Best Indian Restaurants London | olivemagazine

Established in 1985 by Emdad Rahman, the tiger that adorns the front of the restaurant makes it a neighbourhood landmark, as does its modern take on Indian dishes and cocktails. Inside, the restaurant interior is one of exposed brick, with walls adorned with art from Indian and local artists. The kitchen is led by head chef Jiwan Lal and sous chef Praveen Kumar Gupta – both formerly of the Oberoi Hotel Group. An ever-evolving menu of specials is updated throughout the year, alongside an à la carte menu that pairs each dish with a wine recommendation. Customers who sign up to The Tasting Group on the website can become involved in menu development by attending afternoon sessions during which new menus are honed, in exchange for honest feedback. The meal starts with poppadoms and a range of homemade pickles, including a fiery ginger and chilli chutney and tamarind and raisin chutney. Starters of Dhungri lamb tikka and shaker kandi ki chaat – a Punjabi sweet potato with pomegranate in salted pasty – are highlights. For mains, there is Gulnar jalpari, a Babur take on the North Indian Holi dish, with spiced prawns rolled in lemon sole on a sweet red pepper sauce. The theatrical Cumin chocolate fondant with salted caramel gelato is the perfect finish, and there’s extensive cocktail list curated by mixologist Rupam Talukdar – the whitegroni is full of aromatics, while the saffron gimlet is tart and sharp.

Clove-smoked lamb chops with roasted garlic yoghurt

The Tamil Prince, Islington

Nestled among the leafy terraced streets of Islington, away from the bustle of central London, Tamil Prince is a gem: an airy, spacious new restaurant serving some of the finest Indian food in the capital. Created by ex-Roti King chef Prince Durairaj, it marries the classic British pub vibe (and excellent beers) with the food of Tamil Nadu from the chef’s childhood in South India. The menu is effortlessly navigable: six small plates; five large plates; four desserts. From the smalls, onion bhajis are a must, a billowy tangle of crunchy battered rings that melt in the mouth. Also choose pulled beef uttapam – a savoury dosa topped with unctuous meat – is a perfect sponge for mopping up fiery chilli coconut chutney. A small pot of glossy, smoky dhal makhani completes the set before going on to the main event, the grills. Go for the lamb chops – served as four, they are gorgeously tender, charred and crisp; nibble at the bone until its clean. Then the dish with the biggest jaw-drop factor – a platter of three gigantic tiger prawns, like small lobsters, plump with sweet briny meat. Mango lassi for dessert refreshes the palate. Tamil Prince has a range of Indian cocktails and bottled beers but, on a warm summer evening, try a pint of cold, light 3.8% ABV Harbour Daymer Extra Pale Ale.

A platter of three gigantic tiger prawns, like small lobsters, plump with sweet briny meat

BiBi, Mayfair

Head chef Chet Sharma’s selection menu is the must-try at his intimate Mayfair restaurant, comprising a dozen sharing plates using produce from the UK and India created with sustainability at its core. Formerly development chef of the JKS group (Gymkhana, Trishna, Brigadiers, etc), Sharma’s BiBi – an affectionate term for a grandmother in parts of India – is the realisation of his dream to open his own restaurant. To snack on, tangy Wookey Hole cheese papads have a melting yet crunchy texture; creamy Carlingford oyster pachadi is a refreshing segue to sweet, spicy, salty and sour chaats, including nashpati bhel – grains topped with a crunchy frozen pear granita – and Raw Belted Galloway beef pepper fry, hot with lots of black pepper. From the counter, marvel at the theatre of chefs grilling on the sigree: aged Swaledale lamb chops, as soft as butter, with a subtle smokiness. And our star among many stars, Sharmaji’s Lahori chicken: gorgeously tender chicken breast with a delicate creamy sauce made with whey that has been reduced to the point of caramelisation and then mixed with ground cashews and spices. Then finish with choc-ice-on-a-stick-style kulfis.

Sharmaji’s Lahori chicken: tender chicken breast with a creamy sauce made with whey, mixed with ground cashews and spices

Pahli Hill, Fitzrovia

Named after one of Mumbai’s oldest neighbourhoods, Pahli Hill’s menu reflects its diverse culinary heritage, offering regional dishes from all over India. Colourful original Indian artwork and fabrics, booth-seating and a view into the open kitchen give the restaurant a contemporary feel, while its Bandra Bhai basement bar delights in its dimly lit, smuggler’s-den vibe. With a tequila-based saffron cocktail in hand, graze on papadi chat, a dip of contrasting flavours and textures, including pumpkin, spiced yogurt, wheat crackers and sev (crispy gram flour noodles), tamarind chutney and vibrant pops of pomegranate. Bangalore-born chef Avinash Shashidhara’s experience in high-end UK restaurants is clear in this menu, which utilises top-quality British ingredients. Mangalore buns – two warm, bready pockets – are served with a generous pile of spiced Scottish crab. Highlights from the tandoor include monkfish with monksbeard; chicken tikka with cucumber noodles, mint and horseradish, and Cornish lamb cutlets. The pumpkin kofta is light and fragrant, and for a veggie feast, it’s perfect served with a long ‘paper dosa’ or flaky flatbread, tomato and coconut chutneys, and sambar of radish and drumstick (using pods from the Moringa tree, which reminiscent in texture to okra. Ask about the trick to eating them).

A whole Tandoori poussin straight from the tandoor oven at Pahli Hill

Madhu, Richmond

Madhu’s contemporary Indian restaurant has expanded from central London’s Harvey Nichols to a smart neighbourhood setting in Richmond. The glass-fronted brasserie is full of cosy booths as well a bar overlooking an impressive tandoor oven and robata grill, where you can spy on an array of beautiful looking food before you order.

Presentation is excellent, with food served in copper dishes with an array of interesting garnishes. For a very moreish appetiser try the palak patta chaat – British samphire and battered spinach leaves with chilli, turmeric, fresh coriander, yogurt and taramind, or the succulent robata chops that are marinated in aromatic spices and can be cut with a butter knife. Other highlights included the king prawns cooked in a creamy coconut curry with ginger, mustard seeds and curry leaves. There’s also vegetarian and vegan thalis on offer, which looked very generous when coming out of the kitchen. Finish off with a cooling badam kulfi – Indian ice cream made with clotted cream and almonds for a very satisfying end to the meal.

Plates of lamb, rice, sauce and chutneys on a wooden table

Heritage, West Dulwich

A new restaurant in leafy West Dulwich, Heritage is a welcome addition to the neighbourhood from Dayashankar Sharma, previously head chef at Michelin-starred Tamarind. Inside, the restaurant is spacious and elegant, with gold accents adding a modern feel, much like the menu, where you’ll find contemporary versions of dishes from all over India. From the small plates, start with the venison badal jaam (if you usually find game too strong, you’ll love this) — grilled aubergine topped with a fiery tomato sauce, cooling yogurt, and spiced venison. If you’ve got room, share the paneer and pineapple kebab — thick slices of paneer pair perfectly with sweet pineapple. Highlights from the mains include murgh makani, tender chicken in a tomato and fenugreek sauce; Kashmiri lamb spiced with saffron; and the most indulgent version of dahl mhakani we’ve tried — outrageously creamy, it’s not to be missed. The floral tones of the pulao rice steeped in rose water cut through the richness of the other dishes, and be sure to order a truffle naan. Subtly flavoured, it has just the right amount of umami, and is a great vehicle for mopping up all those delicious sauces.

Bhindi-Masala dish at Heritage restaurant

Madhu’s of Mayfair, Piccadilly

‘Special occasion’ are the first words that spring to mind when you walk into the ornate dining room of Madhu’s of Mayfair, complete with enormous chandeliers, rococo-style architecture and marble tables. But far from feeling formal, the vibe is fun and friendly, bustling with birthday parties, tourists and after-work businessfolk. The design is the vision of Madhu’s founder Sanjay Anand, who wanted to “create an experience which engages each of the senses — ‘not just taste’.

The food comes from creative chef Poonam Ball — Sanjay’s sister. She oversees the menus of the Madhu group’s four restaurants. It’s Indian, but with a Kenyan twist, including recipes handed down through four generations from her Nairobi-born mother Krishna and her father Jagdish Kumar Anand (nicknamed Madhu). Choose the signature dishes: palak patta chaat, a pile of crunchy marsh samphire and crispy spinach with warming spices and tangy chutneys; nyamah choma, succulent prime cut lamb ribs marinated in chilli and lemon; and Madhu’s machi’s — whole seabass in an onion and carom seed marinade — which is ‘special occasion’ luxurious.

The lavish interiors of Madhu

Chourangi, Marble Arch

Named after the district of Calcutta (as the owners refer to the city we now call Kolkata) and translating as ‘crossroads’, the food at Chouranghi is a curation of ‘unexplored’ surprises from the British, Dutch, Armenian, French, Portuguese and Chinese who have influenced its cuisine. There are a lot of high-end Indian restaurants in London, each with its own ‘well, that was worth the money/must go back again’ dish. At this bright and vibrant open-plan venue, where you can watch the theatre of the chefs at work from the street, it’s the black dal. Simmered overnight until the urad lentils break down, then finished with spices and butter, it’s an unctuous, creamy, perfectly spiced bowl of deliciousness. In the hands of Indian restaurateur Anjan Chatterjee and Aditya Ghosh, the dishes are simple yet intricately flavoured. Kamal Kakdi Chaat is a creamy, crunchy concoction with a fiery hit of sweet chilli-soy-jaggery. Nizami Makai Tikka, cooked with soft cheese, has an aromatic finish from aamada (mango ginger). Chingri Cutlets (beaten-out breaded prawns) are dense and ‘meaty’ while another star is blistering Paanch Phoran, Welsh rack of lamb seasoned with ‘Calcutta five-spice’ And have you heard of Bhapa Hilsa — Calcutta’s queen of fish? Think white salmon — soft, oily and flake-apart.

Chingri Cutlet with a pot of creamed mustard dip, served on a blue plate

Bombay Delight, Wimbledon

A newly opened sister restaurant of Mumbai Delight in Vauxhall, Bombay Delight is a larger, more vibrant venue with a stylish bar area, space for private functions, and walls decorated with elephants and framed pictures of old Bombay. The offerings aren’t dissimilar to its sister’s, but there are some new dishes, including the excellent tiltala jhinga appetiser – juicy king prawns coated in a crisp sesame seed and gram flour batter, with a spiced mayo for dipping. Poppadoms arrive with two moreish dips – subtle beetroot, fresh mint and coriander – and a mango chutney with a hint of chilli. The menu doesn’t stray too far from well-loved classics, and the rich and creamy BBC (Bombay butter chicken) is proof that this restaurant does them well, with the freshest ingredients and no colourings. Finish with the Indian sweet, gulab jamun, soaked in sugar syrup and served with a smooth vanilla ice cream, along with one of the mocktail concoctions, such as a fresh masala thums-up with mint, cumin and black salt. South London-dwellers will be happy this restaurant has arrived on their doorstep.

An overhead shot of Indian dishes, including poppadoms, calamari, rice, prawns and butter chicken,

Fatt Pundit, Covent Garden

Street food sharing plates with Indo-Chinese heritage storytelling is all part of a great restaurant experience these days, and the staff at Fatt Pundit are very happy to share. Pull up a chair! First, there’s the name Fatt Pundit, a combination of the common Chinese surname with the Indian word for scholar. Then the story of the Hakka Chinese immigrants who created a new cuisine by combining traditional Chinese cooking techniques with the spices of India. Set in an industrial chic dining room, there’s a buzzy vibe, with queues outside. But don’t rush: there’s so much to savour. Momos – steamed dumplings – are a must (especially the spiced kid goat). Crackling spinach is a refreshing take on a chaat with sweet yogurt, date & plum sauce and pomegranate. Hakka chilli paneer lettuce cups are filled with tongue-tingling Szechuan pepper-spiced paneer, showcasing the Indo-Chinese influences. Unique to the Maiden Lane outlet (there’s another branch in Soho) are crunchy pepper soft shell crab – blisteringly hot; sweet, caramelised Kolkata chilli duck, accompanied by pancakes and cucumber strips and plump chunks of rib-eye steak with chillies and roasted

A variety of dishes at Fatt Pundit, including Momos – steamed dumplings, Hakka chilli paneer lettuce cups filled with Szechuan pepper-spiced paneer, cocktails and bowls of rice

Manthan, Mayfair

With a pedigree like chef Rohit Ghai’s, expectations of the food at his new Mayfair restaurant are high – and it doesn’t disappoint. Rohit led the kitchens at Gymkhana and Trishna before opening his first venue, Kutir, in Chelsea. At Manthan – the Hindu word meaning to churn and reflect – Rohit takes inspiration from his mother’s cooking and the street food of India. The Maddox Street dining room is long and wood-panelled, adorned with beautiful paintings of exotic flowers. Even at lunchtime it feels romantic, and the sharing dishes reflect that vibe. If you’re here for the first time, have an overview experience and choose two dishes from the Gali ka khana (street food) section, one from Rassedar (curries), one from Chapata Chops & Tikka, plus a couple of sides. To start, ghati masala prawns are plump and tender, coated with sesame, peanut and coconut for a satisfying crispy crunch. Jackfruit tacos are a revelation – almost meaty in texture, stuffed into fluffy rice lentil pancakes with southern spice and chutney. Fall-off-the-bone lamb ossobuco sits in a silky, satirsfying sauce flavoured with jaffa spices and curry leaf, while sarson chicken, tangy and hot with mustard and chilli, is as soft as butter. If you have room for dessert, opt for the Classic Trip of sweet laddoo, sticky gulab jamun and creamy srikhand.

A bowl of ghati masala prawns, coated with sesame, peanut and coconut

Benares, Mayfair

When spiced corn street snacks arrive under a bonsai tree, you know you’re in for a memorable experience. That feeling grows when a Porlock Bay oyster with a jewel-like cured sea bream chaat is presented on beach-like pebbles, swathed in dry ice to mimic sea mist. The bonsai tree is a salute to roadside vendors in India who seek shade beneath trees, and it’s the creation of executive chef Sameer Taneja, who regained a Michelin star for the Berkeley Square restaurant. But this culinary theatre is no gimmick: the dishes are as delicious to eat as they are a treat for the eyes. They’re part of a new eight-course tasting menu which takes influences from throughout the Indian subcontinent, using British ingredients.

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Too many dishes to list here, but stand-outs include soft-as-butter tandoori muntjac – venison cooked in a spicy marinade served with a garlic yogurt and chilli chutney; fragrant baby poussin tikka masala; and, to finish, sweet rasmalai, a quintessential milk-based dessert popular in eastern India. There’s also a vegetarian tasting menu, featuring baked golden vegetable kofta in rich cashew nut and kashmiri saffron korma. Make sure you’re not in a hurry: this is a three-hour dining experience, as relaxing as it is special.

Porlock Bay oyster with a jewel-like cured sea bream chaat, presented on beach-like pebbles

Dishoom, across London

Inspired by the all-day Irani cafés that were an integral part of Bombay life, there are now four branches of Dishoom in London (and another in Edinburgh), each serving Bombay breakfast, lunch, afternoon chai and dinner.

Breakfasts at Dishoom have won a cult following. Not least for the bacon naan rolls – crisp bacon wrapped in tandoor-charred naan with a dollop of chilli tomato jam and cream cheese. Pair with a breakfast lassi or house chai.

Dishoom breakfast

Kanishka, Mayfair

Focussing on the Seven Sister States as well as nods to Nepal and Bangladesh Kanishka is a modern Indian restaurant it serving a series of tasting menus or, as we went, a la carte. Start with the Gantok momos (steamed Nepalese dumplings), proudly billed as made ‘in-house’ which was telling by the skins being light but still with some bite to them. We also had chef’s Chicken Tikka Pie which wasn’t accredited to a region but still an exemplary piece of proper pie making with well-cooked puff pastry encasing juicy chunks of long marinated chicken. For mains we went with the lightly spiced and coconut sauced Kanishka Seafood curry and underutilised goat cooked slowly until fork tender in a Roganjosh style. Once we added generous serving of puffy paratha, fresh kachumba and signature black dhal to our order we were too full for dessert but the Dark Chocolate Sphere with orange chocolate cream and spiced caramel sauce seemed to be impressing our neighbours with its table-side server theatrics.

Brigadiers, City

From the group behind Sabor, Hoppers and Lyle’s, JKS Restaurants has opened Brigadiers in Bloomberg Arcade, an Indian barbecue joint and drinking den inspired by an army mess.

Wrapped around the corner of the slick Bloomberg Arcade, Brigadiers sits comfortably in the City (and attracts a similarly slick, City crowd). Red leather booths are comfortably tucked next to each other with plush velvet curtains and distressed mirrored walls adding an air of luxury, while monkey lamps bring warmth to the intimate space. Inspired by the Indian art deco era, walls are peppered with army memorabilia and tiles are adorned with rhino motifs.

The menu starts with smaller beer snacks before moving onto heartier platters of kebabs, chops and biryanis. Puffy, crisp, super-savoury chicken-skin crackers topped with chicken, soured cream and a wafer-thin slither of radish are a light way to start, before moving on to onion bhajis oozing with gruyère and mozzarella (with a silky mango chutney on the side) and buttery brioche buns filled with flaky, fragrant fish flavoured with ginger, garlic and cumin – think posh Indian fish finger sarnie.

If you’re only going to order one snack, make it the moreish BBQ butter chicken wings. Succulent smoky chicken basks in a rich concoction of double cream and cashew nut paste before falling from the bone.

Click here to read our full review

Goat shoulder on parathas at Brigadiers

Credit: Marcus Cobden, Brigadiers

Darjeeling Express, Soho

Darjeeling Express started life as a supper club in the Kensington home of Kolkata-born Asma Khan (pictured) but her restaurant just off Carnaby Street is now at the forefront of the London’s Indian food scene.

What is most striking about the kitchen at Darjeeling Express is that the chefs are all female, something that’s still a rarity in restaurants. These women come from a wide range of backgrounds and cultures but none of them have worked in professional kitchens before. Asma lets them cook in the restaurant on Sundays to help them to get used to working in a professional environment.

Selection of dishes at Darjeeling Express

Credit: Ming Tang-Evans

Hoppers, Soho and Marylebone

Named after the lacy, bowl-shaped pancakes that are a staple of Sri Lanka, Hoppers has quickly established itself as one of London’s hippest hangouts. From the can-do-no-wrong team behind Michelin-starred Gymkhana, Hoppers references the food of southern India and Sri Lanka. There’s a succinct menu starring traditional hoppers: light fermented rice and lentil pancake bowls, with a softly steamed egg and a selection of confidently spiced karis.

Load up on the ‘short eats’, though. Mutton rolls are like crunchy cigars – with a golden crumb, shredded gamey meat and lightly spiced tomato chutney. Bone marrow is so seductively sauced that you would be forgiven for refusing to share. The best, perhaps, are buttered devilled shrimps: juicy and fiery. There are fab and refreshing cocktails also.

Try our egg hoppers recipe here…

Egg Hoppers Recipe

Kricket, Brixton and Soho

Contemporary and cool, Kricket specialises in Indian small plates using local vegetables along with fish and meat sourced within the British Isles. Expect to queue at these no-reservations restaurants but dishes like samphire pakoras and Keralan fried chicken are more than worth the wait.

We have the recipe for Kricket’s kichri. Kedgeree as we know it was an adaptation of the original recipe for kichri, which consists of rice and lentils. You can use poached eggs rather than raw egg yolks, if you like.

Try Kricket’s kichri recipe here…

Dal Khichdi Recipe with Smoked Haddock (Indian Kedgeree)

Masala Zone, across London

Excellent regional Indian street food – thalis, grills, curries and biryanis – explains the success of Masala Zone, which now has seven restaurants dotted around the capital. Best-sellers include spicy squid bhaji and the ghee roast duck.

Looking for inspirational Indian recipes? Check out our best ever Indian recipes here

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