London – Europe’s most diverse metropolis, is a great place to eat out. Almost any kind of cuisine is available here, Indian cuisine being the central cuisine . In 2001, Robin Cook the Foreign Minister, hailed “Chicken Tikka masala” as a true national dish of Britain which replaced the traditional “Fish and Chips”. As is said amongst the locals there, India gave Britain “Flavor”.
In my couple of short visits to London I tried quite a few balti/curry houses and listing my favorites here. This is my experience and just a recommendation to enjoy some good Indian food in the city:
1. Khan’s :
The first preference goes to Khan’s in Bayswater. A little out of the way to go by tube, but the delicious food makes up for it. Have heard that Bollywood celebrities also enjoy this Pakistani-owned Indian cuisine restaurant. My favorite here is the mouth watering authentic Indian Hyderabadi Mutton Biryani and the traditional Chicken Tandoori.
No alcohol served in this Halal restaurant, so can’t enjoy the Beer with the tandoori chicken, but they have very good cocktails, which can be a good accompaniment with the main course. For desserts don’t miss the kulfi here filled with pistachios leaving one wanting
Very well located this Bangladeshi-owned Indian Chowki restaurant is right across the famous Eros statue on Piccadilly Circus although the highlight of this place is the food served in small pots. Their menu is varied with different combinations available, which can get confusing at times, but our waitress was friendly and patient enough to explain us everything in detail. For desserts ask for the matka kulfi that comes in a ceramic pot and is just a treat!
One thing that did bother me about this place was its seating arrangement. The seats were without backs and the tables were very close to each other, rather communal which was kind of intruding the dining privacy that I love to have.
Remember those Irani Bombay Cafes….by the immigrants of Persia? Dishoom is London’s first Bombay cafe serving their very own “Brun Maska” just the way in the Irani café with Garam Chai(Hot tea). The ambience of the place is very simple with checkerboard tiles and oak paneling, along with marble-topped tables and mismatched chairs. Their specialty is their butter mashed Pau Bhaji which I enjoyed thoroughly; very rare to find the items on their menu outside India and hence this gets on my favorite restaurants list.
4. Moti Mahal:
The only reason to visit this place in Covent Garden is for its utterly delicious “Magz Masala”- Lamb’s brain stir fried with coriander, green chilies and served on masala pao. Do I say more? Brain is the delicacy few can cook very well and they take all the stars from me for their perfectly blended recipe. Another favorite of mine here is the Malai Saunfia Paneer –Tandoor glazed homemade fennel paneer just melting in your mouth.
5. The Punjab:
On my favorite lanes in London, on Shaftsberry avenue you find the best restaurant for distinctive Punjabi food. The Punjab, London’s oldest North Indian restaurant. I enjoyed the vegetarian treats here from Tandoori Paneer and then moved over to a sumptuous meal of Grandad’s Kali Dal (their specialty and secret recipe) , Bhindi Masala with some melting in the mouth hot garlic naan.
6. Chennai Dosa:
Yes very much in London….Chennai rules with its assortment of dosas and idlis. Chennai Dosa has several branches; I had lunch at Wembley High Road branch which was a huge place also offering South Indian buffet lunch at a very reasonable price. Great value for money and fantastic quality. The chilly dosa with 3 different chutneys and ample amount of tiffin sambhar was very hot for a spice lover like me too, but the taste lingered for long and was worth it. The south Indian buffet specialty was “chicken chettinadu” with out-of this-world taste. Next on our palate was the Medu vada which was light, fluffy and crisp just as it should be and the idlis…well nothing special…can certainly skip that. For desserts here order their Mango lassi which was tasty. Don’t forget to order a “pan” at the end of the meal which just adds the jest to this South Indian meal.
7. TKC Chaudhary:
Another area in London, dominated by Indians is Southall. The Broadway Street just gave the feeling as if I am in my very won Amchi Mumbai shopping at Linking Road, Khar. The shops here with beautiful clothes, the stalls, the store selling Indian food and Bollywood songs played with high volumes makes you feel home away from home….India. While shopping on this oh-so-famous Broadway Street of Southall we came across a man dipping this crispy batter in hot sugar syrup.
Out came the beautiful orange colored hot jalebis.
Just perfect for the cold crisp day we were having in Southall. These were one of the best jalebis I had in my life time and hope to come coming back for more!
8 .Gurudwara Langar:
Well could not sign off before mentioning the food at Langar in the new Gurudwara at Southall . The spirituality of this place is just amazing with Gurbani in the background and Londoner-Sikhs with the best of their Indian wear worn below the long coats and hats and the duppattas hidden behind the thick woolen scarves. After spending some good time meditating in the main hall and then entering the Langar just in time for lunch where people are more than eager to welcome you and serve you, intrigued by our arrival as Israelis to their place of worship.
The food there was just like I am eating at a Punjabi friend’s home prepared by her grandmother….with rotis, dal makhani, rice, aloo gobhi, boondi raita and jalebi. The women volunteer in the langar to prepare food and hence this home made authentic taste. Visiting a Gurudwara in Southall is a must for both body (culinary buds) and mind (peace of mind).
In the times of the Empire, the British came back to England from India with the spices and the taste of the Asian cuisine. Many remained with the same long after that and to cater to the same there are more than 8000 Indian cuisine restaurants in U.K and I have made an attempt to mention just a few in a nutshell. I invite you to share your experience.
This article was first published on http://jackmick.wordpress.com/2012/01/02/best-eats-london/
More About Jacqueline Solomon
Jacqueline is a mother of two 2 daughters 8 year-old Noa and 3 year-old Naama who has been living in Israel for the last 14 years. She currently works as a Systems Analayst, with a passion for reading, writing, cooking and networking. For more articles from Jacqueline, you can visit:http://jackmick.wordpress.com.
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