The best Indian restaurants in London
From Mayfair to Chelsea, Marylebone to White City, there's a better choice of modern Indian dining than ever in London right now. These are the ones to book a table at to celebrate Diwali.
Modern Indian fusion arrived in Chelsea last year by way of Kahani – and both the food and decor here are breathtakingly good. Located opposite Cadogan Hall, just off Sloane Square, Peter Joseph (ex Tamarind head chef) takes inspiration from his upbringing in Tamil Nadu, India'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'.
If they're on the menu, be sure to try the savoury doughnuts with yoghurt, mint and tamarind chutney, and the soft-shell crab with Mangalorean spices.
The room is gorgeously 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 earlier this year became 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 popular. 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 often on hand to chat to customers.
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 menu is full of dishes that are both earthy and elegant, which on our visit included 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, Trishna 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 (Hoppers and Gymkhana among them) 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. If on the menu, 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. The currently-off-the-menu soft-shell crab with peanut sauce was another highlight on our visit, as was the carefully nuanced spiced shepherd's pie. Superb desserts include banana cake with Ovaltine kulfi and miso sauce, and paan madeleines with Kenya chai.
Dinner for two including drinks: from £60.
What makes Kricket different from other top-notch Indian restaurants is its small plates take on Indian cuisine, informed by the best and more recherché British seasonal ingredients. An instant hit for Rik Campbell and chef Will Bowlby when it first opened in Pop Brixton, the pair have taken Kricket to Soho and now to a considerably larger and more glamorous space within the former BBC TV studios, as well as reopening a shiny bricks and mortar restaurant back in Brixton.
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 leaves remains a winner as well. On our visit, they were debuting a number of vegetarian dishes such as grilled pumpkin with makhani sauce, fresh paneer and hazelnuts. To top it all off, the saffron ice cream is mesmerisingly heady.
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 of their large second restaurant with plenty of room for convivial Thursday to Sunday breakfasts and Sunday brunch too.
Nirmal Save's brunch menu focuses on sharing feasting dishes, such as whole beef rib braised in Kerela pepper sauce.
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 creates brilliant Bombay-styled dining rooms, each with completely different and dazzling stories to their decor. The Kensington High Street branch might be our favourite. It's super-glamorous and based on Deco Bollywood cinemas. It's also the largest Dishoom, so likely to have shorter 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 family's portfolio – this time in the heart of the City within Bloomberg arcade.
There are, cleverly, seven 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 cream and added barbecue tang.
Brigadiers is not the place for a quiet tête-à-tête, 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 the 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 was beautifully fragrant on our visit, as was 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're big fans of 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, the best dishes here 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.
A second branch to the Soho original is in Marylebone, where there's also a 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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