Indian restaurants in London offer a Bollywood symphony of flavours and cooking styles. If you're looking for something beyond your bog standard Brick Lane curry, the list below should fire you up. From homely dhal dishes to Punjabi-grilled meats worth queuing for, discover the best Indian restaurants in London.
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. Recent menu additions include fragrant and tender chicken thighs steeped in fresh turmeric with lime juice then seared in the tandoor. Amaya’s own-made paneer is outstanding and beef makes a surprise appearance with a splendid sirloin boti.
Apollo Banana Leaf is an authentic rendering of South Indian and Sri Lankan cuisine – and for great value. Though prices have increased, they remain fantastically keen: especially when you factor in the BYO policy. Spices are at authentic Jaffna (north Sri Lankan) levels: a single chilli icon on the menu is to be taken seriously, two plus is for the brave. ‘Short eats’ (street-food snacks) join the likes of a rich, warmly spiced crab masala – claws and all.
The glitzy interior doesn’t hint at Brilliant’s longevity, but this Southall landmark has been trading for nigh-on 40 years. The owners, the Anand family, hail from Kenya, and the menu reflects this in starters of tandoori tilapia fish and mogo (cassava-root chips). Nevertheless, it’s for exemplary versions of straightforward Punjabi cooking that the restaurant has gained acclaim. Fish pakora followed by methi chicken karahi remain sublime options.
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 it 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.
There’s a gentleman’s club feel to this grand, Grade II-listed Victorian building. It’s an established haunt with a fine-dining menu of updated rustic and regal pan-Indian dishes. Cumbrian farmers have chef Vivek Singh to thank for his signature Herdwick lamb curry, the browned onion paste fried to a russet-brown and spiced with ginger, cardamom and fiery chillies. The kitchen also excels in seafood. Prices are pegged at the sharp end, although the set menus are affordable.
There’s something almost karmic about the location of this sibling to the Cinnamon Club, occupying as it does a former warehouse of the East India Company. And it occupies it stylishly, with walls in soft pewter hues inset with lustrous mother-of-pearl patterns. Most dishes emerging from the conventional kitchen are clever, not contrived. The menu might be fairly short, but the queue lining up for a taste of it is decidedly long.
A swish Bombay brasserie in the style of the old post-colonial 'Irani cafés' of Bombay. The main attraction though is the menu, loosely styled on Irani café food with birianis, bhel (crunchy puffed rice with tangy tamarind chutney) and even pau bhaji (toasted white bread rolls with a spicy vegetable stew as a filling). The black dal 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 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, the coconut chutneys fresh. Most of these meals cost under £3. It’s true that this South Indian and Sri Lankan café might not have the most alluring of interiors – it is lit like a Tamil truck-stop – but at least you get to see movies on the flatscreen TV by way of diversion.
Patron-chef Karam Sethi's (of Trishna and Hoppers also – find both below) Gymkhana has the look and feel of an Indian colonial club with its retro ceiling fans, marble table-tops, and yesteryear photos. Bar staff theatrically deliver Indian punches in sealed medicine bottles, accompanied by silvery goblets. Sethi lays on a splendid spread of modern Indian dishes based on regional masalas and marinades. Find fried South Indian chicken wings, Goan pork vindaloo and game on a separate menu – don't miss the muntjac biriani.
The Sethis strike again with this Sri Lankan restaurant, specialising in…well, you know. As you might expect from a no-bookings joint in Soho, it’s small but stylish. The menu is also stylish, taking on Indian and Sri Lankan cuisine. Slender breaded and deep-fried mutton rolls, roast bone marrow with a fiery ‘dry’ sauce and buttery roti, an unapologetically spiced guinea fowl curry and hoppers every which way. String hoppers (steamed rice noodle ‘pancakes’) come with not just a classic mild coconut pouring curry but with a terrific fresh coconut sambol.
Get more spice in your life
Indian dishes and craft drinks combine at this Brixton restaurant, with the plates of food matched (if you want) to a range of beers, ciders, stouts, lagers and ales. Each of the dishes comes with a number, and diners are invited to order a corresponding drink to go alongside. That means the onion bhajis should go well with a Delirium Tremens blonde ale; a malai tikka with the house Booma lager; tandoori machhi with Camden Gentleman's Wit; and pudina lamb chops with Rodenbach Grand Cru - a Flanders-style red ale. Speciality beers and some wines also feature.
"Let us challenge your perceptions by pairing great beers of the world with the delicate and delightful spice flavours of India."