London’s sprawling Indian food scene runs a gamut of regional styles and specialities, with a Bollywood symphony of fantastic flavours. From homely dhal dishes to upscale, offal-laced keema and Punjabi-fired meats worth getting in line for, our list of London’s best Indian restaurants – some of which feature in our wider lists of London’s finest eateries and dishes – means you’ll never suffer a bog-standard Brick Lane curry again.
Video: get a taste of some of London’s best curry restaurants
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The best Indian restaurants in London
Specialising in stylish pan-Indian tapas, Amaya is favoured by a clientele of well-heeled professionals blessed with good taste and deep pockets. Ask for a table by the open kitchen for a view of chefs working the clay tandoor, charcoal grill and griddle. Amaya’s own-made paneer is outstanding and beef makes a surprise appearance in a splendid sirloin boti.
Apollo Banana Leaf is an authentic rendering of South Indian and Sri Lankan cuisine – and great value. Though prices have increased, the restaurant remains fantastically keen on low prices – note the cracking lunchtime deals for under a tenner. Spices are at authentic Jaffna (north Sri Lankan) levels: a single chilli icon on the menu is to be taken seriously; more than two is for the brave. Try the rich, warmly spiced crab masala – served with claws and all.
It’s love at first whiff once you step inside this casual offshoot of swish Jamavar. There’s plenty of bustle and noisy chatter, while the smoky aromas speak of killer Indian cooking. Headlining fixtures from the menu include the dense lamb keema served with buttered ‘pao’ buns, the Goan-style stone bass tikka, the moist, chunky lamb biryani, and – of course – the rich, mellow dhal. Bombay Bustle is also darned affordable by Mayfair standards – and it’s great fun.
What does every self-respecting curryhead need to complement their favourite meal of the week? Lashings of beer, of course – and at this modern cuzza house serving north-Indian small plates, they take the bevvies as seriously as they do the food. Order standard-bearing favourites – excellent onion bhajis, rich black lentils, succulent tandoor-charred lamb chops – then nab yourself a third or two-third measure of the ales, ciders and stouts on the beer taps in the dining room. Ba ba booma!
You could call Brigadiers ‘Hoppers for people with money’. Not because there’s any similarity between the menus, but because this Indian barbecue restaurant has all the hallmarks of the Sethi empire (Trishna, Bao etc). Service is super-slick but friendly with crowd-pleasing features abound (check out the nashta brunch) and the menu has plenty of standouts – from ‘chatpata’ poori, chaat and paos to meaty grills, kebabs and chops. Brigadiers also doubles as a boozy sports bar with TV screens showing the latest events.
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The glitzy interior doesn’t hint at Brilliant’s longevity, but this Southall landmark has been trading since 1975. The Anand family hails from Kenya and the menu reflects their lineage with starters of tandoori tilapia fish and chilli mogo (cassava root chips), although the restaurant’s reputation hinges on its exemplary renditions of straightforward Punjabi cooking – especially its big bowls of authentically spiced curry and humongous naan. Fish pakora followed by methi chicken is a sublime choice.
In a city where many of us still think of Indian food as an either/or situation (hottest thing on the menu lads/chicken korma wimps) it’s a pleasure to eat in a restaurant where the special spice blends are really allowed to sing. It’s frankly a surprise to find this in Canary Wharf, but once you’re in you can choose between eating Indian tapas in the Toddy Shop – the slightly less formal front section of the restaurant – and the more traditional dining area at the back, where you can order three courses.
It seems fitting that this smart-casual City sibling of the Cinnamon Club should occupy what was an old spice warehouse belonging to the East India Company. These days it’s a suited and booted favourite, complete with stylish industrial-chic interiors and a covered courtyard for year-round socialising. Most of the dishes emerging from the open kitchen are clever but not contrived – think ‘muzzeh’ street food snacks, tandoori, regional biryani and curries, plus a clutch of vegan options. There’s an offshoot in Battersea Power Station, too.
Bringing north India’s roadside café culture to a crossroads in Maida Vale, Dhaba@49 offers everything you want from a local restaurant: friendly service, keen prices and bang-on deliciousness. The interior might remind you of Dishoom, but sweet little touches like velvet blue seating and a disco playlist keep it feeling unpretentious. Dhaba@49 prides itself on its chaat – the crispy/tangy/spicy snacks typically served in dhabas (roadside restaurants) – so that’s probably a good place to start. Its curries, rice and breads are also pretty flawless.
A swish brasserie in the style of the old post-colonial Irani cafés of Bombay. The main attraction is the menu, with biryanis, bhel (crunchy puffed rice with tangy tamarind chutney) and pau bhaji (toasted white bread rolls with a spicy vegetable stew as a filling). The black dhal and bacon naan are practically household names, causing queues for a table. This Covent Garden branch began the Dishoom story, but all other branches – Shoreditch, King’s Cross, Kensington and Carnaby Street – get a holi high five from us.
Rarely have we seen such a perfect dosa: crisp on the outside, moist and rice-fragrant on the inside, a perfect oval bent over in the shape of a curling leaf. The accompanying sambar (spicy lentil dip) is rich and sweet, in the Chennai style, and the coconut chutneys fresh. Most of the dosa cost under £5. It’s true that this South Indian and Sri Lankan café might not have the most alluring of interiors – it’s lit like a Tamil truck-stop – but at least you get to see movies on the flatscreen TV by way of diversion.
This tiny family-run restaurant headed by Nirmal Save, once a chef at Mayfair’s Tamarind, aims to defy the stranglehold of ‘bucket curries’ on the Brick Lane neighbourhood and bring quality small plates to Indian food. Gunpowder ditches stomach-bursting breads and sauces in favour of strong flavours and a menu of about 20 dishes from across India. The chargrilled tandoori chicken and Kashmiri lamb chops are excellent, and veggie options, including a sweet sigree-grilled mustard broccoli, are star turns. There’s an offshoot by Tower Bridge.
With its vintage yet modern interior, no-bookings policy and focus on street food dishes, this Sri Lankan stunner is one of Soho’s slicker drop-ins. The eponymous hoppers (savoury pancakes) are crisp and chewy in all the right places, the kari dishes are full of flavour and starters such as the goat roti are unmissable. Simply pop yourself onto the electronic queue, nip off for a drink and wait for a cheeky message telling you it’s time to chow down. Note that Hoppers’ Wigmore Street offshoot takes bookings.
Forget liking it hot: Indian Accent is for those of you who like it swish. Shiny-haired hostesses greet you on arrival and the expensively decorated dining room is like one of those international Taj hotels – all dark woods, opulent marble, smoky mirrors, caramel-toned lighting, piano music and crisp air conditioning. The swanky-pants setting is matched by food that’s as high-end as Indian food gets – creative, pretty, pricey and very special. The insanely tender pork ribs marinated with syrupy pickled mango is one of the highlights. Just hope someone else is paying.
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With roots in the India League, which campaigned for the country’s independence, the Club has been in residence at this address, upstairs at the Hotel Strand Continental, since 1946. The canteen-like fare is good (be sure to order the egg curry) and prices are fabulously easy on the pocket. As for the look, it’s a humble nod to colonial times: mustard walls, wipe-clean tables, and ornate metal lanterns overhead.
Jamavar’s vibe suggests a smart, colonial-era gentlemen’s club, but don’t let the high-ceilings, brass fixtures and swathes of dark-wood panelling put you off. Instead, focus on the food – a succession of luscious, delicately-spiced small plates bursting with purity and depth of flavour. Expect exquisite little dishes along the lines of lobster idli sambhar or kid goat kebabs with bone marrow sauce, plus luxed-up tandoori, biryani, curries and sublime desserts. Yes, Jamavar is seriously pricey, but it’s also well worth the outlay.
A solo venture from the former head chef of Mayfair’s Tamarind, Peter Joseph, Kahani offers the option of small portions for most dishes which allows you to happily maraud around the menu, trying a bit of everything. Dip into small plates such as the Mangalorean-spiced soft-shell crab with smoked tomato chutney or trade up to one of the bigger items – perhaps the slow-cooked lamb shank with Kashmiri spices. Staff can sometimes try too hard, and the room needs more bums on seats, but for classy modern Indian cooking, it’s a cracker.
Fans were understandably distraught when the original shipping container Kricket in Brixton closed – but then came a bricks-and-mortar spot in Soho, and all was forgiven. Now, at last, the cool modern Indian has gone back to its SW9 roots, with a permanent branch south of the river. The signature Keralan fried chicken is a delicious fixture, but the rest of the menu is a movable feast – anything from masala duck hearts to day boat squid with coconut. Another branch is now open in White City.
Tucked away on a quiet backstreet just off the King’s Road, ex-Trishna and Jamavar chef Rohit Ghai’s first solo venture is a good-looking townhouse restaurant with plenty of polish. Seafood is a particular delight, with upmarket specialities that might include soft-shell crab with chickpeas and tellicherry pepper, salmon tikka or pan-fried sea bass with curry leaves and coconut. Go for the intimate atmosphere, sumptuous decor and food that doesn’t disappoint.
Okay, so strictly speaking this is a Pakistani restaurant, but if you’re looking for curry, you’ve come to the right place. In fact, even though it might not look like much, Lahore Kebab House is a place of pilgrimage for curry lovers. Queues snake out of the door at weekends, with diners travelling from far and wide to sample Punjabi-style tandoori grilled meat and generous portions of ghee-laden curry. Bargain prices, attentive service and a BYO policy just add to the draw. The house specials are worth ordering, especially the nihari and dry lamb curry.
The mother-daughter team behind this family affair serves curries based on its Pakistani heritage, so this Soho-styled yet homely joint isn’t technically an Indian. But you’ll forgive us for blurring boundaries when you taste the five-star offerings on the short menu – the line-up changes regularly, but those we have loved include the kofta masala, the smoky chickpea curry, and the excellent desserts. Also reap the boozy rewards of the restaurant’s collaboration with Brockley Brewery (which developed a lager and a pale ale just for MWC). If you need a reason to visit Brockley, this is it.
Opened in 2009 by a former Tayyabs manager, this squashed space doesn’t suffer from the same problem of endless queues, but it is just as gaudy. Yet with curries this good, the decor fades into the background. What you get is succulent karahi dishes and specials that include nihari (lamb on the bone) and a very passable biryani. Pre-prepared snacks can be disappointingly stale but service is swift and friendly, and it’s hard to argue with the appeal of BYO and curries of such a high standard.
It began life as a street food stall peddling Indian vegan food, but Spicebox now has a permanent pitch with a takeaway out front, and a proper sit-down space at the back. It feels like walking into a civilised Indian home with incense in the air and old school music playing. Expect plant-based dishes with rich, deep flavours and emphatic spicing: classic chaats and bhajis are joined by the now-ubiquitous jackfruit in various guises, plus warming dhal and traditional desserts tailored to vegan appetites.
Following a revamp and personnel changes in the kitchen, Mayfair’s timeless Tamarind is back – and the gilded subterranean space feels lighter, brighter and buzzier than ever, with two open kitchens and a new lounge space upstairs. Now helmed by former head chefs from Amaya and Chutney Mary, it delivers stunning regional curries, tandoori, salads and indulgently creamy desserts. Tip: the room works best in winter or after dark (it’s no place for a sunshine lunch).
Trust us: you ain’t never been to a chophouse like this. The meats here are spice-laden and tandoor-smoked, and all the better for it, while the industrial-style decor owes more to Bombay (via Dishoom) than Berni Inn. Almost every dish will make you swoon, from the kebab rolls, nimbu masala fries, chicken chops and brilliant naan to the exotically garnished kulfi served as a refreshing finale.
People were queuing outside this huge East End curry house long before it became the big thing in London, and Tayyabs remains as frantically busy as ever – don’t come here expecting a relaxed chilled-out time. Instead, revel in the bold bargain-priced dishes served up by this Punjabi stalwart. Definitely try the fiery grilled lamb chops, still one of London’s best dishes. The rest of the menu is all about rich dhal, slow-cooked curries and good versions of north Indian staples. And the corkage-free BYO policy doesn’t hurt.
They now have a string of hits to their name (Hoppers, Brigadiers etc), but this is where it all began for the all-conquering Sethi siblings. The setting is a smart and quietly conservative Marylebone dining room, while the kitchen thrills punters with its Michelin-starred interpretations of regional Indian cuisine – especially seafood from the southern provinces (look for fixtures such as tandoori mustard prawns, hariyali bream or Dorset brown crab with coconut oil and curry leaves). Sunaina Sethi’s fascinating globetrotting wine list is a big plus.
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