The area now known as King’s Cross is approximately 2 km north-west of the original Roman settlement of Londonium, and it’s thought to have been the site of a crossing of the Fleet River. It is also believed to be the location of the battle between Queen Boudicca and the Romans. Monks arrived in Essex in AD 597 with the relics of Saint Pancras and constructed a church where St Pancras Old Church stands today, making it one of the oldest places of Christian worship in Europe.
A map from the mid-1700s shows the area as open fields but with the completion of the Regent’s Canal in 1820, King’s Cross was linked to major industrial cities in the North and became a hub of activity. A statue of King George IV was erected at the Battle Bridge crossroads in 1830. The statue was evidently not popular and was demolished in 1842, but the new name ‘King’s Cross’ remained.
The area went into decline in the mid-20th century and many buildings fell into disrepair after businesses closed. It’s not too long ago when Kings Cross was an edgy, dirty neighbourhood where worse-for-wear derelicts housed themselves in every cold doorway and ladies of the night met their ‘customers’. Such was its unsavoury reputation that decent folk would linger for only moments at the station and if you were a female commuter you dare not slow down to look at the departures board for fear of the inevitable proposition of ‘Have you got the time darlin’?’
The 67-acre King’s Cross site has recently undergone one of the largest re-generation programmes in Europe and the area is fast becoming one of the most desirable business and residential neighbourhoods in London. It boasts high-end shops and restaurants of every culinary hue. It has guarded the old industrial architecture, which remains a link to the past and creates a unique environment for work and play.
Dishoom is the latest branch of the now well-established Old Irani Cafés of Bombay. They were originally opened last century by Zoroastrian immigrants from Iran to India. In fact they have almost all disappeared from that city but have found new fame and followers in London. This new Dishoom at King’s Cross opened on 20th November.
Regulars at the first Dishoom in Covent Garden will notice a few signature design features. There are still old family photos, marble-topped tables and a few banquettes alongside smaller tables. But Kings Cross, at least in my opinion, is more striking with a more exotic ambiance. The former stable takes advantage of bare bricks and dark wood studded with Indian accents. Indian, yes, but this is as far from a themed Indian Disney Land as one could get.
So one has admired the décor, and now one will want food. The menu will be familiar to regulars – Dishoom, it seems, has become a London institution. They have, obviously, lots of their famed breakfast items but we wanted lunch. Okra Fries will convert anyone who insists they hate these small green veggies. They are crunchy and slightly spiced but served with chutney for added zing. Prawn Koliwada from the fisherman’s district of Mumbai is a bowl of crispy fried seafood with tamarind and date chutney alongside.
Ruby Murray is the Cockney rhyming slang for curry – as this is London one must have a succulent Ruby from time to time and in this case a flavourful Chicken Ruby. Tender chicken in a rich creamy ‘makhani’ sauce needs rice or bread for dipping in the generous gravy. The naans at Dishoom are always outstanding and freshly made.
Dishes at Dishoom have flavour rather than overpowering heat but we still wanted something refreshing with which to finish. Kala Khatta Gola Ice is a must-try. It’s a confection that was new to me but one for which I would like the recipe. Shaved ice is laced with kokum fruit syrup, blueberries, chilli, lime, and white and black salt. This is truly addictive.
I had not visited the rejuvenated Kings Cross before and I am stunned by the transformation. It’s vibrant and attractive but, to quote estate agents, ‘retaining many original features’. Dishoom fits well into this classy corner.
Dishoom Kings Cross
5 Stable Street
London N1C 4AB
Phone: 020 7420 9321
Visit Dishoom here