how the establishments in Bombay would have been constructed in 1960.
I pass restaurants every day.
So many of them struggling.
So many of them empty.
I see that they are empty as my eyes squint through their filthy fucking windows.
And as my feet crunch through the litter they they leave strewn outside their doors.
I squint to see the waiters and the waitresses inside stood mouthing their complaints about their lack of customers.
As they lean motionless against bars, chairs and walls.
And I think about Shamil.
And I smile.
Because when you get the the little things right.
You’re sure to get the big things right too.
In the restaurant I mentioned earlier.
Shamil had every last cross head screw removed.
With the more authentic flathead screws that would have been used in Bombay in 1960.
Dishoom serves 400,000 meals each month.
(Half of which they give away.
But that’s another story).
And I think I know why.