Must-try Indian restaurants in London
I’ve mentioned multiple times before…the thing I absolutely adore about London is the availability of good Indian food at any price point.
Sure, not every curry house dotting the city makes the cut. And having a predominantly South-Asian staff, does not necessarily ensure an authentic Indian cuisine experience.
But do some research, and you’ll find a plethora of good choices to suit any and every budget and mood – from uber-classy to fashionably swish to basic and unpretentious.
I must sheepishly admit that during our visit this summer, we had Indian for every third meal.
Please don’t judge.
Instead, afford me the luxury of pronouncing my verdict and picking the top 2, from this trip.
#1 Gymkhana (Luxe)
Dreaming of my next meal here
I had put down Gymkhana on my list of must-try restaurants, ever since reading about them winning the 2014 National Restaurant Award in Britain.
Dinner reservations are near-impossible to score, but we were lucky to have our friends NM and JJ (who are far better organized than us), who secured a table for four, weeks in advance.
For those familiar with Britsh Raj-era clubs, the décor was reminiscent of the dining room or bar of a gymkhana… dark-wood panelling, walls adorned with old photographs and sports trophies, leather covered sofas and cane weaving-backed chairs.
The cocktail menu had us excited from the get-go… the innovative mixes matched up to creative names like Grape to Grain, Respect your Alder, NO Groni, etc. (Note: These are to be blamed for the lack of any decent photographs of the meal from my camera 😉 ).
The a la carte menu was sprinkled with usual favourites like samosa, seekh kebab, bhurji, vindaloo, and so on, but with some unusual ingredients like duck egg, quail, grouse, deer, etc.
The best thing about dining with foodie friends, is that you can happily indulge in over-ordering (in your quest to try as many of the dishes on offer as you can)… yet feel guiltlessly satisfied at the end, upon discovering that you have indeed managed to polish off everything that was on the table.
The kid goat keema, kasoori chicken tikkas, wild tiger prawns, lamb nalli barra, Goan cafreal bream, and dal maharani were all fantastic. The only dish that didn’t quite measure up was the quail seekh kebab… but then I’ve always thought that mutton or lamb does better in a seekh kebab than poultry (and even with the right ingredients there are very, very, very few places that get it right).
We had all recently dined at the much-acclaimed Amaya, and were left underwhelmed by some brilliant highs interspersed with disappointing lows… for, in their quest to be innovative, they served up some flavor combinations and dishes that just Did Not Work.
Thankfully, this wasn’t the case with the food at Gymkhana, which largely hit the spot.
Add to that, their thoughtful service, and excellent cocktails…this is one place that will beckon us back on future trips to London, the price tag notwithstanding.
#2: Dishoom (Mid-range)
Just cannot get enough of it
A café in the heart of London’s entertainment district, paying homage to the old Irani cafés of Bombay.
Think monochromatic tones, tiled flooring, marble tables, bench wood chairs, walls plastered with old photos and posters of advertisements, and exposed wiring… together creating a trendy vibe.
A tounge-in-cheek name (a reference to the exaggerated sound emanating in Bollywood fight sequences, which usually involved a hero single-handedly beating up a whole gang of villains.)
And they serve (among other things) – Thums Up.
What’s not to love?
The queues at lunch or dinner are testament to their popularity among the locals, and as we’ve learnt from repeat visits over multiple trips – they don’t take reservations – so to get a table without having to wait, it’s best to arrive at off- peak hours.
My personal favourite time is to arrive for a late breakfast around 11, to get a chance to try some items from their breakfast menu (particularly the akuri and chilli cheese toast), before transitioning on to their all-day menu.
The lamb samosas, keema pav, prawn koliwada and chicken berry Britannia are superb. It’s also one of the very few restaurants outside of India, which offer roomali roti on their menu (a pretty decent one, I might add). Since Bombay cafes are really not the best place to have curry – it’s best to stay away from those.
During this last visit, we had the opportunity to also try out their branch in Shoreditch. The food was the same, the décor was eccentric and the atmosphere, even cooler.
However, as much as I enjoyed the ambience, the friendly and efficient service of the Covent Garden branch is the one I would (and did) repeatedly head back for.
What about you? Do you have a favourite Indian restaurant in London?
Photo Credit: Gymkhana restaurant photos from their website.