The search is on for the best Indian food in the world. theindiaphile takes these matters pretty seriously, so we’d like to hear about it if there is somewhere you think we’ve missed. Over the next months, we’re going to trawl the world’s great cities for a taste of the best Indian food outside and inside the subcontinent. What better place to start off than London, home to one of the world’s largest Indian diasporas and consequently a mecca for both south and north Indian food. Indian restaurants in London are almost as varied as the subcontinent itself. There are tiny south Indian dosa shops, chaat vendors, market snacks, full fledged gourmet food, tiffin shops, mithai wallahs and just about everything in between. Separating the wheat from the chaff is not easy, however, and has necessitated a good deal of difficult research on our behalf! These five are a good place to begin, though we’ve started at the high end of the spectrum. More culinary delights to come in our continuing series on Indian restaurants in London so watch this space.
15-19 Halkin Arcade, Motcomb St., SW1; 020-7823 1166
Amaya focuses uniquely on Indian grills, seasoned with delicately spiced marinades using time honoured Indian methods. These are prepared in full view in a theatrical restaurant/show kitchen. Don’t expect conventional first or main courses, just go with the flow. Matthew Norman (Sunday Telegraph) gave them a glowing review with the the headline; “Amaya is so good it’s off the scale”!
(2) Star of India
154 Old Brompton Rd., SW5; 020-7373 2901
The Star of India was established in 1954 by Sheikh Mahammad, one of the first great Indian chefs to arrive in the UK. Reza Mahammad took over from his father in 1991 and has since added his own touch to the restaurant, bringing the menu into the 21st century. We recommend a Sunehri Khaste: vermicelli Rolled coriander pancakes stuffed with cumin tempered batons of paneer, red onion and green chilli, served with a spicy tomato and chive chutney.
20 Queen St., W1; 020-7629 3561
As Tamarind enters its 16th year, the award-winning Indian restaurant, in the heart of London’ Mayfair, continues to be instrumental in changing perceptions of the subcontinent’s cuisine. The black dal makhani here is quite simply one of the most delicious we’ve had anywhere. Other house specialties include seekh kebabs cooked in the tandoor and the very special lobster karaikudi – chunks of lobster tail tossed with cumin, red onion, curry leaves, tomatoes and pounded spices.
12a Berkeley Square House, Berkeley Square, London, W1J 6BS
In Benares, Atul Kochar re-creates the wizardry that won him his Michelin star at Tamarind. Benares delivers acclaimed modern Indian cuisine as chic as its location off Berkeley Square. The menu explores delicately flavoured dishes from all corners of India, with sophisticated modern presentation from the food down to the elegant décor. A special experience and worth the slightly punishing price!
No1 Kensington High Street,London, W8 5NP, Tel: +44 (0) 20 7795 653
‘Who would have thought that a bank turned into an Indian restaurant would be cool – and bag itself one of the first Michelin star given to an Indian restaurant in the process?’ So wrote the Independent when they reviewed Zaika after its opening in 2004. Six years later, it’s still a very strong contender for London’s most exciting take on Indian food, serving a selection of traditional dishes such as Trio of ‘Goosnargh’ chicken Tikka marinated in- basil and coriander, Masala cheese and Peppercorn & sesame seeds with red chillies, Lamb Roganjosh.