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Hasmi

what is your opinion of Indian restaurants in UK?

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Hi Guys,

As I live in London and being a person who eats out at Indian restaurants here all the time. What is your opinion of them? Good, bad or plain nasty? Generally speaking of course. Just interested....

Hasmi

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I am anxious to read what everyone has to say... I know little if anything about the Indian restaurants there.  

This is going to be a great education for me.  What a great thread.... I may be off to London in the next couple of weeks.. so this is great timing.

Thanks for your post Hasmi. Welcome to the India board at egullet.

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Suvir

What a shame, we are going to cross in the skies.  Maybe next time I can show you the haunts of the motherland

Hamsi - London is neither the mecca of India food that it is professed or professes to be, nor is it a shabby as say the offerings in North America

It works on a huge number of levels

High End - Zaika, Bombay BRasserie, Red Fort.  All of these have things to offer but I find them empty experiences as they transmit none of the joy that such food deserves

Mid Range - Meela etc.  This is a much better bet and Mela itself is a great place with simple food prepared with great care by a talented chef ( Kuldeep Singh )

Canteen Style - The India club, YMCA etc.  These are great standbys, not superb but reasonable

I also like to visit areas outside the main drag, so I go to the sweetshops in The Northwick park area which are by far the best in London and the Karai houses in Southhall and Wembley

The only places I avoid are Brick Lane ( Bangla Town and all the theme park that suggests ) and increasingly and increasingly sadly, Drummond St, which used to have the best Dosa Houses in the world, but no longer

S

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Simon have you heard of Lahori??  It is a kebab house that I have heard endless praises of.  No fuss, hole in the wall restaurant but great tandoori and north western fare.

Would love your feedback.  keep me posted on your NYC trip.  Maybe I am here when you are.. and it would be nice to meet.

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Suvir

I will mail you my dates, it would be great to meet if not next trip, then another time

The Lahore Kharai has two branches Wembley and Southhall, both serve simple food in a canteen surrounding and do it quite well

S

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If you are talking about just Indian Restaurants then I think that the quality exists mainly at the high end. The average high street restaurant is pretty ghastly. Dyed food, tastless but chilli hot, dirty surroundings and frankly just about all that the average punter deserves or wants after 8 pints at the Rat and Raj.

There are however some delightful surprises not least south of the river and often these are not Indian but Pakistani and Bangladeshi.

Tabaq Restaurant, 47, Balham Hill London SW12 9DR  Tel: 020 8673 7820 -Pakistani, with beautiful subtle flavours and unusual dishes. You can order a whole lamb 24 hours early for a real feast.

Bombay Bicycle Club Ltd, 95, Nightingale Lane, London SW12 8NX Tel: 020 8673 6217. Indian. Owned by a committee but a great sucess with only fresh spices and herbs used. Now a small chain. On other sites the takeaway is cooked infront of your eyes)

Tooting (too numerous to mention) The vegetarian restaurants are often fantastic. Just choose one that is busy and full of the locals.

PS. My last trip to Brick Lane ended early when a cockroach crawled over the serving counter!

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Simon,I would guess that Suvir is probably talking about the Lahore Kebab House in Whitechapel ,which serves terrific Lahori food but is not as good as New Tayyab a couple of hundred yards away in Fieldgate St which serves similar food.

I actually think Simon is underrating Indian restaurants in London.Although I've eaten marvellous Indian meals in other parts of the world,including Pakistan and India,I don't know of anywhere else with such a concentration of good Indian restaurants. Also,at some of the top end places there is some cutting edge stuff going on,which might not be to everyone's taste,but which is keeping interest and custom alive.

There are,of course ,lots of medicre bog standard curry houses,but the Time Out guide to eating and drinking has done an excellent job in its sub-continent section-rooting out all the best places across the spectrum and omitting most of the dross.

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I think the average High St Curry House is unrecognisable to anyone who knows Indian food.

I would disagree about the high end.  I have found them all wanting.

The mid range is where it is at.  Individual chefs taking real pride in what they do.  I mention Kuldeep Singh at Mela ( Shaftsbury Ave ) again as he, to me is everything that is good about Indian food in this country.  The menu is based on the snack foods of Bombay and you can select from a wide range of wonderfully fresh dishes all of which are bursting with all the right flavours.  If you have to try one place in London for Indian food, this would be my choice.

He also takes time to make rabri fresh every day.  A sign of a true artist :smile:

I know that Tony Finch is very fond of The New Tayab in Bethnal Green which is Pakistani.  I have not yet been but will soon.

I can't comment much about south of the river as there are not enough hot needles etc etc to get me to cross over to the Swamp

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And I thought that you would eat your mother if it meant that you got a good second course.

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Hasmi - London is neither the mecca of India food that it is professed or professes to be, nor is it a shabby as say the offerings in North America

It works on a huge number of levels

Hi Suvir,

I agree with Simon on the majority of what he has said.

There is a wide breadth of Indian cuisine available to sample over here.

In comparison to North America - sadly I cannot comment on that. As I always seem to get trapped in to Fast Food over there - rarely leaving the Disney Parks ( whether it be Florida or California!)

In London on the High end I have tried a few. Here are some I have been too...too many to go into all of them.

Zaika - which I think is the only Michelin starred Indian restaurant, correct me if I am wrong). From Zaika there has been an off spring of bars serving snacky bits and bobs.

Mela - I thought was ok but nothing to write home about.

Chutney Marys - again food was ok.

Le Portes Des Indes - now that is my favourite. If you go for Sunday Lunch they have a huge buffet with French - Indian flavours. Beautiful inside. Very enjoyable!

Zaika - very good. The equivalent of gourmet for the Indian palette.

Red Fort - I enjoyed thought the food was good. Nice bar ((AkBar) down stairs.

Soho Spice - again ok but not excellent

Quillon - Goan influence a Taj restaurant. Prawn dishes are very good here.

Vama's - I enjoyed again it borders on the gourmet equivalent.

Mala's - St Catherines Dock is a lovely. The food to be honest is not fabulous but it very easily eatable. If you do go there you will see what I mean by it being an memorable experience. It is in the most wonderful location. Trust me!

These are but a few of Higher quality restaurants you will find in central London. They tend however to be over priced. Portions may be small for the amount you pay. On the other hand presentation and quality of Ingredients used are superb ( mostly! ).

I strongly recommend Les Portes Des Indes for sunday lunch. My favourite!

I have more insights however i do not wish to bore you any further. If you would like to know more then just say and I could go on with regards to Vegetarian/Gujarati/South Indian restaurants and Sweet Marts (in the Wembley, Ealing Rd area/North London vicinty ).

Oh I also forgot there are a number of Indian Clubs that have opend and the food here tend to be quite good. Not the typical Bangladeshi food mainly punjabi style. East African Asian influences.

Another fav I will just quickly add in is Madhu's Brilliant in Southall. Nice restaurant and good punjabi style food. Lovely Chole and Bhaturas.

Cheers,

Hasmi

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It is interesting how different a take you can get on the same things, for my view

Zaika - redefined ordinary.  A sham.  I actively hated this place

Chutney Mary's - I kinda don't count this as it is Anglo Indian - a valid food form but I don't think you can judge it along side the others.  FWIW, I found it ordinary.

Red Fort - The regular menu is OK, it is much better when they have guest chefs.  But, it is hugely expensive.

Port Des Indes - Now this is where we disagree as I had one of the single worst meals of my life in this place and also had food poisoning that night.  Now that may have been a coincidence but I wont be going back

I would add in the Rasa Chain of Kerulan restaurants.  The one in Stoke Newington is best and the Kerulan Christian ( serves non veg dishes ) is also very good.  Rasa samudra, the fish restaurant is very expensive and OK and the Bond St branch, Rasa W1 is good but expensive.

I also had a decent meal recently at Chor Bizzare ( that's how it is spelt! ) which was very expensive.

S

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I'm still waiting to have a decent meal in Rasa, Stokie.  Been a few times & on one occasion they actually ran out of food - it was 1.5 hours wait and by that time v. hungry & v. drunk.  (Also - is it just me of are vegetarian hangovers worse than non-veg ones?)  Oh, and I also leave hungry - v small portions.

Red Fort - I like the basement - very interesting coctails (a bit loud, 'though).  I don't remember anything about the food.

Veraswammy (spelling?) - felt ill afterwards (wasn't drink - I didn't have any).  

I have noticed a huge difference in what I think of as english-indian and scottish-indian bastardisations of indain cusine.  There is quite a distinctive variation & having grown up with it I much prefer the Scottish version.  In fact, since moving to London I've all but given up trying english-type indain places.

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english-indian and scottish-indian bastardisations of indain cusine

SCOTTISH indian cuisine? Why does the sheer sound of that frighten me.

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This is wonderful.  I will have no need for a guide book to use while in London.  Thanks guys.

What is the difference between the Scottish and English versions of Indian food?

I have heard great things about Lahori and Tabaaq.  And Tabaaq was trying to come to NYC.  The deal they were making seems to have fizzled.  I must research as to what happened with it.

I am surprised to hear that Chutney Mary has not been given better reviews by you guys.  After all it is one of the restaurants done by the famous and very well respected Punjabi sisters (Camelia and Namita, Camelia of Taj fame).  What is it that does not work about Chutney Mary?  

Veeraswamy:  I have heard great feedback from Indians visiting London and people I can implicitly trust.  They love the food and everything about it.  Also some story about it being one of the older Indian restaurants in London.  Is that true?

Zaika:  What a great name.  Does everyone know what it means?  It is the urdu word for taste.  Often used when something has a great taste.  I heard great things about it and of course about the Michelin star.

What are these Clubs you all  talk about like?  What makes them such that they are called Clubs?  In India the Clubs we have are a leftover of the Raj.  Mostly very restrictive in membership, often in terrible disrepair, managed as if  the British are expected back from their game of Golf any moment, old world service for the most part (that is a great winning point in my book), and some of these exclusive clubs in India have waiting lists for memberships that run close to 5 or 6 decades.  Are the English versions of Clubs similar?   Our Indian Clubs serve Indian and Continental foods.  Actually the Gymkhaana Club in Delhi was at one time famous for great Chinese food.  I am curious to know more about these Clubs.

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The clubs in the replies are just fancy restaurant names Im afraid. They are not real clubs with memberships etc.

If  you would like to come to a Gentlemans Club when you are in London then I would be more than happy to meet and take you to the National Liberal. It is at the lower end of stuffy but it still has a beautiful building in Whitehall and fires burning in summer with old men asleep in front of them. No business discussions inside and no mobile phone either (bliss!) You have to wear a jacket and tie or preferably a suit but tweeds will do.

Gulls eggs in season at the bar and a fantastic view off the London Eye over the gardens and the river. There is always a roast and full range of grills as well as a la carte (from the kitchens of the 5* hotel next door) and club menu with 3 courses for about £12.

The best bit is subsidised wines and a great place to have a snooze after lunch.

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Suvir

I have been a member of various "gentlemen's" clubs of some ancient standing ( a legacy of my time as a priest ) and finding the members to be no such thing ( particularly in their treatment of women) I have left all of them.

I am now a member of a mid range professionals club called The Agency, which offers good food, meeting rooms, billard rooms etc with none, of, quite frankly, the bollocks.  There are many of these springing up all over London.  Some, like the Groucho or Soho House are to be avoided like a plaque carrying rat, others; The Green Room, Two Bridges, and the afore mentioned Agency are really quite nice and a way to escape the shiny suited yobs that seem to populate the heart of central London

for a very bizarre experience in London, go to The India Club, which used to be the canteen for the workers at The Indian Embassy in The Aldwych.  It is ostensibly a member's club but is, shall we say, a little run down.  The food however is dependable if not spectacular and the place itself was described by Egon Ronay as being like " The porter's lounge at Bangalore railway station"

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Jeremysco,

And those were the grand old Indian Clubs as well.  Yes subsidized liquor and aerated drinks from their own Soda Factories.  But the last such soda factory in Delhi (Delhi Gymkhana) closed due to want from the members for Coke and Pepsi labels.  How sad.  And yes-proper attire was always necessary.

In fact an ex Indian Prime Minister, I think it was VP Singh was denied entry into the club while in office for not having come in proper gentlemanly attire.  It created quite a stir.  The Club was accused of being elitist, classist, racist and an extension of those troubled days when the British meted out that treatment to the natives.  

But I loved the Gymkhana growing up.  Found it very calm, serene, peaceful, and civilized and a world of its own.  The lending library was better stocked than many public libraries in smaller US cities.  The librarian knew first names of my parents their siblings, my grandparents and their siblings and of-course my siblings and I.  He knew what books to send home with me those odd weeks when mom did not make her weekly trip to the library.   Attached to the library were the reading rooms. One for reading dailies, another for the members wanting to read books in quiet and a third for dependents like me who wanted to read but perhaps would challenge the rules of silence every so often.

And I remember well seeing many members taking a snooze hidden in some corner of the club.  Many were doing this after a lunch meeting, before heading back to work.  

Every Monday over the summer we would go for the out door film screening and eat Chola Bhaturas (chickpeas with deep fried puffy bread) or Chinese foods from the stalls adjacent to the screening.  As soon as the lights were dimmed and the movie started it was us eating our food, watching the film and cats rummaging below for scraps.  

At the end of the movie we ate pastries and ice cream.  The chocolate and Caramel Éclairs are the best I have ever eaten anywhere.  In fact, I was so spoiled by these very good ones that now I am easily disappointed by even the best.  They had not very good chocolate to work with, but the pastry and the cream were amazing.  Perfect in short.  The lemon tartlets similarly were a taste of life in heaven at every tiny bite.  

All this in a very regal setting.  In the heart of beautifully planned Delhi.  One of the small wooden gates used by the gardeners to water and trim the hedges looked at the front entrance of Indira Gandhi's residence during her days in office.  But all of that is slowly changing.  I am not sure what the food is like at the Gymkhana anymore.  I have not been back in a very long time.

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I have started a new thread for us to learn about the differences between the Scottish and the English version of Indian Sub-Continental foods.

Looking forward to learning about what makes them different.

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Suvir

I was for a while a member of the Tolly in Calcutta.  have you been?  Is it still the slightly strange place it was?

It sounds so like the Gymkhana.

S

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My granparents lived in Calcutta and yes the Delhi Gymkhana is to Delhi what Tolly is to Calcutta.  

The retired civil servants or the scattered anglos went there to eat and play bridge and 21 card rummy for those that were new to cards.

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Suvir

I hope that the Liberal, which is run by a manageress and admitted women over 60 years ago is not really as full of t*ssers as some of the clubs Simon used to belong to.

Simon is right though. Avoid Soho House and the Groucho if invited. The Agency is the only other one that I have been in and it was good. Although I dont think that I am able to aspire to be classified as a "mid range professional". I was introduced to the liberal by a teacher when I was a secretary and I know my place.

Personally, I dont go to the club to meet new people but to enjoy the old fashioned facilities. I am a young(ish) fogey. The porters know your name, everyone is unfaillingly polite and the drinks are stonger than most bars in London.

Indian clubs sound great places to have been in when you were growing up. The out door cinema reminds me of one I go to on the greek island of Paros. We take a picnic of last years homemade thick, strong parean wine (we tread the grapes ourselves in a pit in the fields) and fresh figs from the trees in the garden and watch lousy acton movies with greek subtitles.

Sadly I cant eat a fig in London now. They just dont come close.

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guys,

Simon firstly Les Portes Des Indes - I have to say I went on an ordinary night of the week. Totally disliked it thought food was not worth the price etc.

However trust me when I say Sunday Lunch there is great. I can understand how food poisoning puts you off so i can tell you wont be boing back there. However I have never had a bad lunch there and I have been there for the past 2/3 years at least 5 times a year.

Chor Bazaar - I have been there three times now. The food is not brilliant. Gosh they charge a lot though. Awfully expensive for what you get.

Veraswamy's again pretty mild on tantalising of tastebud scale.

I have to say that for a decent curry central London bows to the more western commercialised pallete. Often end up paying through your nose for food that does not always perform on par.

With regards to Indian Clubs what I was actually referring to was what they say are 'Private Members Clubs' However you do not need to be a member to eat there. They are informal places dotted around especially in North London. Where they normally have chefs from India that cook things like mogo, chicken wings, tandoor items ( chicken, lamb, fish ). They play hindi music , have screens for hindi film songs and the cricket etc. Basically the Indian rendition of a pub in a more plusher environment. I am not a huge fan of these kinds of places. The food can be tasty though. Keep an open mind.  

There used to be a persona that it was typically for men. However the image has changed now so females can enter without getting meaningful stares!

Anyhow back to the point - the food in these kinds of places CAN BE good.

Simon I recommend Sahib's In NorthWood. A bit on the expensive side but not bad food.

There are zillions of them. The only thing being is not all of them are good. Like most things you have to pick out the best ones by trying them.

Karahi King - East Lane Wembley.

Another new one has opened by the same owners ( or ex-owner of Karahi King ) called 5 Hot Chilles. Sudbury. There was a massive queue out there on saturday just gone. Supposed to be good too.

Hasmi

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An English woman I met in Singapore said the following about fruits and veggies in Asian countries:

"Tropical sun and heat, gives their produce flavor and taste unlike that found anywhere else."

You are so right... oranges from Nagpur in India and Morrocco are just a breed apart from even the best we find here.  The dates, figs and grapes one finds in the middle east and India are so very different.  Perhaps the grapes are not good for wines but nothing matches their subtle yet evident flavor.  When making Indian desserts I make it a point to buy Indian or even Iranian raisins.  They are delicious.  I can eat those all day long.  They are smaller in size and have intense flavor without being too sweet.  

And yes I am lucky I grew up having had the luxury of membership into the Delhi Gymkhana. I grew up seeing a world and a time of history I would have never known otherwise.  It is not a place or lifestyle I want or go after today, but certainly one I admire for many of its winning points.  But yes there are rampant flaws in that world and like any other lifestyle, it too has both its good and bad points.

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