Dishoom – From Bombay with love
Inspired by Bombay’s old Irani cafes, Dishoom has opened in Edinburgh, in a stunning new venue occupying three storeys of a beautiful 1920s-era listed building at 3a St Andrew Square.
The restaurant has an open kitchen on the ground floor, a first floor dining room with views across St. Andrew Square, and a basement bar and dining space.
Dishoom pays loving homage to the Irani cafés that were once part of the fabric of life in Bombay. Opened early last century by Zoroastrian immigrants from Iran, there were almost 400 of these cafés at their peak in the 1960s. Now fewer than 30 remain.
Each Dishoom has its own unique story to tell. Dishoom Edinburgh pays tribute to the distinguished Scotsman Sir Patrick Geddes (1854-1932). Botanist, ecologist, sociologist, town planner and social reformer, he was a long-time resident of both Edinburgh and Bombay, and had a significant influence on both cities.
Following Geddes’s footsteps, Dishoom Head Babus Kavi Thakrar and Shamil Thakrar and designers, Macaulay Sinclair, travelled to Bombay and spent time in academic institutions and libraries such as the J. N. Petit Reading Room and the David Sassoon Library. They also sourced over 60 original pieces of furniture, fixtures and fittings for Dishoom Edinburgh in Bombay.
In Edinburgh (where Kavi once lived, as an undergraduate at Edinburgh University) the Dishoom team found a wealth of material in the National Library of Scotland, from old Bombay maps to Geddes’s personal ephemera (including letters from Gandhi and Tagore).
Their research also led them to the Scottish Historic Buildings Trust, Strathclyde Archives, the Patrick Geddes Memorial Trust, Edinburgh University archives, and Historic Environment Scotland.
Thus, the design of Dishoom Edinburgh has traditional Irani café details – bentwood chairs, marble tables, ceiling fans, old family portraits, wooden panelling and mirrored pillars – and an academic, slightly bookish flavour, as befits Geddes.
The signage and first-floor window details reference the David Sassoon Library. There are reading lights and bookcases, maps of Bombay from the 1920s, and portraits of Geddes and his family.
Dishoom Edinburgh accommodates 165 diners on the first floor and 78 in the basement dining space. It provides a comfortable all-day space where the Edinburgh community and visitors from farther afield can meet, eat, drink, chat, linger, work, study or read.
A particular feature of the venue is The Permit Room – Dishoom’s idea of an eccentric early 20th century drinking den in Bombay, named after the bars where permit-holders may consume alcohol (if only ‘for preservation and maintenance of one’s health’).
The Permit Room at Dishoom Edinburgh pays homage to Bombay’s rich tradition of Parsi theatre.
Patrick Geddes was a regular theatre-goer and, during the time he lived in Bombay, Parsi theatre was enjoying its heyday as perhaps the principal form of public entertainment.
The Dishoom team visited Bombay institutions like the Capitol Theatre and the Royal Opera House for inspiration, and worked closely with Bombay author Meher Marfatia (whose book Laughter in the House documents Parsi theatre of the 20th century) to curate the artwork that decorates the walls: eccentric characters and hilarious scenes from performances that took place in Bombay (but would not feel out of place at Edinburgh’s Fringe!).
The Permit Room is an interesting addition to Edinburgh’s established cocktail scene, serving daru-walla Carl Brown’s lovingly curated menu of delicious and sincere tipples from early evening until the wee hours every day.
Dishoom’s breakfast menu includes their famous Bacon Naan Roll and Sausage Naan Roll, with meat supplied by local butcher Ramsay of Carluke. There’s Keema Per Eedu: a Parsi power breakfast of eggs and spicy chicken keema studded with delicate morsels of chicken liver; Irani café staple Akuri: spicy scrambled eggs, with soft home-baked bread buns; and plentiful (bottomless!) House Chai.
This is followed by the all-day menu of small plates, grills, biryanis, salad plates, hand-made breads and sides.
Taylor’s Classics specialise in the design, manufacturing and restoration of furniture for the hospitality industry including pubs, restaurants, cafes and hotels. The firm’s collections include traditional and modern classics as well as reclaimed antique furniture.
Taylor’s Classics was founded by Martin Taylor in 1978 as dealers in antiques from the 17th century through to the art deco period. Since 2005 the company has also used its expertise to supply new high quality furniture to the hospitality sector.
For Dishoom Edinburgh, Taylor’s Classics were commissioned to manufacture a wide range of bespoke furniture including chairs and tables. Previous clients for the company include Soho House, Living Ventures, Geronimo Inns and many other restaurant, hotel and pub companies.
Roger Belham, from Taylor’s Classics, commented:
“This project was another great opportunity to be involved with Dishoom, who have very clear concepts for each new restaurant that they open. We always enjoy being involved with creative and challenging projects that enable us to use the skills of our craftsmen and help to produce elegant and functional interiors for our customers.”
“We pride ourselves in providing furniture of the highest quality and making life straightforward for our customers. We hope to help produce stunning interiors that will work for many years to come.”