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Top 100: Kavi and Shamil Thakrar, Dishoom

19 April 2018 by
Top 100: Kavi and Shamil Thakrar, Dishoom

Overall ranking: 96 (new entry)

Restaurateur ranking: 29 (new entry)

Snapshot

Kavi and Shamil Thakrar are the co-founders of London restaurant group Dishoom. In the space of seven years, they have taken it from a standalone concept on Shaftesbury Avenue to a six-strong group eyeing UK-wide expansion. Inspired by the cafés of early 20th-century Bombay (now Mumbai), the restaurants' strong performances have seen turnover rise 47% year on year to £27.8m in 2017. A new 200-cover site opened earlier this year in London's Kensington, and plans are afoot for a new restaurant in Manchester Hall, the city's new Grade II-listed eating hub.

What we think

Dishoom is a heavily stylised collection of restaurants that take inspiration from Bombay's Irani cafés - a late-colonial phenomenon that themselves drew on Europe's grand café culture. Launching on Shaftesbury Avenue in 2010, and filled with furniture imported from Mumbai, the restaurant was an immediate hit, replacing the usual laddish pints of lager with Indian-inspired cocktails and the male-centric demographic with a cosmopolitan mix of diners ready to vicariously experience the Indian city's lesser-known café culture from breakfast through to dinner.

All of this from two cousins with little previous hospitality experience. Both scions of the Tilda rice family, Shamil spent time as a management consultant with Bain while Kavi did a four-year stint at the World Bank. They teamed up with brothers Adarsh and Amar Radia (who have recently left the business) to launch Dishoom in 2010. "The fact that we are coming from it afresh and thinking about it differently means we are not approaching it like other restaurant people," Shamil told The Caterer in 2016.

The spot for their first restaurant, a busy site in the heart of London's theatre district, says everything about the pair's confidence; this at a time when Covent Garden was still finding its feet as a dining destination for Londoners.

A love affair with Mumbai permeates everything about Dishoom - from the eggs on chilli cheese toast lifted from the city's Willingdon Club at breakfast to the vada pav, Mumbai's equivalent of the chip butty. The duo told The Caterer that they visit Mumbai twice before opening a site in order to draw inspiration for how it should feel. It is this authenticity and passion that has won over a legion of fans. A second site followed in London's Shoreditch in 2012, and openings continued at a pace of roughly one a year - in King's Cross, Soho, Kensington (all London) and Edinburgh, with plans for a Manchester opening. In 2017, the pair received a nomination for Restaurateur of the Year - Group at the Cateys. While Shamil told the Financial Times in 2016 that he didn't want the restaurant to become a chain, he said he wouldn't rule out opening a chain with a different concept.

Further information

Dishoom to open sixth site in Kensington >>

Two Dishoom co-founders exit the business >>

Once upon a time in Bombay… the story behind Indian restaurant Dishoom >>

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