Review: Night at the Bombay Roxy (Dishoom Kensington)
Indian restaurant Dishoom opens its new branch in Kensington with an immersive dining experience
Each of the individual Dishoom Indian restaurants is uniquely and lovingly designed with care and attention to reflect the old, mostly lost, Irani cafés of Bombay. These were cafes run by immigrants from Iran, set up in the early 1900s, which had their heyday in the 1960s. Each Dishoom – there's a few in London now and one in Edinburgh – has a faded elegance, offering a taste of a history so different to our current present that entering one feels a little like stepping into a time machine.
And that's exactly why a Dishoom restaurant is an apt place to stage an immersive dining experience. The set, the ambiance, the attention to detail has already been achieved. Rather than a blank canvas, it's a rich tapestry waiting to be embellished a little further. Director Eduard Lewis, with the help of Swamp Studios, has done that in Dishoom's latest place – in the old Barkers building in Kensington.
The restaurant soft launches with Night at the Bombay Roxy, where diners get a three-course meal and a theatre piece all in one. In the play, the audience are punters hoping for a good meal and a bit of jazz in a club-cum-restaurant owned by Cyrus Irani in 1949. Irani is only just out of prison but determined to leave his wild ways behind him and make his venue a success. The only problem is that The Inspector and his assistant Romesh are both intent on catching the former criminal red-handed. Plus, to muddy the waters further, there's a murderer just escaped from the local prison.
There are two moments ahead of the meal, where we encounter snippets of context and background in the form of little vignettes. Then the main action happens all around diners as they sit in the high-ceilinged hall and are served the most delicious Indian food. The restaurant itself is a 1940s art deco delight, softly lit and coloured in sandy browns and warm oranges.
The main thing to say is that the £72 cost per head for a ticket is mostly worth it because of the food. If you're partial to a good curry, and you haven't already been to Dishoom, it's absolutely worth heading to one of the branches. Whether or not you should pay slightly over the odds (it's not a cheap-as-chips restaurant) to eat whilst also have a show played out around you is a moot point. If you're not one to be disturbed during your biryani, then I'd leave this one well alone.
But Lewis has managed to time Night at the Bombay Roxy well, so that food doesn't encroach too much on play and vice versa. The majority of the performance happens in between courses which are all delivered like clockwork by a team of dedicated and excellent waiting staff. Performances are also very nice – with Vikash Bhai offering a convincing reformed man Cyrus and Manish Gandhi creating an excellent young offender – driven by the need for revenge but crippled by his inherent naivety.
The play itself is very flimsy, propped up with some beautiful interjections of jazz sung by Sophie Khan Levy and composed by Dom James. The ending descends into melodrama, as a gun is frantically waved over our heads in the hall, and everyone suddenly ends up happy and dancing. There's confetti and music but really, you can't begrudge Night at the Bombay Roxy it's plot failings. Not when your belly is as full as it is of the most delicious nosh.
Night at the Bombay Roxy runs at Dishoom Kensington until 14 December.