There is no shortage of Indian restaurants in London, varying from the stalwarts (Bombay Brasserie, Khan’s) to the new school (Dishoom, Kricket). Dum Biryani, right in the heart of Soho, entered the fold nearly two years ago, towards the end of 2016 and has neatly established itself among the latter group.
Every restaurant needs a USP though, and Dum’s appears on first glance to be that it specialises in biryani, one of the world’s great rice dishes. Or is it the fact that it’s now offering a brunch menu, possibly designed to be its version of the much-heralded Dishoom breakfast? Or perhaps it’s the mostly hip-hop playlist; a sign outside the restaurant ponders, “When was the last time you ate biryani while listening to Tupac?” Well, most weekends throughout the Nineties in all honesty, but you get the point.
The real question should be: when was the last time you ate biryani for brunch? All too rarely, but the version here will make you think you’ve been missing a trick. The lamb shank is full of fantastically fragrant rice and the meat itself is cooked to the ideal point where teeth aren’t entirely required to eat with. It’s accompanied by a magenta beetroot raita, perhaps not as refreshing as a regular version, and a deliciously earthy peanut and sesame seed curry. It’s a great version of a biryani and one Dum is rightly proud to pin its name on.
Of course, there’s more to the menu than just rice, and starters here are particularly worth exploring. The butter garlic soft shell crab is a highlight: the crab is deep fried without being greasy and the garlic marries well with the sweet flavour of the shellfish. The paneer pav is also worth ordering. The mild cheese works as the perfect vehicle for masala spices, tomatoes, onions and peppers, mixed until it resembles scrambled eggs. The “pav” refers to the soft, buttered buns that accompany and add depth to the dish.
On our visit, the waiter insisted we absolutely had to try the tandoori chicken – spatchcocked and roasted until the colour of lava. It’s clearly the result of a decent marinading process, with the crispy skin, flavoured with a dry masala, giving way to juicy flesh. Even the white meat is juicy. It’s served with a coconut and mustard seed chutney which was take it or leave it – and I’d suggest the latter, as the chicken doesn’t need it. It’s good enough that I would advocate they looked to open Dum Chicken House.
A brunch menu never seems complete without a bottomless option and Dum offers a Hyderabadi rum punch. Think Um Bongo for grown ups. Delicious and dangerously easy to drink. For non-drinkers, there’s the usual selection of lassi and soft drinks, including Thums Up Cola.
Dum is rightly deserving of its place as one of the new wave of Indian restaurants in London and its brunch option should be thought of as one of London’s most interesting. Come for the biryani, stay for the hip hop, chicken and brilliant small plates.
187B Wardour St, Soho, London W1F 8ZB; dumlondon.com; open daily; 020 3638 0974
The crispiest sweet potato rosti with poached eggs and guac
Time: 40 mins
4 sweet potatoes
Dried chilli flakes
2 large avocados
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 200C. Peel and grate the sweet potatoes with a normal box grater. Add the grated potato into a bowl. Crack in three eggs. Add a handful of chopped parsley, a handful of chopped spring onions and 1tsp of dried chilli flakes. Season with salt, pepper and olive oil. Mix everything together.
Line a baking sheet with baking paper. Make 8 fishcake-sized rostis, and line them up on the sheet. They will be quite loose at this point, but don’t worry. Just squeeze them into shape and whack in the oven. They will become firm and crisp up. Bake for 30 minutes, turning after 20 minutes.
Guac time. Scoop the flesh out of the avocados and mash in a bowl. Add a handful of chopped chives and the juice of a lemon, and season with salt, pepper and olive oil. Mash everything together and set aside.
Boil a pan of water. Carefully crack two eggs into separate glasses. With a fork or a whisk, create a little whirlpool in the water. Pour the eggs into the water, not in the centre of the whirlpool, but on the edge. The water will fold the white over the yolk and should form a nice little ball.
Cook for 3 minutes on a medium heat. To check if they’re done, just gently lift the egg with a spoon. If the white is still a bit wobbly, leave it for 10 more seconds. If it’s firm, remove from the heat. Repeat for the remaining six eggs. It might be quicker to get two pans going simultaneously.
Assembly time. Spoon a good helping of guac on top of the rosti. And then put your egg on top. Allow two rostis and two eggs per person. Sprinkle some extra chives and dried chilli flakes over the top, and tuck in.
Extracted from ‘MOB Kitchen: Feed 4 or more for under £10’ by Ben Lebus, published by Pavilion. Photographs by Haarala Hamilton
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