Us Brits love a good curry. Thankfully, we’re spoilt for choice here in London: the Indian food scene is thriving, with a wide mixture of Michelin-starred eateries and casual dining spots to choose from. Here’s our pick of the best…
London’s fine dining Indian scene is better than ever thanks to the arrival of restaurants like Gymkhana. A year after opening it was awarded with a Michelin star, and if you go there you’ll quickly see why. An elegant dining room from the team behind Trishna and Hoppers, the restaurant is inspired by Indian gymkhana clubs, where high society types meet to dine, drink and socialise. Most importantly, the food really is top notch, with a focus on bold, intense flavours: highlights include paneer tikka with cashew nut and corn chaat, Bengali mustard salmon and guinea fowl with Benne dosa.
Created by childhood friends Pooja Nayak and Assela Goenka and named after a small town in the Indian state of Tamin Nadu, Ooty offers a new take on Indian dining aimed at its Marylebone clientele. Head chef Manmeet Singh Bali began his career wit the Taj group of hotels in southern India, before rising to head chef at Michelin-starred Rasoi and later Vineet Bhatia London. His carefully curated menu showcases traditional ingredients in refined, innovative dishes: think Goan chicken cafreal with cucumber rolls, crab fry with coconut crab relish and fennel paneer with samphire and chenna fritters.
Situated in the heart of Belgravia, Amaya is one of London’s most glamorous Indian restaurants, attracting smart crowds day in day out. Widely spaced, polished wood tables and low lighting make for sleek surroundings, made even better by impeccable service. A restaurant that’s hold onto their Michelin star for over a decade is a promising sign, and luckily Amaya doesn’t disappoint. Unconventional for a fine dining restaurant, dishes are served tapas-style and designed to be shared. Though the menu is seasonal and changes often, it features a mixture of sophisticated meat, fish and vegetarian dishes, such as smoked chilli lamb chops, grilled duck breast, char-grilled aubergine, beetroot chop and griddled sweet potato with tamarind and yoghurt.
Since the first café opened in Covent Garden back in 2010, four more London branches of Dishoom have opened – yet somehow all of them still draw in big queues. All branches have a similar vibe, with interiors inspired by Bombay brasseries, with retro design features, low-level lighting and vintage magazines covering the walls. Everything is delicious, but there are some things you’ve got to try, such as their famous House Black Daal, the okra fries and the lamb biriyani. Well worth the wait.
Inconspicuously sitting amongst couture shops and corporate buildings, Lucknow 49 provides a more laissez-faire approach to dining than the average business lunch you typically find in Mayfair. The vibrant, patterned decor is a colourful backdrop to an equally colourful menu of Awadhi cuisine. The menu is select and difficult to choose from, but you can’t really go wrong with ordering a few starters, a couple of curries, a biryani and multiple servings of their Gilafi Kulcha (deliciously buttery layered bread cooked in the tandoor). The Murgh Qorma and Awadhi Goat Biryani are crowd-pleasers, as are the restaurant’s signature Gosht Seekh Kawab… If you like lamb, you’re in luck(now) because this Mayfair restaurant does it especially well, spiced and cooked to perfection. Pair with a refreshing signature cocktail – we’re partial to the pink pepper gin sour with fresh cucumber and elderflower – and your table is set.
While the meaning of Kutir (‘a small cottage in the middle of nowhere’) doesn’t exactly apply given that the townhouse can be found smack bang in Sloane Square, set just off the Kings Road, Kutir is magically quiet and feels worlds away from the bustle of its neighbours – needless to say it’s well positioned for a hearty meal after a day of shopping. Location aside, the restaurant itself is a vision rendered in soothing tones of mint green, florals and ambient lighting – all of which make the perfect backdrop for the refined but fiery meal ahead. Save yourself the food envy and opt for one of Kutir’s delectable Expedition tasting menus which change according to season; on the Signature Menu you’ll find that classics like Lamb Tandoori and Chicken Tikka are given a modern update. At the moment seafood lovers can opt for the Jaltarang menu (available till the end of August) which features an especially delicious soft shell crab dish. Impeccably plated, the plates are full of flavours both traditional and innovative – simply put, Kutir gets refined Indian food so right. Desserts aren’t a second thought here either, with the mango cassata flecked with cranberry, kulfi and pistachio taking the cake (pun intended). Given the quality of food, service and ambience, Kutir is also shockingly well priced.
The newest London branch in Vivek Singh’s empire, Cinnamon Kitchen Battersea is a laid-back alternative to its fine dining sibling, The Cinnamon Club. Found within up-and-coming Battersea Power Station, it has more of an edgy vibe than the others, set in an exposed brick arch with a metal cage structure in the middle. Like Vivek’s other restaurants, the restaurant specialises in modern Indian cuisine, but here street food dishes take centre stage. The Bombay platter makes a great starter, featuring a vada pa (a fried potato cake in a bun), chilli-coated paneer, and a tapioca cake. Vegetarian offerings are particularly good at Cinnamon Kitchen – we highly recommend the kale and quinoa kofta, and the spiced chickpea gnocchi is delicious.
A new addition to London’s Indian food scene, Kahani is an unassuming, sophisticated spot hidden away behind Chelsea’s Cadogan Hall. It’s headed up by Peter Joseph, previously at Tamarind – the first Indian restaurant in the world to earn a Michelin star – who describes the food as ‘lighter, modern Indian food.’ Grill is the prime focus here, with a mixture of meat, seafood, game and vegetable dishes cooked either on a robata grill or a tandoor. Go hungry, and however full you are you must order the melting chilli chocolate dome pudding.
Kricket has come a long way since its humble beginnings. It was born in a 20-seat shipping container in Pop Brixton, but after gaining legions of fans opened its first bricks-and-mortar restaurant in Soho two years later. Founders Will Bowlby and Rik Campbell have since opened two more branches, one back in Brixton, and the newest in White City’s Television Centre. The menu is all about small sharing plates, and although it changes regularly there are some staples, like the samphire pakoras and the Keralan fried chicken. Summer offerings include pollock with spiced curry sauce, ox heart with watercress, kasundi and spring vegetables, and a tomato, sesame raita, spring onion and coriander salad. Their Indian-inspired cocktails are also very popular, particularly the Moondate, made with ginger vodka, date marmalade and date & cinnamon syrup.
The original Indian Accent in New Delhi is widely regarded as one of the best restaurants in the world, so the excitement surrounding its London opening last year is no surprise. It’s right at home on Mayfair’s Albermarle Street, a culinary hub filled with top-end restaurants like Gymkhana and Isabel. With its plush interiors, Indian Accent is equally decadent – with a menu to match. Dishes are flavoursome and creative, such as applewood smoked bacon kulcha bread, ghee roast lamb with roti pancakes, and beetroot chops with peanut butter and goat cheese raita. If you fancy a bit of indulgence, their seven-course tasting menus are particularly impressive, with separate vegan and gluten free menus available.
With a circular dining hub, two private dining rooms, a games room and a bar, Brigadiers has it all. The restaurant offers a different atmosphere in every room, with an overarching feeling of being welcome. Settle in to a red leather booth in the circular dining room and you’ll eat and drink for hours. Meet friends for drinks in the bar at the back and the fact you’re inside a restaurant will drift away from any attached importance. In the dining room behind the games room, a feast with a fun, relaxed atmosphere awaits. And in the games room, play snooker all night and make use of the whiskeys on tap – they’re the only restaurant in London to house a bizarrely unique contraption where guests become bartenders, serving themselves as many drinks as they like. Possibly dangerous, dangerously fun.
The food only adds to this sense of warmness: think sharing plates and intriguing taste sensations that may well have you asking the waiters ‘what exactly is this’ with the hope of being able to recreate it at home (which probably won’t be possible, we’re sorry to say). The menu is large and slightly complicated, so here’s our advice: tell your waiter or the wandering and joyful manager Graham what you like and what you don’t, then await whatever comes your way. The kitchen and floor staff are experts, and taking the pressure away from ordering makes for an experimental dining experience – one that might leave you with a new favourite dish. The buzzing atmosphere here will linger in your personal ether long after you leave. By Kerri Stolerman
Tamarind is not just perched on Mayfair’s Queen Street, it defines it. Serving undoubtedly high quality authentic Indian food by a team of waiters and Maitre’D’s that make up the most part of the well oiled machine that is the restaurant, Tamarind is warm and sophisticated: a Mayfair institution without any overtly fancy or try-hard baggage. Walk through the gallery-like entrance and you’re invited to stay a while, with kind and warm staff making your visit as magical as possible. Executive Chef Karunesh Khanna is at the top of Tamarind’s masthead, a wonderfully friendly man who treats every single customer as if they were a guest in his own house – even preparing a special off-menu soy dish for a particular vegan diner (though there is a dedicated vegan menu). Carnivores, you get the pick of the bunch. Ordering a selection is advised: crab, chicken, prawns, lemon rice, mango and avocado salad, beetroot kebabs, ginger and tomato spinach accompanied by some of the most well crafted cocktails you’ll ever taste and a carafe of their house red. Tamarind is one of those rare restaurants that has got the mix of luxurious and laid-back comfort down so well. One does not just eat here: one eats, drinks, experiences and leaves with a bit of the restaurant’s heart in tow. By Kerri Stolerman