Inside one of Manchester’s hidden gems.
Manchester Hall, a 1920s Grade II listed building, was once the secret meeting place of the ancient brotherhood of the Freemasons. Now, the space is home to Dishoom, an Irani-Indian restaurant that pays loving homage to the old Irani cafés of Bombay
[Feature image: Photo: harryjonesxo_]
Opened early last century by Zoroastrian immigrants from Iran, there were almost 400 Irani cafés at their peak in the 1960s. Today, fewer than 30 remain. These cafés broke down barriers by bringing people together over food and drink. They were the first places in Bombay where people of any culture, class or religion could take cool refuge from the street with a cup of chai, a simple snack or a hearty meal. People from all walks of life shared tables, rubbed shoulders and broke bread together.
Like the old Irani cafés, Dishoom is breaking down barriers: in its restaurants, which employ and serve people from all walks of life, at its events, and through charity. 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. Dishoom work with two fantastic 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 dining rooms are open every day, from early until late, serving Executive Chef Naved Nasir’s first-class menus of Bombay comfort food. The breakfast menu includes Dishoom’s famous Bacon Naan Roll and Sausage Naan Roll. As well as Keema Per Eedu: a Parsi power breakfast of eggs and spicy chicken keema studded with delicate morsels of chicken liver; Irani caféstaple Akuri: spicy scrambled eggs, with soft home-baked bread buns; and plentiful (bottomless!) House Chai.
The all-day menu consists of small plates, grills, biryanis, salad plates, hand-made bread and sides. As well as Dishooms signature House Black Daal and the Chef’s Special of Nalli Nihari Biryani, a famously hearty and robust dish is synonymous with celebration. The indulgent special consists of a tender shank of lamb layered with rice and caramelised onions then sealed beneath a pastry blanket. It is then enriched further with kaleji (chicken liver), raita and nihari gravy on the side.
And in the Permit Room bar – 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 – serves a lovingly-curated list of cocktails.
Including as old favourites such as the East India Gimlet, Hoppy Butter Paanch and Monsoon Martini, the Permit Room also serves a range of Dry Cocktails. These include the Sober Martini, Dry Old Fashioned and Virtuous Tulsi Sour. Each one is a clever drink with a top-secret spirit base that looks and tastes like alcohol, but does not contain a single drop.
Also published on Medium.