DUM Biryani is a funky Indian restaurant in a basement on Soho’s Wardour Street, celebrating the regional cooking of Hyderabad, in particular the signature Hyderabadi biryanis. “What is a hyderabadi biryani?”, I hear you cry. We’ll get to that. Let me drink my negroni first, or rather my “Pehla Nasha”, a twist on the classic with cardamom-laced Opihr gin, pear liqueur and chilli syrup alongside the usual Campari and Cocchi di Torino. Beware, some of DUM’s cocktails have rather cheeky names – I’ll leave you to Google “Haramzaade ” and “Gande Sapne”. The latter incidentally was a lovely Espresso Martini delicately infused with cardamom and sesame seeds.
We had our drinks alongside a trio of excellent starters or “snacks”. Their mutton fry, slow cooked in Andhra masala and served with paratha, was superb though a little too hot for my shoddy tolerance levels – plain yoghurt came to save the day. A milder bowl of juicy king prawns stir fried with red chilli and coconut also impressed, and dahi kebabs (yoghurt patties) with tamatar pachadi (tomato chutney) disappeared in seconds. Who knew you could fry yoghurt? As my dining partner wisely said, if these were dishes on the menu at Hoppers, the social media crowd would be going wild. And we’d still be queuing outside…
DUM have recently launched an absurd lunch offer that is an instant London Cheap Eats classic. From 12pm – 3pm every day, DUM serve up an enormous and flavoursome biryani thali, with moreish aloo ka raita, and homemade papads, for just five pounds. FIVE POUNDS. The style will change monthly – we turned up on day one of the deal and had Kachche Murgh: “a variation often found on the streets near Charminar, a monument considered the landmark of Hyderabad”. It’s an aromatic biryani, featuring chicken that’s marinated over night in a heady blend of over 30 spices, before being sealed and cooked over coals in a large pan (a technique known as “dum”), with rice, saffron, ghee, rose water, mint, and a special biryani masala.
That would easily have been enough to share between two, with a couple of sides, but in the interests of a thorough investigation, we also ordered a Lamb Shank Biryani. We may or may not have taken some of it home. For a bit more theatre, they create individual portions of their signature biryanis, sealing in the steam with a pastry lid. As we all know, anything can be improved with pastry, though it’s the first time I’ve ever broken through a pastry layer to find an entire lamb shank waiting for me. It certainly won’t be the last. As with everything that came before, this was a masterclass in how to implement several spices without ever overpowering or confusing the dish. On the side of this monster biryani, small pots of spiced okra yoghurt and a moreish aubergine, peanut and sesame seed curry provide excuses to keep dipping your fork back in to the mix.
We were, of course, completely stuffed, but there’s always room for dessert. Though I usually stay away from rosewater, I can highly recommend the Rabdi, an Indian milk pudding that’s subtly flavoured with cardamom and rosewater, and ably supported by pistachio crumbs and caramelised rose petals. It has an unexpectedly luxurious texture as a result of a slow boiling method – something not to be missed.
DUM Biryani is a great option for an inventive, filling, and flavoursome feed in Soho, with snacks and desserts that threaten to steal the show from their impressive signature dish. And that £5 lunch offer is simply ridiculous – long may it continue!
DUM Biryani – dumlondon.com
187B Wardour St. London W1F 8ZB