I hadn’t been to England in nearly a decade so when Nishan’s cousin got married in London this summer, I was excited. Not just for the wedding of course, but at the prospect of sneaking in every clandestine meal that I could during our short trip. You see, the London food scene has changed. The signs were already there during my last visit (hello, St. John’s), but now? No more touristy bangers and mash here, no sir.
I only scratched the surface, but I left London feeling like, wow. This city is bursting at the seams with energy and innovation. And that’s just the food.
The line at Dishoom may snake around the block and the wait may be over two hours, but no matter. Jet lagged and delirious, Nishan and I dropped our bags at the hotel and ran straight to Dishoom, London’s ever-popular Indian spot with a strong 1960s Parsi cafe vibe. From the Cyrus Irani cocktail (recognize!) to the watermelon sharbat, the drinks were delicious and playful. The okra fries and the Dishoom calamari were my favorites (is there any vegetable as maligned as okra?) and the lamb samosa and jackfruit biryani were revelations how even the classics can be exciting again. I don’t know if we needed the gunpowder potatoes or the Dishoom chicken tikka, but I do know that if I lived in London, I’d eat here every week.
Irani cafe culture at Dishoom is strong, from the menu to the “good words, good thoughts, and good deeds” nod to Mumbai’s Irani and Parsi Zoroastrian community at the exit of the restaurant.
One gorgeous wedding later, we spent the next day recuperating before heading to dinner with the newly married happy couple.
Do you want the best Peking duck of your life? Head to China Tang at the Dorchester. We enjoyed a brilliantly prepared banquet-style meal with an emphasis on duck prepared three different ways. Because of the low light, all I have is this photo of China Tang’s riff on a gin and tonic, but you get the picture: all the classics, served in fresh ways.
This time around, food in London kept making me think why didn’t I think of that? And that’s what’s brilliant about it. Their food scene has taken the comfortable, the familiar, and turned it upside down on its head in the best of ways.