There are some things you don’t mess with. How to make the perfect brew (teabag, hot water, then milk obvs); Yorkshire puddings (for the love of god, don’t open the oven door too early, you’ll just embarrass yourself); cream tea etiquette (jam followed by cream on a scone – we’re not philistines). Then there’s the English breakfast. Bacon butties, fried egg sandwiches, sausage sandwiches – we know what we’re about when it comes to brekkie/brunch/hangover cure.
I’m pretty hardcore when it comes to the morning after. I’ve been known to shout “whip me up a fried egg sandwich, keep the yolks runny and don’t spare the fecking ketchup” at random people in greasy spoons, hopeful that someone in my bloodshot bulls-eye is actually listening. And that cry for help can come at any time – during a post-bender pre-noon hell or an insomnia-fuelled sweaty night post-dawn awfulness. Wherever it is, whenever it was, my order doesn’t deviate. Why would it? There are legions of men and women out there who guard their fry-ups with a hungry glare, whether it’s a bacon roll heavy on the HP or a sausage sandwich drowning in red sauce.
So it’s fair to say that on the morning I visit Dishoom for breakfast, I have the fear. Granted, the decor is a cut above the usual sticky floors, nailed-down tables and melamine crockery. This Grade II listed building sat in Manchester city centre’s core is as far from my Stoke Newington go-to hangover heaven as it’s possible to be. For a start, as I cross the threshold it smells good, and by good I mean clean. Perhaps it’s because I’m sober. This is no vomity morning-after room, replete with the scent of chip fat, self-loathing and tears. Hell, no. This is a world of secret handshakes, undercover rituals and ceremony; Manchester’s Dishoom (part of a burgeoning chain) has made its home in a former Freemasons Hall.
Oh my but it’s all dark panelling and intimate dining. Based on the heritage of the Irani cafes in Bombay (think early 20th century elegance, lethargic fans and sepia-printed photos), Dishoom is a far cry from the Northern spit and sawdust across the way (mind you, having tried said greasy spoon over the square, I’d go back with bells on). And as far as its breakfasts go, it’s not yer run-of-the-mill fare. From Parsi Omelettes to Keema Per Eeedu (look them up, they are proper brilliant), Dishoom is dishing it up in a superlative way. The Vegan Bombay was on my wish-list and was so good that, half-way through, I forgot I wasn’t eating real eggs and cheese. What was this, some kind of sub-continental magic? Meanwhile, my dining companion was filling his boots with the bacon naan roll. I attempted to elicit a comment from him but, as he masticated like mad, I came to the conclusion that he was a happy bunny.
There was more, oh god there was more. Urged to try the best-selling dish on the brekkie menu, I took one for the team and accepted the egg naan roll. I was trepidatious: was I betraying all I stood for by accepting a fried egg in a breakfast naan? And was I betraying my Northern heritage by allowing them to call it an egg roll? My mind was roiling.
But then, then, it arrived. Don’t tell me Dad but this was the best breakfast egg roll that I’ve ever had. Ever. And that includes the egg butty I inhaled after a night downing tequila shots in a sub-standard London hotel with the cast of a long-forgotten Joss Whedon film.
I’m still not entirely sure what ‘Dishoom’ means. An unscientific Google search suggests that, in Bollywood-speak, it translates to ‘pow’, evoking the sound that heroes and villains make in films when they pummel the hell out of each other. I’m happy to be corrected but, um, OK to stick with t’interweb definition. Dishoom. Pow. Mic drop.
Images by John Carey