When to go: When you crave Indian food but are tired of ‘curry’.
What to have: Biryanis, kebabs, or ask for any of the Awadhi dishes.
Much of the menu at this chic bar and grill is grilled on the tawa (a thick iron plate), sigri (coal grill) or in the more familiar tandoor (hot clay oven) right in front of diners, which adds a great sense of theatre to the sparkling surrounds. The biryanis are light and aromatic; and if you’ve ever wanted to try proper ‘Awadhi’ dishes, from Lucknow at the height of the Moghul empire, this is the place to go.Read more
When to go: When your gastronomic sat-nav says no to a Brick Lane curry.
What to have: The house special, lamb raan, which is a slow-marinated, spice-laden delight.
The second of two branches (the first is in Covent Garden), this Dishoom is one of the best places to eat in Shoreditch. The interior is modelled on the ‘Irani cafés’ of Bombay, with booths and mosaic floors creating intimate nooks with a makeshift feel. Dishes on the feisty modern Indian menu are vividly described and peppered with brilliant asides and quirky facts – whether referring to superior versions of chicken tikka and lamb biryani, or lesser-known classics such as a keema Frankie. Spicy breakfasts and brunch throw a cracking curve-ball, too.Read more
When to go: Lunchtime for a light but lively bedazzlement, dinner for a full wallah-wallow in Raj reveries.
What to have: Fried South Indian chicken wings, suckling pig vindaloo, tandoori-seared guinea fowl breast.
Gymkhana models its look on Indian colonial clubs in the days of the Raj. But if the look and feel are retro (and a little too clubby for some tastes in the main dining room), chef Karam Sethi’s cooking is anything but. Based on regional ideas ranging throughout the Indian subcontinent, it is modern in approach and has a nice touch of theatricality: Indian punches come in sealed medicine bottles, with an ice-filled silvery goblet on the side. Don’t expect curry-house fare. Chef Sethi’s cuisine is truly original, and his emphasis on game is a departure from most Indian restaurants.Read more
Venue says: Come to enjoy your favorite dishes and enjoy a 10% discount on your food bill! Don't forget to quote Time Out when making the reservation.
When to go: When the idea of a budget Ruby Murray has lost its sheen.
What to have: Skip the online set menu meal deals, which are cheaper, but they’re also duller; go à la carte.
Its Covent Garden location and lots of online offers means a regular flow of slightly more adventurous tourists and theatregoers populate the room, but serious Indian food fans shouldn’t turn their noses up. While lacking the glam factor of other top-end Indian restaurants, the room is smart enough and the refined new-wave cooking more than makes up for the bland interiors. Careful spicing and flashes of creativity means the menu is peppered with classic dishes (a ‘pickling spice’ lamb curry) to please conservative diners, as well as more inspired interpretations of well-known recipes. The prices on the à la carte are not too kind, but we’d dare you find a menu more vibrant and wondrous than this in theatreland.Read more
Venue says: Lunchtime offer: two courses for £14.95 per person.
When to go: When you need to curry the favour of family or loved ones with a lovely ruby murray.
What to have: The more traditional dishes are the strongest, such as the Sri Lankan chicken curry – spiked with ginger, dried chillies and fried onion masala.
Smart Indian restaurants tend to play on the Raj-to-riches look, but Painted Heron is a refreshingly simple neighbourhood restaurant – even though that neighbourhood is Chelsea. The cooking’s an imaginative mix of smart, traditional Indian recipes and Western-style dish presentation, which is a winning combination for many. Not all the dishes are based on old recipes though – the deep-fried soft-shell crab, coated in a ground rice and sesame-seed batter, is outstanding, with a crisp crust that yields to reveal the sweet flesh below. The desserts are not Indian at all, with the likes of fondants and cheesecakes complementing the savoury courses very well indeed.Read more