As the winter nights draw in, nothing feels as welcome as a delicious Indian meal. Luckily, the capital is replete with some of the finest restaurants this side of Delhi, offering a full spectrum of what India’s varied cuisine has to offer. From the unique tastes of Calcutta, where the influences of Portuguese and French flavours come to play in exciting and unusual ways, to the spice-packed dishes of Kenyan Indian culture and the quirky small plates of Mumbai.
Here, we’ve rounded up some of the best London has to offer, from the seafood of Goa to the street food of Delhi, all housed in some of the capital’s most stunning restaurants, brimming with as much atmosphere as your dish will have flavour.
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Gymkhana is on many a London restaurant bucket list, and with good reason. The family-run eatery is inspired by the elite social clubs of India and has held a Michelin star since 2014 thanks to its superb blend of classic and contemporary Indian cuisine. Customers step off Albermarle Street and into the residential mansions of Kolkata on the ground floor, with its opulent jade green and timber décor, while heading down a mirrored staircase leads you to an elegant underground space inspired by North Indian architecture – complete with two private dining vaults perfect for more intimate (or extravagant) dinners. The food, it goes without saying, is second to none. You won’t regret ordering the Partiala fried chicken and garlic raita; the duck egg bhurji with lobster and Malabar Paratha; or the Goan prawn curry. Gymkhana more than lives up to the hype.
Opened this October, Chourangi is a unique and devastatingly delicious new player on the London restaurant scene. Grounded in the culinary heritage of Calcutta, the food here is quite unlike any other Indian restaurant. A medley of gastronomic influences is at play – a result of Calcutta’s own history – with dashes of British, Dutch, Portuguese, Armenian and Chinese flavours. There are mocha croquettes with banana florets, a delicate prawn curry served in a coconut shell, a paneer with fennel and black cardamom and a very special Hilsa fish served with a soft mustard sauce. Everything is unexpected and full of variety; from punchy curries to reworked cocktails, like their rum negronis. A must visit.
The acclaimed brand has finally opened a Soho outpost this month, on Greek Street. Expect the same bold and imaginative approach to traditional classics, with some cracking and inventive dishes, from beetroot croquettes to a sumptuous melt-in-the-mouth soft shell crab. The menu here upholds Gunpowder’s reputation as a fine purveyor of modern Indian cuisine and standouts include some mouth-watering Goan-style grilled prawns and buttery ox cheek puffs that taste a little like meat-filled doughnuts (a lot tastier than it sounds). Beautifully decorated, and with a warm and inviting atmosphere, this latest Gunpowder is destined to be a winter party season favourite.
Jamavar is more institution than restaurant; a much-beloved Mayfair destination, nestled in iconic Mount Street, just off Berkeley square. The décor is inspired by the Viceroy’s house in New Delhi, lending the space an old-world and gorgeously ornate feel. The real draw, however, is of course the food, which draws its flavour palette from the royal kitchens of Northern India and the seafood of the South. Headed up by culinary director Surender Mohan, expect a riot of jackfruit cutlets, puffed rice and date-tamarind chutney and Bhatti Ka octopus with black pepper, coriander seeds, Kashmiri red chilli and southern corn salad. Go for the atmosphere, stay for the mind-blowing dishes.
This small Mayfair restaurant is packed with character and quirk. It takes its inspiration from Bombay’s train system, with its the peculiar and vibrant art deco buildings sitting neatly alongside modern Mumbai. Modernity-meets-tradition is the order of the day at Bombay Bustle, with its pleasing nod to the rich history of this dynamic Indian city. The culinary fare focuses directly on the Dabbawalas; the institution of men who use Mumbai’s famed local railway and bicycles to deliver home-cooked meals across the city. It makes the menu at Bombay Bustle a gorgeous medley of family recipes and beloved signature dishes from Mumbai, including delectable small plates of Masala Pao, Sarah Keema Pao, Malabar chicken wings and a new trio of samosas with fillings of adipose beef, duck chettinad and aloo masala.
It is not just mouth-watering food which makes up Jikoni’s USP. Restaurateur Ravinder Bhogal’s mission to forge a greener world for the hospitality industry means Jikoni was the first independent restaurant in the UK to be certified as carbon neutral. The Marylebone kitchen-style diner takes its cues from Ravinder’s early memories of Kenya and offers up a deliciously unique menu which even features impressive vegan and vegetarian offerings. Tuck into sweetcorn and lime leaf fritters, crispy aubergine in a Sichuan caramel with sticky garlic rice; pumpkin and sweetcorn Swahili curry and dhal Dhokli – and all in the knowledge that you have done the environment no harm.
Madhu’s of Mayfair
It’s hard to imagine a restaurant on Piccadilly being something of a hidden gem, but that’s exactly what you get from Madhu’s of Mayfair, which somehow manages to simultaneously be discrete and unapologetically opulent. Located in the five-star Dilly Hotel, the restaurant has no presence on the busy street itself; only those in the know, know. If you’re a fan of Indian cuisine then you may have discovered Madhu’s before; the company has had numerous pop-ups and collaborations across the capital, including at The Savoy, Harrods and Harvey Nichols, and has even catered for Buckingham Palace. The restaurant, which is new to Mayfair, specialises in Punjabi food with a Kenyan twist, with secret family recipes that have been passed down over four generations. Whether you opt for the creamy prawn Moilee curry, the signature Masaledar Kuku or the classic Kashmiri Rogan Josh, you won’t be disappointed. If you can’t decide on a dish, ask for the off-menu option of a thali platter and try several.
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