A good curry consistently ranks among some of the nation’s favourite food, and London’s many Indian restaurants range from those serving great comfort food to intricate, Michelin-star cuisine. The Resident picks out some of London’s finest…
Lead image: The Curry Room at Rubens Palace Hotel
1 Chutney Mary, St James’s
Chutney Mary, a mould-breaking restaurant that redefined and raised the bar of Indian cuisine in London when it opened in Chelsea in 1990, specialises in Anglo-Indian cuisine. Originally, the restaurant served home comforts like Bangalore bangers and mash, salmon kedgeree and rogan josh. Gradually, they came to specialise in regional and coastal Indian cuisine, then unknown in London restaurants, with plenty of seafood (sauteed Cornish crab in garlic butter), grills and fish options from Dover Sole to lobster cooked on the tandoor. The restaurant moved to St James’s a few years ago when the lease expired.
73 St James’s Street, SW1H 1PH; chutneymary.com
2 Masala Grill, Chelsea
Masala Grill occupies the Chelsea site formerly occupied by Chutney Mary. The focus is on more home-style dishes, such as pani puri (crispy shells filled with lentils and chutney), family style curries like mustard seed chicken korma, biryanis and thalis. It is decorated with textiles in warm shades of amber and red that co-owner Namita Panjabi hand-picked during her travels in Rajasthan.
535 King’s Road, Chelsea SW10 OSZ; masalagrill.co
After 90 years of serving high-quality Indian cuisine to curry-loving Londoners as the UK’s oldest Indian restaurant, Veeraswamy has finally gained a highly coveted Michelin star. This Mayfair establishment has welcomed royalty and elevated curry night to a fine art. According to The Resident’s food writer Alexander Larman, the lamb pasanda is ‘miles away from the mediocre curry house slop that shames the name’, and the Kerala prawn dish packs a fiery kick that does credit to its name.
Victory House, 99 Regent Street, Mayfair W1B 4EZ; veeraswamy.com
4 Chai Thali, Camden & Fulham
New opening Chai Thali has brought Indian street food to a convivial 140-cover space. Tucked away on Mandela Street in Camden. it boasts a riotously flavoursome menu featuring kerb-side eats from across the continent – taking hungry diners on a journey from Old Delhi to Mumbai via the coast of Kerala. Grab a quick bite with a turmeric latte, or go the whole hog and order a feast to share between friends. Unusual offerings include Bombay roadside scrambled egg masala served with a buttered brioche bun and the famous South Indian dish ‘uttapam’. To drink, try the Star Chaitini – a riff on the Porn Star Martini with vodka, passion fruit liqueur and Prosecco – or the Chai Spiced Mojito with star anise.
Centro 3, 19 Mandela Street, Camden NW1 0DU & 146 Wandsworth Bridge Road, Fulham SW6 2UH; chaithali.com
5 Darbaar, the City
In the City’s Broadgate Circle, not too far from Shoreditch, lies Darbaar, where Indian dishes with a regal feel are based on those of the Maharajan court. It’s headed up by award-winning chef Abdul Yaseen, a former Head Chef at Cinnamon Kitchen and Anise and a founding member of the original Cinnamon Kitchen. His venture won Best Newcomer in 2016 at the British Curry Awards for its menu. Highlights include light bites such as stir fried shrimps with karelan spices, and grilled goodness such as tandoori salmon with kokum berries and coconut.
1 Snowden Street, Broadgate Circle EC2A 2DQ; darbaarrestaurants.com
When a 5-star luxury hotel opens an ‘authentic Indian restaurant’, ears prick up. The Rubens at The Palace Hotel launched The Curry Room in June 2018, serving a three-course set menu by Chef Arun Kumar that blends Indian and South African flavours. The menu starts with a selection of keema samoosa’s and poppadums, followed by a curry like the chicken and prawn curry or Bengal fish curry. For dessert, choose from four options, including vanilla cheesecake and kulfi ice cream. The food is phenomenal.
39 Buckingham Palace Road, Victoria SW1W 0PS; rubenshotel.com
7 Indian Accent, Mayfair
Mayfair has quite the generous smattering of top-notch Indian restaurants, and Indian Accent is certainly a strong contender as one of the best. The menu explores progressive ideas in Indian cuisine while maintaining traditional integrity, serving delicate but punchy morsels of divinity by chef Manish Mehrotra. If you’re lucky enough to bag a lunch meeting here, work your way through the six course tasting menu, which kicks off with an adorable little ceramic mug of pumpkin and coconut soup that’s to die for, followed by the likes of tofu masala, sea bream with asparagus in kerala coconut moilee and chicken malai tikka with green chilli cream, sugar snap peas and summer truffle, followed by a gorgeous doda barfi treacle tart.
16 Albemarle Street, Mayfair W1S 4HW; indianaccent.com
8 Kricket, Brixton & Soho
Kricket started life at Pop Brixton and such was the success of its clever concoctions that it has now opened up two permanent locations, moving from Pop to larger premises on Atlantic Road, and opening a second branch in Soho. There’s pumpkin served with makhani sauce, fresh paneer, hazelnut crumble and puffed wild rice and kid goat raan. Drink-wise, you can gulp on Paxton IPA from south London’s London Beer Factory or Reliance Pale Ale from the Brixton Brewery.
41-43 Atlantic Road, Brixton SW9 8JL & 12 Denman Street, Soho W1D 7HH; kricket.co.uk
9 Benares, Mayfair
Michelin-starred Benares restaurant in Mayfair’s Berkeley Square is definitely one to tick off the list. From the à la carte menu, you can choose between dishes such as crispy soft shell crab and chickpeas with curry leaf and coconut with tamarind dressing or guinea fowl tikka with sweet and sour beetroot dressing.
12a Berkeley Square, Mayfair W1J 6BS; benaresrestaurant.com
South east London institution Babur celebrated 30 years in 2015. it’s one of the area’s favourite special occasion restaurants, and rightly so – its contemporary representations of India’s many cuisines have drawn much praise, and the cocktails are fun and seasonal too. Feast on gurkhali ostrich tikka and rabbit soweta in a cool, contemporary brick interior and keep an eye out for special tasting menus.
119 Brockley Rise, Forest Hill SE23 1JP; babur.info
11 Gymkhana, Mayfair
Karam Sethi opened Gymkhana in Mayfair back in 2013, and he’s won just about every food award going since, including a Michelin star. His innovative take on luxury Indian food is worth the hefty price tag that comes with it.
42 Albemarle Street, Mayfair W1S 4JH; gymkhanalondon.com
12 Dishoom, various location
No listicle of London’s top destinations for Indian spice would be complete without mention of Dishoom. It’s worth queuing to get a table at Dishoom, where street food inspired by the Irani cafes of Bombay is served amid a buzzy atmosphere where vintage decor meet upscale touches at Granary Square in Kings Cross, Carnaby Street, Covent Garden and Shoreditch. They also do some cracking breakfasts – the egg naan roll is a winner – but be prepared to queue.
Granary Square, 5 Stable Street, Kings Cross N1C 4AB; dishoom.com
13 Amaya, Belgravia
Amaya in Belgravia offers a unique cuisine based on contemporary Indian food with a hint of the Orient. With a theatrical open grill kitchen, Amaya is, literally, one of London’s hottest restaurants. Menu highlights include a wild venison seekh kebab and duck tikka with tandoori plum chutney.
Halkin Arcade, 19 Motcomb Street, Belgravia SW1X 8LB; amaya.biz
14 Cinnamon Kitchen, the City & Battersea
The chic, contemporary Cinnamon Kitchen is known for innovative Indian cooking influenced by classic British traditions right by Liverpool Street. And now you can enjoy their food south of the river at their second branch at Battersea Power Station. Sample green spiced monkfish and sup on cocktails from the Anise Bar. Favourites include a Spiced Plum Saketini with Bombay Sapphire, plum wine, sake, galangal ginger served with lemon zest.
9 Devonshire Square EC2M 4YL & 4 Arches Lane, Battersea SW11 8AB; cinnamon-kitchen.com
15 Thali, South Kensington
This unassuming little restaurant is famous for its authentic North Indian cuisine, with a focus on flavour instead of spice, and some fantastic thalis. Many of the recipes are handed down through three generations, and chef Dila Ram honed his skills in Delhi before heading for South Ken. The korma is incredibly mild, almost milk-like, but the chicken tikka masala is probably one of the best you’ll ever have, and the samosas are top notch too. The veggie thali is where it’s really at, though.
166 Old Brompton Road, South Kensington SW5 0BA; thali.uk.com