Talisa Dean 20/01/23
Choosing the best Indian restaurants in London – that’s a hot debate.
Some will look to the Michelin starred spots like Gymkhana, Kutir and Trishna for their fine-dining takes and stunning settings; others will point at the modern but casual places like Kricket that creatively fuse Indian flavours with British ingredients; there’s probably a rowdy curry house down the road that you ride or die by – and then there’s the people who will just say ‘Dishoom’.
What’s not up for debate, however, is that London’s Indian restaurants are all wonderful in their own ways, and that since Indian food entered our lives sometime in the 1900s (Veeraswamy is said to be the UK’s oldest Indian restaurant, opening in 1926), it’s become a staple of the average British diet. It’s not an official London law (we think?), but you really ought to be having Indian at least once a week – the soft, fluffy naans, crisp dosas, the spice-loaded dishes; the street food classics and the fragrant rice…
But enough pilau talk. Based on our usual strict criteria of taste, atmosphere, service and a little je ne sais quoi; we’ve put together a modest selection of what we consider to be the pick of the bunch. From swanky showstoppers to cosy home-style eateries and a dining room that mirrors a vintage train carriage in Mumbai, these are the best Indian restaurants in London:
Specialising in Indian seafood, Trishna offers an aquarium’s worth of creatures steamed, seared, grilled, and tandoor-scorched with a mouthwatering array of flavours and spices. The earning of a Michelin star in 2012 is an indication that they’re doing something right, and the stylish and airy neighbourhood diner has been a big hit with the Marylebone village regulars over the past few years. As with most Michelin star restaurants in London, it’s set menus that dominate with a varying degree of price and produce, but they do offer an early evening menu and a “lunch bites” bill of fare for the more budget-conscious.
Details: 15 -17 Blandford Street, Marylebone Village, W1U 3DG | Book here
BiBi on Mayfair’s Audley Street is the brainchild of chef-patron Chet Sharma, who cut his teeth at The Ledbury before going on to be head of menu development for JKS, the restaurant family that includes Lyle’s and Gymkhana. And finally, after a long wait, he opened his debut spot (to rave reviews, we might add), swiftly becoming one of the best Indian restaurants in London thanks to dishes like raw orkney scallops with Indian lemonade and wood-grilled Lahori chicken with cashew and yoghurt whey, all washed down with a fine list of cocktails.
Details: 42 North Audley Street, W1K 6ZR | Book here
Neighbouring Trishna, Jikoni’s much more than just a pretty face. But the beautifully patterned tablecloths, hand-woven cushions and delicate crockery set the stage for a special dining experience, whether it’s a sun-drenched brunch on the al fresco tables or a candlelit dinner for two. Chef and founder Ravinder Bhogal is one of the most highly esteemed chefs in the city, and her weekly changing menus adventurously span countries and cuisines. Take your pick from the likes of paneer gnudi with wild garlic and saag (spinach); cold silken tofu with puffed wild rice; prawn toast scotch egg with pickled cucumber; and banana cake with Ovaltine kulfi.
Details: 19-21 Blandford Street, W1U 3DH | Book here
Kutir translates as a small cottage, which is at odds with its actual setting – inside a lavish townhouse in the heart of Chelsea. However, it’s inside, on your plate, where the rural influence can be found. Inspired by Indian wildlife lodges and the great feasts that would take place there, Kutir serves up traditional fare simply, and elegantly, to its diners. Chef Rohit Ghai (the first Indian chef to have been awarded a Michelin star in less than a year) has a seasonal menu which, predictably, changes with the weather but many of the staples will remain; Prawn Masala, Quail Naan, Sea Bass Kokum, and Guinea Fowl Biryani to name just a few. In addition to the à la carte, you’re invited to take an expedition through the flavours of the country in one of three wine-paired tasting menus – or take a sip of their sub-continental cocktails.
Details: 10 Lincoln Street, Chelsea, SW3 2TS | Book here
Babur | Honor Oak Park
And the prize for the Indian restaurant with the most stunning setting goes to… Babur, a neighbourhood gem in South East London that’s been keeping locals – and visitors like the Michelin man – well-fed for almost four decades. Seafood is a particular highlight here, with dishes like Kasundi king prawns and griddled scallops leading a cast of mouthwatering curries, exceptional breads and intriguing game dishes prepared with the likes of quail, saddle of rabbit and venison. And as for the Indian spiced cocktails… well, they’re worth a trip in themselves.
Details: 119 Brockley Rise, Forest Hill, London SE23 1JP | Book here
Ganapati | Peckham
Ganapati is a south Indian restaurant in South London. After visiting and falling in love with the communal eating canteens of southern India, chef Claire Fisher set up Ganapati to bring some of that same colour and vibrancy to Peckham. The menu is small, focusing on thalis, (a platter of all the best bits on one tray) and changes every two months. The cuisine of southern India has a community feel and Fisher has cultivated the same vibe in SE15. With supplies from Patel Brothers (one of the first Indian grocery shops in London), kitchenware from Little India, and local artists working on the design, Ganapati is a collaboration, a blend of flavours that come together to create the perfect dish. This theme extends beyond the kitchen, and when it’s not serving up supper Ganapati is home to exhibitions, classes, and events.
Details: 38 Holly Grove, SE15 5DF | Book here
Easily one of the most glamorous Indian restaurants in London, Bombay Bustle is decked out like a plush train carriage – and you’re going to want to get on board with it. Executive chef Surender Mohan sends out comfort food dishes with fine dining finesse, from the overnight black dahl and Malabar chicken wings to balloons of crispy fried bread as big as your head.
Details: 29 Maddox Street, W1S 2PA | Book here
Gunpowder describes itself as a home-style Indian restaurant – and it’s certainly the sort of home you’d want to visit. Prepped by a chef who cut his teeth at Tamarind, the menu is a kaleidoscopic collection of good, wholesome dishes. Wild rabbit rulao, Sigri grilled broccoli, and a hedgehog-like venison and vermicelli donut all appear on a menu full of stand outs. The atmosphere at the Spitalfields original is relaxed, with salvaged seating, a bar made out of old chair backs, and a chalkboard wall of specials, wines, and cocktails. Round the corner from Brick Lane, Gunpowder represents a modern response to everything that street became famous for; honest, mouth watering, Bengali cooking shared with a passion for what’s on the plate. But if you’re heading more central, or fancy more of a special occasion setting, you’ll be happy to hear the place has sparked two spin-offs: Gunpowder Tower Bridge and Gunpowder Soho.
Details: 11 White’s Row, Spitalfields, London E1 7NF | Book here
The oldest Indian restaurant in London – and in fact, the UK – Veeraswamy has been serving the capital Indian cuisine since 1926. It’s housed on Regent Street, it’s designed to look like a Maharaja’s Palace, and it has a Michelin star. Basically, it’s fancy. With Venetian chandeliers alongside lanterns from Jaipur, everything about this London landmark is an elegant counterpoint between East and West. Over its many years of existence, it’s been a solid performer offering up an extensive menu of established, quintessentially Indian dishes – but alongside its staples sit a host of gourmet offerings which seek to impress and intrigue, like their fresh pineapple curry, and Kerala-style venison scotch egg.
Details:Victory House, 99-101 Regent Street, London W1B 4RS | Book here
Darjeeling Express | Soho
Darjeeling Express is back on home soil… Kingly Court. Five years on since Asma Khan’s insanely popular Indian restaurant first opened (and a couple of moves around the city in the meantime), it’s returned to the same space, just with more room, a decor overhaul and an open kitchen from where you can watch her all-star, all-female team prepare her family’s now-legendary recipes like the chicken momos (steamed Darjeeling dumplings with chicken, onion and coriander), prawns in a luscious coconut milk sauce and the slow-cooked tamarind dal. Lunch is a la carte but for dinner, it’s a 14-course Royal Thali set menu (more of a feast really) that mimics what you might get at a traditional wedding or celebratory banquet. Bring people, lots of people…
Detail: Kingly Court, Carnaby, W1B 5PW | Book here
If you ever wanted to know what an army mess in India tasted like, then Brigadiers is for you. Focussing its fare on the different methods of Indian BBQ that soldiers would have dined on, you’ll find tandoors, charcoal grills, rotisseries, and wood ovens all cooking up a feast that might even fool you into thinking life in the army wouldn’t be so bad. They have an East London postcode, so brunch is obligatory – and whilst it’s unlikely that the officers in India enjoyed curry-infused bloody Marys and chilli cheese naans, you can. Brigadiers is undoubtedly one of the best Indian restaurants in London for a proper night out: the bar flows full with pour-your-own beers and whiskey (available by vending machine if you book the right private room). Top billing are their indulgent feast menus which must be pre-ordered 48hrs in advance (usually for a minimum of 6 people) and allow you and your unit to work your way through a wood-roasted Goan suckling pig, a tandoori tomahawk steak with lobster, or a suckling lamb biryani with all the trimmings.
Details: 1-5 Bloomberg Arcade, EC4N 8AR | Book here
Michelin-starred Gymkhana has long been considered one of the best Indian restaurants in London. The sumptuous interiors, reminiscent of an Indian Raj-era country club, provide a plush setting for friends, clients and dates alike (and have won the place a slew of celebrity fans, too). And of course, the food’s of an equally high quality – you can get their impressively conical Chettinad duck dosas and the wild muntjac biryani, alongside newer dishes like boozy tiger prawns and Bombay vegetable cutlet.
Details: 42 Albemarle Street, W1S 4JH | Book here
Dishoom – inspired by the old Irani immigrant cafes of Bombay – focuses on friendly, welcoming, and cosmopolitan cooking. That’s certainly the vibe you’ll get when you enter this popular micro-chain of Indian restaurants across London. Like the cafés they’re based on, everyone is welcome – and everyone wants to go, which often means long queues to get in. The wait is certainly worth it though, as the sleek bentwood chairs, faded mirrors, and dark wooden interiors lined with vintage signs and photographs feel at once exotic and homely. The all-day menu covers all the bases; you can expect delicious snacks alongside biryanis, masalas and dahls (the latter is a signature for them, marinated for 24hrs, and possibly, despite vigorous competition, the best lentil-based dish in London). The drinks menu is fun, serving up house favourites with an Indian twist alongside authentic staples like the communal Presidency Punch, an old East India Co. recipe that must be shared by a minimum of four people. They also do breakfast, where bacon naan and masala beans make for a delightful alternative to the full English.
Read more about Dishoom Covent Garden, Dishoom King’s Cross, Dishoom Shoreditch, Dishoom Carnaby Street, Dishoom Kensington and Dishoom Canary Wharf
When you’re whipping up delicious street food and the people start crying out for more, you don’t shut up shop and pack it all in – that’s just not cricket. It’s not Kricket, either, who, in 2017, expanded on their popular pop-up and opened a two floor flagship, Kricket Soho. Kricket Brixton and Kricket White City followed, and now all three serve up the same modern, aromatic dishes inspired by India and supplied by Brits. Scallop madras curry, coronation smoked mackerel, bone marrow raita, and samphire pakoras epitomise the British food in Indian clothing that runs through the menu. Staying true to their shipping container origins, all venues opt for the ever popular industrial pared-back aesthetic, which makes for a relaxed but smart dining experience.
Details: 101 Wood Lane, White City, London W12 7FR | Book here
Looking for something to wash that down with? Check out our guide to London’s best cocktail bars
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