Review: ONIN London visits Dishoom in Manchester for a feast like no other

It was freezing cold in the middle of January and there’s a queue of at least 25 people huddled outside, giving us the evil eye as we walk past them and in through the doors of Dishoom in Manchester.

If there was ever a sign that a restaurant is successful, this is it. Since our visit, the popularity for the venue has only increased as people flock to Bridge Street to enjoy the brand’s speciality: a unique blend of Bombay flavours with a nod to traditional Irani cafés.

The Manchester venue is part of the brand’s new expansion plan across the UK. It originated in London, where there are five restaurants, but there is also one in Edinburgh and Birmingham will follow later this year.

As anticipated, it’s northern venue mirrors that of its southern ones – upscale without the snobbery, luxury without the pretentiousness.

It’s busy and the crowd is mixed; there’s an Indian family munching away on poppadoms next to us and cutting up a birthday cake that they’ve brought for the occasion, while on a table further down, a group of women are gossiping over cocktails as they wait for their food.

The service is impeccable and the menu impressive, with almost a bit too much choice.

To get the full Dishoom experience, bring a few friends – while you can most definitely come her on a date, the offering lends itself better for group visits. This way, you can get a bundle of dishes to share. But be warned, the portions are big – ask your server for help in deciding how much is too much.

Start with the signature House Black Dhal – cooked over 24 hours – along with some bhel. If you haven’t tried the latter, it’s a fresh and light dish with puffed rice, topped with pomegranates, mint, tomato, onion, lime and tamarind. It’s interesting, but doesn’t leave a big impression next to the deliciously crispy lamb samosas.

Next for the obvious bits; steamed basmati rice and plenty of naan (baked on site), and poppadoms dipped in raita and a variety of luscious chutneys.

As for the main event, prepare for some indecisiveness.

Fancy a classic? Go for a tasty Biryani or Dishoom’s own Chicken Tikka from the grill. If you dare to be different however, we highly recommend the Chicken Ruby (spicy curry in ‘makhani’ sauce or the zesty Chicken Berry Britannia, served with cranberries.

We were bursting at this point, but we never leave without dessert (we do this all for you, dear readers). Finish off your meal with a pistachio-flavoured kulfi on a stick (imagine a frozen dairy popsicle, but fancier) or cinnamon ice cream. It’s lush.

As for the drinks, there’s an impressive cocktail list – and while the recipes are both inventive and moreish, we’ll probably stick to beer or wine next time. The reason for our cocktail aversion is based on that the flavours from the dishes are already quite powerful (in a good way) and as dedicated foodies, we’d rather focus on that part of the experience.

That being said, both the Colaba Colada and Menakshi’s Mojito are superb and should be on your ‘must-try-tipples’ list.

So, what’s our verdict? Well, we walked away happy, full and a tad tipsy, which is the best way to end an evening (or start it, if you’re keen for a night of clubbing).

We can’t speak for the other Dishoom restaurants, but we’re pretty sure Manchester is the one to beat.