Looking for an Indian restaurant in London that isn’t your average curry house? From regional Indian street food at Masala Zone to popular traditional Bombay cafe empire Dishoom. Here are the top best Indian restaurants in the capital…
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 cashews.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The first Indian chef in the world to receive a Michelin star, Atul Kochhar reminds us why he’s been so decorated in his 30-year career, with his glamorous two-floor Mayfair restaurant centering on lesser-known, more remote regions of his homeland and neighbouring countries.
Let chef guide you with the set or tasting menus, or explore via the à la carte. This might be a refined dining experience but portions are far from dainty – expect to leave full. In our case, this is thanks to seafood Alleppey curry, which sees a gentle bathing of sweet, soft shellfish, kissed by heat – portly scallops, tenderised squid and butterflied prawns – in a sauce exquisitely balanced with coconut, curry leaves and mustard seeds.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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