The best Indian restaurants in London
Women are running the best of the new wave of Indian restaurants in London: these are the dozen to celebrate Diwali at
Modern Indian fusion arrives in Chelsea and both the food and decor are breathtakingly good. Located opposite the iconic Cadogan Hall in Chelsea, just off Sloane Square, Peter Joseph (ex Tamarind head chef) is inspired by his upbringing in Tamil Nadu, Indian's southernmost state.
Kahani means story in Hindi, and the restaurant is based on Joseph’s philosophy of 'community eating to celebrate, bring people together, break boundaries and share stories.'
For Diwali, there's a superb value 6 course £60 menu including a morel cake and seasonal vegetable biriyani with fresh mint and coriander.
Do be sure to try the savoury doughnuts with yoghurt, mint, tamarind chutney, and the soft shell crab with Mangalorean spices.
The room is gorgeous and luxurious too with burnt orange walls and a wine room on show. One caveat, there are steepish stairs down to the basement jewel of a dining room.
Dinner for two: from £100
Serving authentic Calcutta-Hyderabad-Rajput North Indian food, Darjeeling Express has to be one of London's most endearing and welcoming success stories. It is run by Calcutta-born self-taught chef Asma Khan: a strong, warm, philanthropic woman of tireless energy and ideas who will be the first British female on the Netflix sensation Chef's Table. Darjeeling Express started out as a supper club for 12 at Khan's home, which became enormously popula. It is now a beautiful buzzing restaurant decorated with nostalgic photos of her family home, found on the third floor of Kingly Court off Carnaby Street.
No one in the all-women kitchen is a trained chef – instead, they all learnt from their grandmothers. Dishes are gloriously home-style, like spiced tiger prawns in coconut milk. The menu reflects the seasonality of British vegetables (no jetlagged okra here), and Asma is usually on hand to chat to customers.
Look out for the Sunday lunch, tea or evening takeovers with women from around the world cooking their dishes: from Divali tea by @littlecaketin (11 Nov); to Jewish Channukah (2 Dec); and Brockley's Masalawala Cafe's Pakistani specialities (15 Dec).
Dinner for two including drinks from £50
Indian Accent has serious pedigree. The original Delhi restaurant featured in the World's 50 Best, a New York outpost has been phenomenally successful and it is now elegantly ruffling expectations of fine dining in Mayfair . The presentation of dishes is breathtaking, as is the gold bar and the pearlescent walls – all very Rajasthani Palace.
The sense of a very special journey begins with a shot of pumpkin and carrot soup of delectable intensity, served with a miniature bite of blue cheese nan. The menu is full of dishes that are both earthy and elegant, such as the umami-rich Kashmiri porcini with truffle dust and parmesan. Mehotra and his head chef embrace British seasonality, whether game or vegetables, and are dazzlingly inventive. The tasting menu is the way to go and the ethereal cloud of saffron milk froth dessert is extraordinary.
Brunch is offered now too. This is truly exceptional Indian cooking with courteous, knowledgeable service, fantastic cocktails and a well constructed wine list too.
Dinner for two: from £150
Specialising in coastal seafood dishes this was the first restaurant of the Sethi siblings who have become phenomenally successful as both owners of some of London's most exciting Indian restaurants, and as investors in other new restaurants such as Bao. It is relaxed yet sophisticated and the food is phenomenally good even though Karem Sethi is rarely in the kitchen now.
Be sure to order scallops cooked on the tandoor and Meen Manga curry with hake, raw mango and Malabar tamarind. The sweet samosas filled with nutty coconut and mango are also a must.
Dinner for two: from £100
The ravishingly beautiful Ravinder Bhogal – chef/cookbook author and tv personality– first 'discovered' by Gordon Ramsay, runs Jikoni as if it is set up in her front room. The gorgeous decor is decidedly homey in the best possible sense with lots of floral prints and plants. Bhogal proudly says she cooks 'food that is the melting point of immigrants': a mix of her East Kenyan and British heritage plus a good smattering of Middle Eastern, as she is fascinated by the ingredients.
Her inventive Scotch eggs are a huge draw, especially the prawn toast with quail's egg and banana chutney. Crisp soft shell crab with peanut sauce is wonderful too as is the carefully nuanced spiced shepherd's pie. Superb desserts include banana cake with Ovaltine kulfi and miso sauce, and paan madeleines with masala chai.
Dinner for two including drinks from £60
What makes Kricket different is their small plates take on Indian cuisine is informed by the best and more recherché British seasonal ingredients. An instant hit when they first opened in Pop Brixton, Rik Campbell and chef Will Bowlby have taken Kricket to Soho and now to a considerably larger and more glamorous space within the former BBC TV studios. Here, there is a marble topped wraparound bar surrounding the open kitchen, cosy banquette seating and a large terrace too.
The samphire pakora absolutely has to be tried, served with a tamarind, chilli and garlic dipping sauce; ethereally light, crunchy and green. More adventurous still is Porthilly oyster served with Goan spiced sausage and fresh coconut, or the kid goat with goat's curd cheese and mint. Keralan fried chicken with curry leave remains a winner as well. They’re also debuting a number of new vegetarian dishes such as grilled pumpkin with makhani sauce, fresh paneer and hazelnuts. The saffron ice-cream is mesmerisingly heady and good.
Dinner for two: £89
Husband and wife team Harneet and Devina Baweja have a winning way with bringing characterful home-style Indian dishes to life without breaking the budget. So much so that they were awarded a Bib Gourmand from Michelin in their first year in Spitalfields.
One Tower Bridge is the spectacular site for their large second restaurant with plenty of room for convivial Thursday-Sunday breakfasts and Sunday brunch too.
Nirmal Save's brunch menu focuses on sharing feasting dishes from whole suckling pig vindaloo (for 6-8 people), to Kashmiri duck with ginger, aloo Bukhara (plums) and walnuts.
Breakfast specials provide a twist on favourites, including baked eggs South Indian style with salli and toasted brioche, and cardamom pancakes with caramelised banana and honey. There's also spiced banana bread with curry leaf butter. Breakfast pre Tate Modern has never been so exotic.
For an extra kick, there are classic brunch cocktails with a twist – such as cardamom mimosas, or the Bloody Batra.
Dinner for two: £100
Dishoom create brilliant Bombay styled cafes, each with completely different and dazzling stories to their decor. The newest Kensington High Street branch is super-glamorous and based on Deco Bollywood cinemas. It is their largest Dishoom, so it is likely to have fewer queues.
Breakfast black dal and bacon and egg naans have become legendary London dishes. Otherwise, the mahi tikka and okra fries invariably impress.
Dinner for two: £60
Inspired by the army mess bars of colonial India, this is an upmarket barbecue, beer, whisky, fine wine and sports bar with obscenely large and shiny screens. Yet, it has great style and even better food, which is not surprising as it is the 12th opening in the Sethi's family portfolio – this time in the heart of the City within Bloomberg arcade.
There are, cleverly, six equally enticing menu sections which ensures that everyone gets carried away and orders too much. Among 'beer snacks', chaat masala pork scratchings with cod roe are punchy with a salty crunch – they are utterly moreish. As are the Masala chicken skins with pickled onions.
The cult dish is the chicken lasciviously cooked in ghee with cashew creme and added barbecue tang.
Brigadiers is not the place for a quiet tete a tete, but it is great fun.
Dinner for two: £120
Sisters Camellia and Namita Panjabi have decades of experience between them. Camellia cooked at Taj hotels for years and is author of one of the most definitive Indian cookbooks.
Masala Zone is authentic, informal, eclectic and great value, encompassing grills, tandoors, curries and street food. Saffron infused chicken tikka is beautifully fragrant as is paneer tikka enhanced with fresh fenugreek leaves.
The thalis are the star order: round trays with colourful little bowls of all sorts of deliciousness including dal, chapati, rice, salad and pickles. We like the quirky decor of each of the seven London Masala Zones, especially the Rajasthani puppets hanging from the ceiling in the Covent Garden restaurant.
Dinner for two including wine: from £50
Madhur Jaffrey describes hoppers as the love child of a crêpe and a crumpet. This rapturously conveys the contrasting textures of the bowl-shaped pancakes with their crater-like, spongy base, stretching into a lacy, brittle edge. An egg broken in when they are cooking adds another layer of filigree.
Essentially, 'hoppers' are pancakes made from fermented rice and coconut milk batter and hugely popular in southern India and Sri Lanka.
Besides hoppers, best dishes include: bone marrow varuval with Chettinad spicing, served with buttery roti; hot butter devilled shrimps; or, for vegetarians, cashew, cassava and ash plantain fries as starters. For those who like to get messy, there's blue swimmer crab kari too.
A favourite dessert is love cake (contains chocolate) with a scoop of yoghurt kulfi, prettily presented with a ring of syrup.
Brand new is Marylebone's brunch menu. There's a selection of fiery short eats including devilled chicken sausage and punchy green peppercorn squid, followed by a twist on the traditional kothu roti with bacon and mushroom or beans and cheese. For the main event, karis include tender overnight mutton and omelette kari, served alongside the classic egg hoppers or decadent chilli cheese dosas. To wash it all down, guests can sip on the Sunday special, Smoked Gorakha Bloody Mary, one of Hoppers’ famous Arrack punches, or Genever-spiked cocktails.
Dinner for two: from £60
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