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Basement Biryani blowout in Soho:
I was really excited to be invited to review Dum Biryani House, a new casual Indian restaurant in the heart of Soho focusing both on Hyderabadi Biryani as well as snacks, and starters from the Andhra Pradesh region. I’m not a specialist in Indian gastronomy but was aware that many of the country’s regions have their own take on the Biryani and that it is an important dish in Indian food culture. The Hyderabad iteration of this classic rice and meat dish has royal roots and comes from the kitchens of the Nizam, the local ruler, in a fusion of Mughlai and Iranian cooking. The meat is spiced overnight, then soaked in yoghurt, layered with the rice in a pot which is then sealed with pastry and cooked over hot coals (dum).The restaurant is on the site of one of my favourite Soho haunts of the last few years, Old Tom & English, a sexy 1960s Barbarella styled joint serving modern European small plates and attitudinal cocktails. But all good things must come to an end and the new owners have transformed the Wardour St venue into a stripped back Biryani basement with Indian pop art on the walls. The menu is shockingly simple; mains are a choice of one of two biryani thalis: Lamb Shank and Seasonal Veg, though on the day we visited there was a chicken option. They are served with a Mirch Salan (spicy curry with padron chillies) and a Raita (Yoghurt Dip). You should know that eating a biryani is not for lightweights so be prepared to fill your boots!
They have a short selection of wines and spice-infused cocktails (including an intriguing sounding Saffron Old Fashioned!). As we munched on some deliciously hot and crunchy Masala nuts I tried a Pehla Nasha, a spiced sweet take on a Negroni. This really didn’t work for me. It was too sweet and the spicing messed up the alcohol blend. A straightforward Sweet Lassi worked much better.
We tried a range of starters including Kodi Vepudu (moreish chicken wings in a spicy and sour masala), a light and crisp Dahi Kebab (spiced fried yoghurt patties with a sweet Andhra tomato chutney) and a hot and tangy Andhra Prawn Fry (King Prawns cooked in coconut and red chillies). My favourite was the Kala Channa Masala (a black chickpea salad with coriander) that had a lovely crunch and a deep heat.Next up was the main event- a Lamb Shank Biryani and a Seasonal Vegetable Biryani. There was a palpable sense of excitement as we cut into the pastry. Steam wafted out bearing the biryani flavours to our expectant nostrils…The rice was fluffy and the veg and lamb fragrant with the spicing. It was delicious. For dessert, we tried Rabdi-an Indian milk pudding that was thick and creamy. Despite being very full it got finished…If you want to eat Biryani in London without going out east or west in a hip Soho space then DUM Biryani House is a great choice. It adds another option to the terrific range on offer in Soho. Aren’t we lucky?
DUM Biryani House
87B Wardour St, Soho,
London W1F 8ZB
020 3638 0974