Miles Jupp loves the curry but not the cardboard plates at Dishoom’s Chowpatty Beach Bar
WELCOME TO DISHOOM’S!’ The man whose job it is to stand behind the bar at Dishoom’s Chowpatty Beach Bar and shout this yells it loudly enough to make me flinch, and often enough to make me look as if I am in a state of constant spasm. London’s South Bank can’t really compare with the sights and sounds of Mumbai’s Chowpatty Beach, but at this pop-up version of the Upper St Martin’s Lane café, there is an emphasis on fun and friendliness. It is meant to have a thrown-together, ‘ upcycled’ feel, but the end result looks rather slick – various bits of technical apparatus that have been spray-painted a glossy white give it the feel of a cleaned-up version of the Red Dwarf set. There are also rolledup Indian newspapers, and various bits of Day-Glo. They’re aiming at a certain type of customer – the type, for instance, who might be interested in buying one of their brightly coloured T-shirts.
I met my friends David and Danielle there, who are not only a couple of comedians but also an actual couple. ‘ Never trust a restaurant that sells merchandising,’ was David’s response. As the name suggests, it’s more of a bar than a restaurant. There are giant menus up behind the bar and you order and pay at the till. If they turn out not to have something, then you have to run back to your table or shout over to them. ‘ There are no coconut cocktails,’ I called to Danielle. ‘ What?’ she mouthed back. ‘ There are no coconut cocktails,’ I said again, having returned to the table. ‘ I’ll just have a T-shirt then,’ she said.
I finally ordered a portion of calamari and some vegetable samosas. Then I asked for two chicken curries and one of the vegetable variety. Having paid, I was given an order number and pointed towards a hatch, which made me fear for an Argosstyle collection process. In fact, it was brought quickly to our table. The food, particularly the curry, was splendid. But the crockery was cardboard and the cutlery wooden. There may be sound thinking behind this policy, but it makes eating more difficult than it needs to be, as if you’re doing it as a team-building exercise. Certainly the experience of eating curry out of coffee cups bonded us firmly enough for further rounds of drinks elsewhere.