Eagerly-awaited restaurant Dishoom will soon open in Manchester Hall, the 1920s Grade II listed building originally used as a Freemasons’ Hall.
Like their other restaurants in London and Edinburgh, this newest member of the Dishoom family will pay loving homage to the old Irani cafés of Bombay, and will be open every day from early until late with capacity for 200 diners.
What can diners expect? We took a look round the new restaurant and bar before it officially opens to find out.
The Dishoom team loves exploring the connections between their restaurant locales and Bombay, so they visited Bombay’s Freemasonry Hall – the Lodge Rising Star – for inspiration. Many of its charming or eccentric characteristics have informed the design for Dishoom Manchester.
They have brought over 150 items to decorate the Manchester branch, from lights and fans to pieces of furniture, some which have been purchased from the ‘thieves market’ bazaar in Mumbai. A huge wooden sign hangs in the entrance hall, and features a masonic symbol. Fitting for its new home.
The first room diners come to is the family room, a bright space which will serve breakfast – including the famous Dishoom bacon naan – from 8am daily.
Other breakfast dishes include a Parsi power breakfast of eggs and spicy chicken keema studded with delicate morsels of chicken liver; Irani cafe staple akuri: spicy scrambled eggs, with soft home-baked bread buns; and plentiful bottomless house chai.
“It will bring in the feeling of the family rooms in the original Irani cafes,” says Dishoom co-founder Kavi Thakrar.
A large square clock is from the Bombay Cotton Exchange, says Kavi – another link between Manchester and Mumbai is the history of cotton trading.
The Permit Room bar upstairs – 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 classic cocktails such as the East India gimlet, hoppy butter paanch and monsoon martini.
New tipples just for Manchester include Beram’s cobbler with mango, pineapple and dry manzanilla; and Chevalier’s sour, with raspberries, tamarind and Rangpur gin.
The Permit Room will also serve a range of ‘dry cocktails’, including a sober martini, dry old fashioned and virtuous tulsi Sour.
We tried a raspberry soda, which Kavi tells us is only usually served in irani cafes in Bombay. Called Pallonji’s, and established in 1865, the label on the retro glass bottle proudly boasts “contains no fruit”. It’s delicious – like childhood sweets.
The main dining room is called the Brother Cursetjee Dining Hall, named after the first Indian Mason. It’s a grand space which can seat 150 diners, with dark wooden furniture and colourful leather banquettes.
There are specially-commissioned portraits of the Indian Masons’ Grand Masters hanging around the room, and a large bar at one end, illuminated by the original stained glass windows of the hall. The original polished wooden floor had previously been covered by a dance floor.
The dining room will serve an all-day menu of small plates, grills, biryanis, salad plates, hand-made breads and sides.
“A lot of our menu is the core Bombay comfort food that people come to us for,” says Kavi.
There’s a special dish, just for Manchester, too: a decadent nalli nihari biryani. Think tender shank of lamb layered with rice and caramelised onions then sealed beneath a pastry blanket. It will be served with a rich 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 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.
The old photographs adorning the walls in all the rooms are of the owners’ families, and those of their staff. It’s a lovely personal touch. The Manchester restaurant currently has a staff of around 90 people, many recruited locally, says co-founder Shamil Thakrar.
The staff have all spent time training at the London restaurants, so that the customer experience is consistent.
“The people here are way nicer, though!” says Kavi. “I love coming to Manchester.”
We can’t argue with that.
Dishoom will open on Thursday 6th December. Diners will receive 50% off food at breakfast, lunch and dinner during soft launch, which will run from 9am on Sunday 25th November until 4pm on Wednesday 5th December. Walk-ins only.