DUM Biryani House
Single-dish restaurants seem to be the current trend right now, and have been popping up all over London. It all started with the Burger & Lobster back in 2011, followed by the infamous Cereal Killer Cafe in 2011, and since then, we’ve got the Cheese Bar (so many toasties!), Heinz Baked Bean Cafe, and Hipchips, yup, a whole restaurant dedicated to crisps. As absurd as it may seem, there is some sort of appeal about mono restaurants. You can go there with the most annoyingly, indecisive date – i.e. me – and have a straightforward dinner without any fussing. You also avoid any form of food FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out, I learnt that one recently).
Dhruv Mittal, who’s worked in the kitchen of Fat Duck, Benares, and Darbaar, is the brains behind Dum Biryani House; a one-dish restaurant specialising in hyderabadi biryanis. The meat and rice is placed in layers in a handi and sealed with a layer of pastry, before being placed on a low heat to slow-cook. The steam trapped inside helps intensify the flavours, and is supposedly more healthy than the usual biryani.
Of course, I was dying to go there. I wanted to be part of all single-dish fun too, so took my good friend SM along with me. It’s easy to miss but once you find DUM Biryani House and descend downstairs, you’re greeted with colourful Indian pop art plastering the wall. We got seated and quickly ordered.
I’ll admit that I completely missed the “dahi (yoghurt)” part of the menu description, and when I bit into the cute little patties, I discovered that this was the vegetarian dahi kebab – oops! Nevertheless, the heavily seasoned yoghurt cakes were delicious and tasted good with the sweet tomato chutney it had been served with.
I suggest ordering a few starters to nibble on whilst you wait for your mains as they 25 minutes to be prepared. Finally, both biryanis arrived, piping hot, with a layer of golden pastry, studded with nigella seeds, to seal in all the delicious aromas.
The lamb biryani was served with a smoked aubergine raita, mirch unda salan (a green chilli curry with half a boiled egg), and kachumbar. Dum Biryani House uses an entire lamb shank per biryani, so you can expect a good meat to rice ratio, and one of these plates between two is more than enough. Digging in, the biryani was decent; full of tender lamb and saffron-infused rice, but I was not wowed by what I had eaten. There was a lack of masala thus making the rice quite dry, and I felt the lamb needed to be softer like biryani meat usually is.
When I had visited, there were only two biryani options of lamb and vegetarian. Seeing as my dining companion opted for the meat, I bravehearted it and ordered the vegetable dum biryani. It arrived with pappad, raita with fried okra, mirch salan (a peanut and chilli based gravy accompaniment), and kachumbar. The biryani itself certainly looked impressive and was fun to dig through the buttery puff pastry, however, I felt that it fell quite flat in terms of flavour, masala, and spices. Like the lamb’s, this biryani rice was dry too and was missing that essential masala, even after giving it a good mix.
A cute pot of Indian milk dessert topped with crushed pistachios and dollop of sweet berry jam. A light way to end the meal, but did not wow me.
The total bill amounted to approximately £50 for two people, including drinks and service, so £25 each. Not super expensive, given how large their portions are, but can seem quite pricey for a causal dinner. I can see why people enjoy Dum Biryani House; it’s the first of it’s kind and a very straightforward and novelty concept, but for me personally, I would only revisit if I happen to be in the area.
Address: 187B Wardour St, Soho, London W1F 8ZB W
Telephone: 020 3638 0974
Closest Station: Tottenham Court Road Underground
Parking: Difficult but pay and display is your best bet.